The Overlooking’s of Community College
In Liz Addison’s essay, “Two Years Are Better Than Four”, she takes a strong stance against Mr. Perlstein’s argument that “College as America used to understand it is coming to an end” (qtd. 211). Addison argues that college is just of an equal importance today than it was and community colleges are being overlooked by many people. Addison begins to construct a convincing argument with her use of emotional appeal and showing her genuine care for others. Although emotional appeal was effective, her constant use of ad hominem and hasty generalizations against Perlstein and his generation alienates the readers. Also, Addison uses multiple examples of assumptions and exaggeration when explaining Perlstein and his views. These fallacies in her essay cause Addison to lose credibility and ultimately making her overall essay not convincing. Addison sets the tone for her essay at the very beginning, giving a quite condescending attitude towards Mr. Perlstein. Addison begins to talk about if college really mattered to Perlstein or not. She explains, “It mattered so much to him that he never got over his four years at the University of Privilege” (211). Her use of exaggeration when she states “never got over” gives the feeling to the reader that he is obsessed over the university, almost as if he is so totally obsessed with the idea of universities and is completely stuck in the past. Addison continues the attacks with, “So he moved back to live in its shadow, like a retired ballerina taking a seat in the stalls” (211).
Perlstein wasn’t an actual ballerina, but she used an analogy to compare the two. Retired ballerina are so involved with dancing and have love for the activity causes individuals to not be able to walk away. Addison is stating the same thing about Mr. Perlstein. He was so involved with university that he could get away “so he moved back to live in its shadow”. This makes Perlstein look desperate and has a complete dependent on the university. Hoffer 2
Perlstein and a retired ballerina is a far stretched comparison to use in her argument. Readers see the comparison as vague and confusing when trying to put two and two together. The way Addison uses this comparison and ad hominem about Perlstein that actually detracts from her argument and making it less convincing to readers. Perlstein is not the only individual Addison talks about in her essay. She uses ad hominem not only against Perlstein but his generation as a whole. Her us of the word “beatnik” in her quote, “Yet, arguably, the community college experience is more critical to the nation than that of former beatnik types who, lest we forgot, did not change the world” (213) could be interpreted in a positive or negative way to a reader. To an individual that came from that generation of “beatniks” could be taken as a personal attack or a hasty generalization. Addison is stereotyping and informally contradicting the accomplishments that the “beatnik” generation had on our society when she says “did not change the world.” To a reader not from this generation, this hasty generalization could be a convincing in the sense that she is using humor and sarcasm to enlighten the mood of a more serious argument.
An individual from this generation could interpret Addison’s quotes as if she is trying to alienate and falsely characterizes them. In Addison’s case, these hasty generalizations and ad hominem makes her argument less effective and not convincing to readers. Addison lacks actual quotation from Perlstein in her writing. Individuals can’t distinguish between if Perlstein himself said this or is this what Addison wants the reader to think about him. This lack of quotation in her writing causes assumptions about Perlstein. Addison explains that community colleges are important to those who go to college in a community campus. She states, “My guess, reading between the lines, is that Mr. Perlstein has never set foot in an American community college” (212). The assumption she gives the readers is the idea that if an individual that attended a four year Hoffer 3
college he/she has never been on a community college campus. Likewise, if an individual has attending a community college he/she has never been on a four year college campus. When she says “never set foot”, she doesn’t not provide any evidence that Perlstein has actually never been on a community college campus. Without evidence, Addison is just making an assumption that is incorrect. Never setting foot on the other type of campus could be potentially correct for some individuals but not for most. Many new freshman students visit a wide variety of campuses in a search for the right college for them. Correspondingly with use of assumptions, Addison also uses mockery with her use of the word “Privilege” in her writing and she states this word more than once. She puts a negative connotation to the word privilege. Addison states, “Today, at the University of Privilege, students applies with a Curriculum Vitae not a book list” (212). Using “University of Privilege”, readers get the assumption that only individuals with money have the opportunity to go to a four year university. Addison ineffectively uses this strategy that had a potential to be very useful in her essay. Her word choice distracts the reader from the real argument, making her argument not convincing.
On the other hand, Addison gets the reader to see her point of view in her argument by effectively using emotional appeal. In her essay, she explains, “If I were a candidate for office, I would campaign from every campus. Not to score points, but simply to make sure that anyone who is looking to go to college in this country knows where to find one” (213). When Addison states, “If I were a candidate”, It is to first get the concept that this statement is coming from a political background and an educational standpoint. As she goes on, she adds, “Not to score points” into the equation and this brings emotion or feeling to her words. She is making her point that she doesn’t want to be a candidate for the power and advantages but get an education that is suitable for the individual. By getting readers to feel she actually cares for the well-being of others, it made her article more convincing. If she were to have not said that statement about points, it could have been less convincing to readers because people Hoffer 4
would have taken as all about her and not about helping others. She portrays herself as a genuine person and portrays Perlstein in a negative way. This is an effective way to get readers to find her argument convincing. If reader has a negative feel about a person the will be less likely to find the individual convincing.
Addison portrays herself and community colleges in her essay in a positive way. As she begins her argument on the importance of community college, she states, “The community college system is America’s hidden public service gem” (213). She is implying that most of the population do not fully know about the services that community colleges bring to America. Her use of the word “gem” sets a high standard from community colleges. When individuals think of gems, people tend to think high quality and very valuable and this is exactly what Addison wants readers to think about community college by the end of her essay. Addison uses a variety of strategies to make her argument as successful as possible. Her use of legitimate emotional appeal was her main strategy that got her readers to see her point of view. Unfortunately, her constant use of personal attacks and assumptions in her essay greatly affected the way readers took her argument. Even though there was one effective strategy, her fallacies over powered her essay. Potentially, her essay could hurt community colleges in the way individuals see them or interpret their importance. Emotional appeal was not enough to convince readers, making her overall argument not convincing.
Addison, Liz. “Two Years Better than Four.” They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing: With Readings. Ed. Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, Russel Durst. New York: W.W Norton & Co., 2012. 211-214. Print.