Commonplaces found in rhetoric

     There is a section within Chapter 4 of our book that describes how one can use common topics and commonplaces to invent arguments. While searching through my columnist’s blog, I found an article from August that provides a great example of this.

  In the piece titled, “Parents, time to panic about our kids’ education,” LZ sets up a brilliant argument. Right off the bat, he commands attention through a very strategic maneuver… guilt. The first three paragraphs describe how panicked Americans became after our loss in men’s basketball during the 1988 Summer Olympics and afterwards the iconic Dream Team was formed. And then he lays on the guilt… and shame; “If only we were as panicked about our slipping global ranking on education.”

     Afterwards, LZ presents numerous facts about how much the education system in America is going downhill, including the fact that our global ranking is now 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math. The article concludes with his plea that the U.S. now needs an “…aggressive, multipronged strategy geared toward closing the education gap between the rich and everyone else…”

     Where common place and common topics come into play is through the emphasis on education. The major premise (defined by the book as a statement that is assumed prior to the beginning of an argument) of this article is that education is essential to America’s well-being. The ideological chain of reasoning after this assumption is made clear leads to a few commonplaces. First, it is commonplace that when something is “broken” it might take work and effort to fix it. Secondly, considering that America is falling behind several other nations in education and behind what we have experienced previously, the education system can be considered “broken.” Lastly, Americans place great value in the education of our youth because some day they will be taking care of the country. LZ’s commonplaces and major premise lead well into his demand for immediate action, in order to fix the education system and save us all!


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