The Rhetoric of the Op-Ed Page: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
Three Ways to Persuade (John R. Edlund)
"A Change of Heart about Animals" (Jeremy Rifkin, Los Angeles Times)
Letters to the editor in response to "A Change of Heart about Animals"
"Hooked on a Myth: Do fish feel pain? A biologists says we shouldn't be so quick to believe they don't" (Victoria Braithwaite, Los Angeles Times)
"Of Primates and Personhood: Will According Rights and 'Dignity' to Nonhuman Organisms Halt Research?" (Ed Young, online resource)
Module Description and Background: This assignment sequence uses five texts. “Three Ways to Persuade” presents the Aristotelian concepts of ethos, logos, and pathos in an accessible way so students can understand and use these concepts in their own writing and rhetorical analysis. This text is used to prepare students to analyze “A Change of Heart About Animals,” which presents summaries of a number of scientific studies of animal behavior and argues that science is showing us that animals are far more like humans than we used to think. The article presents scientific research, representing logos, in such a way that our emotions are engaged and our ethics challenged. The letters in response to the Rifkin article take opposing views and offer opportunities for further discussion. Victoria Braithwaite’s “Hooked on a Myth: Do Fish Feel Pain?” presents scientific evidence and arguments that fish in fact have the same kinds of pain receptors as humans, but that we treat them differently from other animals because we are less able to empathize with them. Braithwaite is a scientist drawing conclusions from research in her own lab, so her ethos is more substantial than Rifkin’s. Finally, “Of Primates and Personhood: Will According Rights and ‘Dignity’ to Nonhuman Organisms Halt Research?” an online article by Ed Yong, explores some of the possible consequences of granting rights to great apes and some of the divisions in the animal rights community. Newspaper editorials and the letters to the editor they inspire are crucial factors in the development of public policy. Although many people today get their news from television, networks and television stations rarely take editorial positions on issues or offer arguments to support a particular view. Radio talk shows offer many strongly held opinions, but little reasoning or evidence. The editorial boards of major newspapers take stands on issues and present arguments and evidence. They also print editorials and opinion pieces by other writers and provide a forum for citizens to respond. If students are to learn to participate in a democratic society by forming and supporting their own opinions and evaluating the opinions of others, the op-ed pages of the newspaper are an essential resource.