Rhetoric Workshop

Example 1

The biggest refutation to my hypothesis of grass fields being safer than turf fields is of course that grass fields are more dangerous. This seems obvious to a lot of people; grass fields are choppy and unkempt. Well, this isn’t the case for NFL stadiums. They literally hire people to keep the field in great playing conditions.

Author’s Position: In the NFL, grass fields are safer than artificial turf.

The Refutation: Grass fields are choppy and unkempt.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Unmask the False Analogy that NFL fields are like high school fields.

Explanation: Common knowledge is incorrect. People’s concerns about grass turf, the Author can suggest, is derived from their experience of amateur, collegiate, or high school fields of play. Those concerns don’t apply to playing surfaces in the NFL, which are pristine.

Additional Notes: We can indicate with signal phrases that we’re making a rebuttal argument without directly signaling “the biggest refutation to my hypothesis.”

  • I’ll use blue to highlight signal phrases that indicate there are other points of view.
  • I’ll use red for accommodations that show respect for the divergent viewpoint.
  • And I’ll use green to indicate where the rebuttal begins.


Critics of natural grass playing surfaces like to cite the woeful condition of their neighborhood high school field to illustrate the danger to athletes’ ankles and knees. Granted, those fields suffer a lot of abuse, and playing on them after several home games in a row is hazardous. It’s even true that many school districts have replaced their grass fields with artificial turf because they can’t afford the high cost of maintaining perfect grass. But the NFL, for the sake of reducing player injuries, is willing and able to make that continuing investment. 

Example 2

Having a college degree can give a graduate the opportunity to receive higher paying salaries and stable incomes. A college degree can also give a student the potential to receive higher raises. Not every student who receives a degree gets a stable income. Student A attended college, received a degree, and found a career that had a stable salary. Student C attended college, received a degree, and found a job that offered salaries that do not pay enough to pay off student’s expenses. The push to try to make students attend college is leaving many students optioning out the “build your own business” idea, which is the idea many of the billionaires in today’s society had.

Author’s Position: Some, but not all, college degrees are good financial investments.

The Refutation: On average, college degrees pay off.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Unmask the False Conclusion that students should be encouraged by “average outcomes.”

Explanation: Readers should be unable to escape the comparison between Student A and Student C, two graduates in different disciplines whose outcomes should not be “averaged.”

Additional Notes: The more appropriate comparison is between Graduates, not Students. Debt becomes a burden after graduation, when it needs to be repaid.

  • I’ll use blue to highlight signal phrases that indicate there are other points of view.
  • I’ll use red for accommodations that show respect for the divergent viewpoint.
  • And I’ll use green to indicate where the rebuttal begins.

Defenders of expensive college degrees like to point out that “college graduates, on average, earn $750,000 more than non-graduates in their lifetimes.” And it is true that certain graduates in high-paying fields do thrive. But it is also true that when Bill Gates pulls up a stool at his local bar, he raises the “average income” of all the patrons by tens of millions of dollars without actually benefiting any of his drinking buddies. So, the fact that Graduate A, whose MBA launches her directly into a well compensated financial services job, can easily repay her student loans, does not benefit Graduate C, whose new degree in the philosophy of philology lands him no job at all, even though their degrees were equally expensive.

Example 3

It is sometimes hard to believe that a device used to alert you of a fire is actually causing them. There have been some reported fires that have started due to a detector, which have not been researched to see what actually caused the fire. An article titled “Fire services on alert after smoke detector is blamed for causing two blazes,” published by Daily Mail, provides two cases in the United Kingdom where smoke detectors caught fire inside houses. Fire investigators on the case say they are on the side of caution because of these incidents and are taking the situation very seriously. These detectors were installed by fire services for a fire prevention safety campaign.

Author’s Position: Not only do smoke detectors not always alert residents to home fires, they sometimes actually cause fires.

The Refutation: Smoke detectors are “slam dunk” beneficial devices for home safety.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Paint the divergent opinion into a corner.

Explanation: In itself, an anecdote about a faulty smoke detector wouldn’t be persuasive, but failure of the Ideal Smoke Detector probably will be.

Additional Notes: This is the third argument in a row for which the Rebuttal Position is represented by the fairly weak Straw Man of “common knowledge.” The better paper would find a legitimate, credentialed spokesperson for the Rebuttal Position and then obliterate that point of view. I found someone to take the fall.

  • I’ll use blue to highlight signal phrases that indicate there are other points of view.
  • I’ll use red for accommodations that show respect for the divergent viewpoint.
  • And I’ll use green to indicate where the rebuttal begins.

No one would deny the value of smoke detectors for preventing tragic loss of life from home fires. But they are not the “slam dunk” always-beneficial devices safety professionals commonly declare them to be. Battery-operated models work only when they’re charged. Hard-wired models operate only if they’re properly installed. Short-circuits in wired models can actually spark fires. And homeowners are notorious for choosing bad locations for detectors, or installing them poorly, or failing to maintain them.

But the clearest indication that detectors are not foolproof occurred in 2011 in Humberside, England. British fire professionals had selected the Fire Angel ST 620 for its “ground-breaking” smoke detection technology and its 10-year power pack. Local firefighters installed more than half a million of these smoke alarms for free in homes throughout the UK in a massive public safety initiative. Despite their high quality and the reliable installations, these devices, when they sounded their low-battery warning, were uninstalled by homeowners and then spontaneously caught fire. Chris Blacksell, Humberside’s Director of Safety, was forced to admit: “We have contacted every fire service in the country to find out if there have been any other incidents involving detectors [and] have decided to not fit that type of detector until our investigation is complete.”

Example 4

The video also claims that nothing short of an enthusiastic “Yes!” qualifies as consent. Anything along the lines of “okay” or “sure” would therefore not be valid. But again, has every person that has answered in such a half-hearted manner felt as though they were raped?

Author’s Position: The definition of rape as sex without consent is a bar so low that no one can engage in sex without fear of committing a crime.

The Refutation: Consent, even between loving partners, is rarely unambiguous, and rarely continuous, and even when it is, the sex partner cannot know it, so most sex takes place without known consent, and that is rape by the current too-inclusive definition.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Reduce the definition of consent to absurdity.

“No means no” was a functioning definition of rape that served us well for decades. Any sex act that proceeded following a “no” was rape. The sex partner who heard the “no” was obliged to suspend intimacy or proceed with a crime. Such terms were manageable. Today, the sex partner is at a loss to know whether a crime is being committed or not, because to proceed without knowing that continuous unambiguous consent is being granted is to risk being accused of rape. Sex without consent can occur without a “no” being uttered. Rape can take place any time a “yes” is not being heard. It’s no longer the obligation of the less interested partner to say “Stop this now.” Instead, it’s the obligation of the more interested partner to hear, without interruption, a constant chorus of “Yes! Oh God, yes!”

Example 5

So how does that apply to people whose skin color is white or lighter but are not even white? they are Hispanic, African American, or any other ethnicity. This is an ongoing issue because people who are multiracial have been told that they have the privilege and that they are treated better because they are not fully one of the ethnicity. But how is anyone supposed to know what privilege is if they all believe it is only based on a lighter skin color.

Author’s Position: Multiracial Americans are uniquely oppressed because they are stigmatized by at least two races.

The Refutation: Multiracial Americans, are advantaged over black or Latino Americans because they enjoy the privileges of being white.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Expose the duplicity of the argument.

Explanation: Failure to acknowledge discrimination in others is a fatal flaw in those who argue their own discrimination.

  • I’ll use blue to highlight signal phrases that indicate there are other points of view.
  • I’ll use red for accommodations that show respect for the divergent viewpoint.
  • And I’ll use green to indicate where the rebuttal begins.

Surely no one wants to be treated badly, but that doesn’t prevent minorities from competing for the distinction of being “the most oppressed.” Black Americans rank their suffering against that of Latino Americans, who assert their relative oppression by the majority culture against the deprivation status of Asian or Arabic immigrants. Each group has reason to believe that members of other groups enjoy privileges denied to others. Even aggrieved majority white Americans assert that they suffer from reverse discrimination. At the heart of all such assertions is the underlying claim that members of other races “can’t understand what it’s like” to live in another’s skin. The obvious irony of the argument that multiracial individuals are privileged by their part-white ethnicity is that it’s made by people who “can’t understand what it’s like” to live at the juncture between two ethnic cultures.




In-Class Exercise 1

Background: American public schools are funded primarily by local property taxes on the homes and businesses in their own neighborhoods.

Not only do these children endure difficult lives at home, for low-income areas often lack resources, they are being sent to school to endure even more difficulty with developing and learning. The middle class seems to be dissipating as the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider and wider. Funding has been cut a tremendous amount and in some states, pre-K education has been cut entirely and some schools had to deny some kids from attending school due to population. The states have not hesitated to cut funding, yet they haven’t made any true effort to gain money to support the schools. Most of the children from poor areas come to school without having eaten breakfast, or having just encountered secondhand smoke, abuse, or neglect, dressed in thin, poor clothing and torn shoes. The bottom line is that their lives are difficult enough. Why should they suffer even more in the place they are supposed to succeed? In the place they have a right to succeed? Everybody talks about the gap, but nobody does anything to fix the gap, or even attempt to do so. Children from these areas are dropping out of high school before they graduate. There were about 3 million teens in 2009 that did not have a high school diploma or were not enrolled in school at all. The drop out rate for low-income students is five times greater than the drop out rates of high-income schools: 7.4%. High school dropouts are not able to apply for 90% of the world’s jobs. This means that children from low-income areas are denied a job that pays enough to support them before they even get a chance to get an interview for the job; they are turned down on the spot, and it is all because of the lack of funding in low-income communities.

What is the Author’s Position? Keep it short.

What Refutation Argument does the excerpt identify? State it positively like any other reasonable claim.

The Rhetorical Strategy: What would be the best strategy to refute the claim?

Explanation: Explain if needed.

In-Class Exercise 2

Background: Adderall is prescribed millions of times to treat hyperactivity, attention deficit, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors, particularly in youth.

This is where the problem starts, depending on the drug to make you perform, rather than relying on what you are normally equipped with to perform. The purpose for the pill is being put into effect, but what happens if the pill is not there? An article titled, “Adderall Addiction and Abuse” posted by the Addiction center states, “The brain of an addicted person is dependent on Adderall to stimulate alertness and productivity. Without Adderall, addicted people often feel tired and mentally foggy. These are symptoms of Adderall withdrawal, a strong sign of an addiction.” Someone who relies on this artificial performance, after receiving the skills they have obtained through the drug, can act like a bubble pop when the drug is taken away. It becomes a way of life. You take that pill everyday because the doctor prescribed it, and now you are reliant on that pill to succeed. Take coffee as an example, I’m sure many people insist that coffee is what gets them through the day. Without this coffee, they would be useless.

What is the Author’s Position? Keep it short.

What Refutation Argument does the excerpt identify? State it positively like any other reasonable claim.

The Rhetorical Strategy: What would be the best strategy to refute the claim?

Explanation: Explain if needed.

11 thoughts on “Rhetoric Workshop”

  1. In-Class Argument 2
    Author’s position: Adderall shouldn’t be given to youth; we should rely on what we already have to succeed, it is dangerous
    What refutation: Does not have a refutation
    Rhetorical strategy: To refute, you could perhaps find something written by someone who used adderall to help them and did not get addicted and it helped them perform.


    1. Good point, AO. Strong anecdotal evidence can be very powerful. It’s probably not enough to outperform thousands of addiction stories, but it’s still a good strategy.


  2. Adderall is an addictive drug that doctors feed to kids in the belief that it will make them more attentive. People addicted to adderall cannot properly function in life without taking the drug. The argument could use an argument to refute like, Adderall is a necessary drug that has its place in the medical field and drastically helps some people.


    1. It’s a good idea to place limitations on the drug as a way to undercut the powerful negatives, JD. Most drugs have “contraindications” that spell out the conditions under which it should not be prescribed, or ways in which its use should be reduced or curtailed.

      Acknowledging that such contraindications are common even for benign drugs would be a strong refutation of the claim that Adderall is too dangerous for widespread use.


  3. Exercise 2
    Author’s Position: People should not be using Adderall because it will make them more dependent on this drug to function.When people stop taking Adderall they experience symptoms of withdrawal.
    Refutation Argument: Refutation argument is not available however, doctors may be able to refute this argument since they prescribe this to people.
    Rhetorical Strategy:


  4. Adderall is used as a crutch and makes it difficult for people to function without it. Doctors prescribing this drug often argue it’s a useful and necessary tool for people who need it. This is true for people who absolutely need the drug. There are people all over the world suffering from ADHD where this drug has helped their lives. These doctors, though, are the ones misdiagnosing people left and right. How would they know for sure if someone seriously needs the drug or if they are just lying to receive a diagnosis. Of course they will be in favor of the drug, it makes them more money.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In-class exercise 2:

    The author’s position: Adderall prescription by doctors destroys people’s natural focusing abilities and creates a dependence on the drug in order to be successful.

    Refutation Argument: The author does not address any counterarguments. However, the author could bring up that Adderall is useful to many people, addictive to few. Another counterargument is that we have nothing better than Adderall to prescribe because it is the only thing that works.

    Rhetorical Strategy: The author could attempt to argue that those few addictions are bad enough that the benefits people get from using the drug do not outweigh the risk/costs of addiction. The author could refute the other counterargument by showing that only meager efforts have been made in finding a replacement for Adderall.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Author’s Position: A lot of Adderall users do not actually need it, and just use it to keep up with their schoolwork.

    Refutation Argument: Almost everyone who needs Adderall gets it.

    The Rhetorical Strategy: What would be the best strategy to refute the claim?
    Citing studies on how many people actually need Adderall, and the number of people each year caught with having Adderall illegally.

    Explanation: Explain if needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Exercise 2:
    Author’s Position: Adderall is causing people to rely on a drug to stay focused, instead of using their own focus ability.
    Refutation Argument: Does not have a refutation.
    Rhetorical Strategy: A counterargument could be that not every person who takes Adderall is addicted. A strategy for that could be finding statics on how many people are addicted and the side effects of the drug can outway the benefits.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The author’s position: Adderall prescribed to the youth should not be a thing. We should rely on our own skills and focus on the task at hand to get things done.
    Refutation Argument: The author does not mention a counterargument although one argument they could bring up is that Adderall is all we have to prescribe to these kids the only downside though is that they’re very addicting.
    Rhetorical Strategy: The author could find statistics using databases that say that not everyone is addicted to Adderall and that teens are more responsible than that. Drug problems are big in the US in teens but it can be slowed down.


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