Nixon’s “Checkers” Speech

AP Language

September 4th, 2013

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We’ve moved from David Foster Wallace’s great commencement address to a source a bit older: Richard Nixon’s televised plea for his credibility in 1952. The goal in reading this one is to better understand the use of ethos in an argument.

First Analyses

AP Language

August 20th, 2012

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Today we broke into groups to discuss the arguments you pulled over the weekend in order to give you an opportunity to work out the appeals with your peers.

As you presented your arguments to the class, we discussed several things that you should remember:

  1. The genres of rhetoric (or branches of oratory). These are another tool you may use to analyze arguments. Essentially, they ask “What does the speaker want his or her audience to do with the information?”
  2. The importance of external and internal credibility. To keep them straight, know that they are “ex-” or “in-” vis-à-vis the argument. So, external credibility comes from the audience’s trust in the author, any authorities speaking on behalf of the argument, the celebrity of the publication, etc. Internal credibility1 comes from the apparent reasonableness of the argument, data or statistics that support your argument, and how well-written/delivered the piece is.
  3. The argument’s situation and timeliness, known as kairos. We discussed this when looking at a piece about the Olympics, noting that a connection between the games and jazz makes an interesting hook now, but interest is likely to wane in the coming months.

We will continue our discussions of your arguments tomorrow, so make sure you remember a copy.

Arguments presented today:


Dadisman, Alec. “My Opinion.” Technology in the Classroom. 24 Mar. 2010. Web. 20 Aug. 2010.

Murphy, Sean. “Thoughts on the Olympics, Improvisation, and Jay Adams.” PopMatters. 8 Aug. 2012. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.

(If yours isn’t listed, just send me a link in an email.)

  1. the one you’ll be relying upon, mostly []

Dirty Args

AP Language

August 17th, 2011

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We looked at a few commercials today:

And learned some new words:





Email me (or comment below) if you come across a commercial we should discuss. Don’t forget the questionnaire below!

Class Credit and Credibility

AP Language

September 22nd, 2010

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Progress reports went out today. Please let me know if you have any questions, but here are a few things to remember:

Please ignore the letter grade on the report. While it does reflect the average of your progress in class so far, that letter does not tell you what you should be working on. A person who has a fair grasp on all of the skills (3’s across the board) will have a 64%. A person who has mastered (a 5 in the gradebook) only two of the skills and all but ignored the other three (2’s in the gradebook) will have the same score. Please ignore the letter grade in the report; look to the gradebook for better information.

Still shocked by the D (64%)? If you are used to holding an A or B throughout the year, let go of that notion for this class. Your grades reflect your current mastery of skills that we will spend this semester working through. It is still early yet, so your grades are likely to be low. As a quick reminder, the following is the general rubric for all skills:

Not attempted 0
Below basic 2
Basic 3
Proficient 4
Mastery 5

As I say when I pass back any assignment: You may rework anything I’ve graded. There will be no penalty for reworking; if you show better understanding, the grade in the gradebook will go up. You may also see me after 7:30 every morning (except late-start Thursdays), most lunch times, or anytime after school to show improved proficiency of a skill. Obviously, if you aren’t completing assignments or talking with me after class, your grade will suffer. But, if you are taking chances in your writing, participating in class discussions, asking questions, and discussing with me the problems you’re having, you should be fine.

This week so far:

We began this week’s discussion of ethos with a look at the corn industry’s (Corn Industry’s?) petition of the FDA to change the name of “high fructose corn syrup” to “corn sugar,” a name certainly more sweeter to the ear, if not the mouth1. Our discussion centered on and the possible effects of the name change on the public’s perception of the ingredient.

On Tuesday we watched a bit of President Obama’s “town hall” speech in which the President defended a number of his administration’s economic policies and fielded questions from citizens. This event was quite fortuitous, as the argument he presented was primarily aimed at gaining trust and alleviating tension.

Today we watched a bit of former President Nixon’s “Checkers” speech as an imperfect comparison to the town hall meeting discussion on Tuesday. Your assignment tonight is to look through the transcript for appeals to ethos (described in the giant handout), note them, and come to class tomorrow prepared to discuss their efficacy.

  1. Don’t hate me for that. []

Rhetorical Genres

AP Language

November 30th, 2009

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We finished up our discussion of the excerpts from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own today. Even after two days’ discussion, we still had difficulty coming up with a concise “punchline” for the work, so this is something we need to work on.

The handout you received contains information on Aristotle’s rhetorical genres and a breakdown of ethos devices. (Pathos and logos will follow as we move forward.) While rote memorization is not the best way to get a handle on how these devices work, do read over the list occasionally so you will recognize the devices when you come across them.

We’ll be discussing the three presidential speeches as we move through the handouts, as they clearly illustrate many of the concepts we’re working on. You can find the three speeches (and others) at (great site, but watch for popups).

In case you missed the announcement: There will be no article analyses or index cards until further notice. We will pick them up again in the future, but right now we’ll be focusing on delving further into the devices and techniques behind the appeals.

Also, a surprised kitten:  YAY!