Education And The Language Gap


02 Nov 2017

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Rhetorical Critique on Arne Duncan’s Speech "Education and the Language Gap"

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, includes many convincing logical arguments in his speech "Education and the Language Gap" at the Foreign Language Summit. Through the use of facts he appeals to the audience for the expansion of foreign language courses in secondary schools as well as higher education to create a better economy and strengthen national security. Duncan employs the rhetorical appeals of logos and pathos effectively to convince the audience of a well rounded educational system that includes courses of unique foreign languages. The intended audience for which Duncan is presenting an argument to directly are the Legislative officials of Washington and indirectly towards the American citizens. Duncan argues that in order to increase the risk of security in the nation, more students from an earlier age, should be taught unique foreign languages that can help them gain positions in departments like the CIA to ensure national security. The evidence is clearly seen in the statement that Duncan says, "When I look at the challenges you face as the CIA director, it’s obvious that school need to do a better job supporting you and other leaders on our national security team", (Duncan, "Education and the Language Gap"). In this statement, Duncan is effectively appealing to pathos by sharing the observation in trying to convince the audience to think about incorporating foreign languages as a mandatory subject in school systems.

Several other instances are found throughout the speech that shows Arne Duncan’s implementation of pathos to persuade the audience of the argument he is presenting. Duncan’s tone throughout the speech is confident and equal which aids in bringing a logical stance to his argument. Duncan assesses the United States to be far behind its global competitors in subjects of reading, science, and mathematics. He mentions the United States of being "out-educated" from evidence seen in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, with the united States scoring averagely in reading and science, while scoring below average on mathematics (Duncan, "Education and the Language Gap"). He interprets that economic success in many global competitors or America is due to the development of multi-lingual societies in those countries. Duncan states that America is far behind immerging global leaders like Finland, South Korea, and Canada, making it imperative for the United States to rev-up to the competition. According to Duncan, a solution to the national language gap that is being face is that K-12 schools and institutions of higher education should integrate mandatory language classes into its curriculum (Duncan, "Education and the Language Gap").

Duncan’s use of deductive reasoning gives an appeal to logos. He begins with stating generalizations of facts that show American students not achieving as high as its competitors, putting them as a nation behind in the economic race. Once stating these generalizations he presents a solution, which is the core purpose of his argument, to implement foreign language programs into secondary schools and higher education institutions. The strong presence and appeal made towards logos is due to the tone of the speech being academic. This tone allows the audience, which is a gathering of other academics, to understand the argument being presented. The strong academic tone of the speech allows for the better understanding of the facts that are being presented in a coherent manner to the argument. Not all the facts are sprawled out in one shot. Instead, Duncan uses facts throughout his speech only when needed to create a weight-age in his argument. An example of this is when Duncan introduces that fact, "Just 18 percent of Americans report speaking a language other than English. That’s far short of Europe, where 53 percent of citizens speak more than one language" (Duncan, "Education and Language Gap"). He further creates a foundation to his argument by alluding to this fact when he states that the education system in America is the reason that Americans aren’t learning other languages due to the decline of foreign language instruction (Duncan, "Education and Language Gap"). Further examples can also been seen in the speech when Duncan asserts that languages other than typical European languages should be taught in schools and colleges. Duncan points out that, "ninety-five percent of college students enrolled in a language course to study a European language" (Duncan, "Education and Language Gap"). However, even fewer graduate students are studying a language that is considered by the Department of Defense as critical for national security (Duncan, "Education and Language Gap"). These facts were used to support the suggestion introduced by Duncan to include languages like Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Urdu, Farsi, Pashto, and Dari into the curriculum of studies which he states are vital for America’s economic and strategic interests.

Further on in the speech, Duncan appeals to ethos with the reference he made to his designation of superintendent in Chicago and how the implementation of his belief to integrate unique foreign languages into the Chicago Public Schools. Duncan made a reference to the achievement of Chicago having the largest enrollments in Chinese language courses than any other in the country, with most students that are enrolled are Hispanic (Duncan, "Education and Language Gap"). In order to prove his argument Duncan adds, "They (the students) will grow up trilingual with a new world of opportunities ahead of them". By appealing to both ethos and logos, Duncan has made a strong argument because he showed his creditability by placing himself and his success into the case, with a disproven fact. This allows for the audience to understand that his own experience has lead to a significant achievement and by implementing the idea on a mass scale the level of achievement can increase. To further appeal to ethos, Duncan refers to his current position as Secretary of Education to appeal to supporters in the audience by speaking about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act I. He proposes to do more than what the existing law is doing to support a well-round curriculum for a world-renowned education to all students. By adding the appeal of ethos Duncan’s arguments can be taken into consideration by the audience because he presents himself as the expert on the situation at hand by recognizing his current position. Another example to the appeal of ethos is the mentioning of President Obama’s stance on the situation of education. By mentioning that the President’s goal of "the United States will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world", alludes to the argument of churning out college graduates that can actively participate in the global economic market as well as partake in national security.

Arne Duncan’s speech for the increase in foreign language programs might be very effective on the audience at present. The argument was clear as well as coherent assessing an essential point that is needed for economical development and national security. The audience can clearly understand the imperativeness in the argument presented as it is reflecting current situation that the country is facing. The rhetorical choices that Duncan presented work towards the claim that he was presenting. Duncan clearly struck a balance between pathos, ethos, and logos in order to present an effective argument in his speech. The issue presented is a very important one and should be approached according to the argument that Arne Duncan has presented.


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