Rhetorical Analysis Final [Sprosty]

E.B. White’s work, “Education” tells a story about his son’s experience in both public and private elementary school. Both White and his wife had their own biases on public school versus private school. White’s bias comes from his past experience with public school, as he had only attended public schools throughout his life. His wife, however, had grown up in private schools and had a bias towards them. Their decision on transferring their son to public school from private school was solely based on the wellbeing of their son.

This essay was written in the 1940s following the Great Depression.  People were trying to put their lives back together and rebuild their businesses and farms. During this time period, school was not a priority for most of society.  Public schools were not sufficiently funded by the government while private schools had their own source of income.  Because the private schools had more money, their learning conditions were much better than public schools.

Shortly after the Great Depression, families began rebuilding their businesses or farms as quickly as possible. This required families to have their children work instead of going to school. Because of this situation, there was a low demand for school teachers, especially in public schools. As White writes in his essay, “One [teacher] takes the first three grades, the other the fourth, fifth, and sixth” (White 305). Not only does this show a low demand for teachers but it also means there are not many children attending public school. Two teachers teaching six grade levels would assume around 60-75 students in the school.

On the other hand, the private school had a sufficient amount of resources for its students.  Private schools did not rely on the government for money.  White writes, “the scholar was worked on for six or seven hours by half a dozen teachers and a nurse… he played games supervised by an athletic instructor” (White 305). This use of logos causes the audience to favor the private school, as its statistics show a much better learning environment for its students.

White also uses pathos to make the audience feel emotional for what is going on in the schools and with his son during this time. He describes the private school bus coming to pick up his son as, “This flashy vehicle was as punctual as death: seeing us waiting at the cold curb, it would sweep to a halt, open its mouth, suck the boy in, and spring away with an angry growl” (White 105). White uses depressing diction to explain the process of his son getting on the bus and taking him to school. This word choice refers to how bad the times had been during the Great Depression and it makes the audience connect and feel for White and his son.

The author’s bias is demonstrated through he comparison between public schools and private schools and how they are run.  Many different teachers in private schools taught the students while the public school had “little or no time for individual instruction, and no time at all for the esoteric. They teach what they know themselves, just as fast and as hard as they can manage” (White 105). White’s use of logos demonstrates the positive outcome and effects of private education.

E.B. White writes, “The bias of mine, I suspect, is partly an attempt to justify my own past (I never knew anything but public schools)” (White 104). This demonstrates his use of ethos because he has had experience with public schools, making him a credible source. White has prior knowledge through his own personal involvement with public schools while his wife has had her own personal involvement in private schools. The combination of E.B. White and his wife’s knowledge of the schooling system make them credible sources.

During this time, it was difficult for public schools to receive proper funds for education.  Also, most children were forced to work instead of going to school in order to help their family’s income.  For those who attended school, there was not a noticeable difference in the public school education and the private school education, “The only difference we can discover in the two school experiences is that in the country he sleeps better at night” (White 306).  Although the private schools had more money and resources, the child did not feel that the private school provided a better education than the public school.


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