In "Best in Class," what is Margaret Talbot's rhetorical strategy in examining Sarasota High School in such depth?
Margaret Talbot spends a good deal of time at the outset of the essay describing the situation at Sarasota High School, yet her primary subject is neither that school nor its students.
It is true that Margaret Talbot opens her essay, "Best In Class", examining the Sarasota High School's valedictorian "problem." In the end, the former principal, Daniel Kennedy, opened a charter school and refused to give out the honor of valedictorian based upon the peril he faced at SHS.
“My advice to other principals is, Whatever you do, do not name a valedictorian. Any principal who does is facing peril.”
While the focus on SHS basically ends here, Talbot goes on to mention the problems other high schools faced when determining a valedictorian.
While her "primary subject is neither that school [SHS] nor its students", Talbot is simply showing the issues that schools today face regarding the cut-throat fight to gain the title.
In the end, Talbot fails to offer her definitive opinion on the subject. Instead, she offers both alternative views:
In some ways, it seems that the valedictorian is a status designed for a simpler time, when fewer people aspired to college.
Still, perhaps something is lost if schools eliminate valedictorians.
By doing this, Talbot's rhetorical style is one of ethos. Ethos, according to Purdue's OWL website, is
the ethical appeal is based on the character, credibility, or reliability of the writer. There are many ways to establish good character and credibility as an author.
Here, the author is simply offering an objective point of view. The author is not offering up their own personal feelings on the subject. Instead, they offer both sides of the argument and shows respect to the reader by doing so.