make your logic evident, Ms. Palin

One thing a lot of my students struggle with is making their logic evident for their claims and support. They can claim something and feel like they proved it with a few follow-up sentences, but often they’re using a different logic and drawing on knowledge that a reader might not have. Of course, most, if not all, writers struggle with this, which is why we get feedback on our writing.

But I have to wonder if Sarah Palin got enough good feedback on her Washington Post column, which seems so littered with logical jumps that I have no idea how she came to her conclusions. Not that the column was all bad. I could actually follow her overall claim, which is more than I can say for her speeches. Kudos, Palin, for a clear thesis statement: “I am deeply concerned about President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan, and I believe it is an enormous threat to our economy. It would undermine our recovery over the short term and would inflict permanent damage.”

But your support falls flat because you don’t explain your logic—if there is a logic to it. Help us out. We’re uninformed readers, so tell us what the cap-and-trade plan entails. You claim that energy is going to get outsourced to other countries. How so? You claim this bill will kill energy production in the US. How so? You claim that your plan can help the environment. How so? I understand your argument has constraints: a paper can only print so long of a column. Perhaps if this was so important to write, you could have asked for more room, offered a website where we could understand more of a concept. Given us some tools to understand your claims a bit more. Something. Anything.

But perhaps you don’t need logic, Ms. Palin. Perhaps your argument’s rhetoricity is found mostly in your by-line. Ethos does it all: if we like you, we agree with you. If we think you’re a dimwit, we disagree.

Or perhaps I’m missing your point. Perhaps your explicit argument is secondary to your purpose: “Remember, I’m here and I matter!”

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3 Responses to make your logic evident, Ms. Palin

  1. Nate says:

    I remember running into a lot of these kinds of problems with my students’ writing as well. The logos/ethos dynamic kinda worked in another way too: “If you don’t like my argument, then you must not like me!”
    Anyway, I have a deep and well documented (at pop: 800) love/hate relationship with my Sarah, so I don’t think I need to go into my opinion on her and her politics here, but if you want to have a good mindblow, read the transcript of her resignation speech (the one about the point guard calling an audible for the good of the state by walking off of the court in the middle of a fast break.) I’m sure you’ve seen it, but reading it is a whole new and wonderful journey.

  2. Michael says:

    I actually haven’t read or seen the speech yet, Nate, because I’m afraid it would hurt me. Physically. In my head and my gut. To read it. But I should. For entertainment and to feel haughty. Us leftists are good at feeling haughty.

  3. Michael says:

    er, “We leftists…”

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