Of all the cabinet nominations following the presidential election of Donald J. Trump, his choice for the 11th Secretary of Education was met with the most backlash. Betsy DeVos, a vocal advocate of school choice, charter schools, and voucher programs was viewed by political opponents as unqualified and unconcerned in the interests of the public-school system or students in general. With the belief that Mrs. DeVos was nominated purely as a result of her monetary donations to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign as well as her affiliation with the Republican party, it is not difficult to see why political opponents would not be pleased with her nomination and controversial appointment.
New York Post writer, and founder/CEO of Success Academy Charter School Eva Moskowitz published an article on January 30th entitled “Why We Need an Outsider like Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary,” taking the side of those in favor of her appointment. These types of articles are few and far between so it’s interesting to note the rhetorical strategies used to get this unpopular opinion across to the general public.
The article starts off with twisting the words of a critique so that it sounds like a compliment. It states that a major complaint about Mrs. DeVos is that she is “quite unlike her predecessors.” However, it goes on to say that it isn’t necessarily a bad quality “when you consider the status quo of American education.” This statement is a reflection of kairos, an opening and opportunity in time and place of which a writer may take advantage. In addition, because most contemporary rhetoricians argue that ‘what will persuade people is never based on absolute truths’, Moskowitz’s statement, while opinion-based, is still influential to the reader. Acknowledging and adding fuel to the fire of dissatisfaction with the way things are currently in American politics is a strategy that is utilized by the author throughout the article.
In the second paragraph, Moskowitz employs the rhetorical strategy of logos when she states that “two-thirds of all eighth-graders in the United States can’t read or do math at grade level.” Only half of this statement is proven to be true by multiple sources, including www.studentsfirst.org in their statistics about education in America. While the claim on literacy is correct, there are no credible sources that cite the same statistic for eighth-graders and their math performance. Facts and figures dropped into an article automatically draw attention to, and raise the credibility of, any author of an article or journal. And because most readers will, unfortunately, fail to fact-check their sources, any statistic put anywhere is usually trusted without skepticism.
Moving through the article, it is important to note that the author fails to acknowledge any flaws of Betsy DeVos holding the position. In addition, she argues where the lines are blurred between the ideas of each respective political party when she quotes democratic senator Elizabeth Warren as also saluting parent choice initiative. In this case, Moskowitz is attempting to use the rhetorical strategy of hypocrisy to prove her point. Multiple news sources accounted for this curious statement which was found in Warren’s 2003 book “The Two-Income Trap.”
The New York Post, a news source that notoriously appeals to those leaning right on the political spectrum, takes multiple steps to cater toward their conservative audience. In Moskowitz’s article, she mentions how one of the perks of having Betsy DeVos be the (then potential) Secretary of Education is that she’s an outsider. With this point, Moskowitz alludes to one of the main reasons why Donald Trump was elected into office in the first place: voters were dissatisfied with the people in charge in Washington and wanted an outsider to shake things up and “drain the swamp.” So, with Donald Trump having spun that point in his favor, the author claims that the same should be the case with DeVos. If Americans elected an outsider as the President of the United States, what’s the difference with the Secretary of Education? Betsy DeVos, “someone who isn’t part of, or beholden to, the education establishment” should, according to Moskowitz, be regarded in the same way as President Donald Trump, someone outside of the government’s inner circle.