1 Amanda M. Labrado ENGL 100 Prof.

Webb 2/28/10

An Analysis of Rhetoric “Horace’s Compromise,” an excerpt from Horace’s School by Theodore Sizer, is a fictional narrative about an experienced teacher named Horace Smith. Horace works at Franklin High School, and over the years he has witnessed the problems that force teachers to make compromises, hindering their ability to produce great students. Horace wishes to change these problems, and even has given up the option of retirement to do so; however, neither he, nor his colleagues have any power to change the system, and if the system were to be changed, anything altered would affect everything else, for all parts of the school system are interconnected. In his narrative, Sizer uses Horace’s character to argue that high schools are often “not nearly what [they] could be”(179), and that even though many high schools may be seen in a “good light” by their surrounding communities, “The good light in which [a] community sees [a] school is not deserved”(179). Sizer successfully persuades his audience to believe these arguments by using Horace as an appeal to emotion; his readers can readily believe Horace, hold interest in Horace’s character throughout the presentation of the argument, and can feel pity for Horace in a way that proves Sizer’s argument. “Horace’s Compromise”, begins with the introduction of Horace Smith, a “fifty-nine [year old…] veteran English teacher” who, “among parents and graduates, […] is widely considered a star faculty member” and is “respected by his colleagues” who “find him the professional’s professional, even to a fault (179),” from this, the reader can surmise that Horace is wise, experienced, respected, and trustworthy, because he is a “veteran” teacher of Franklin High school who is respected by both parents and graduates. These distinctions convince the reader that Horace is readily believable, might even be similar to someone they know, or is the


person the reader would like to be, causing the reader to want to believe Horace. Also, the reader is able to recognize the reasons why the “good light is not deserved” by seeing the school’s problems through Horace’s eyes; their opinion on the argument is influenced by the tone of the narrative, because understanding Horace’s perspective allows them to concur their judgment with Sizer’s argument that High schools “are not nearly what they could” be statement. Sizer’s use of this type of familiarity to appeal to emotion, in the beginning of the story, is immensely effective because he grabs the reader’s attention and interest before they have even heard the argument. Sizer is at a great advantage here, because after he has the reader’s attention, he can present his argument without almost any negative expectations from the audience; he has gained his credibility through Horace already. Horace is a critical character in Sizer’s argument because by giving Horace the characteristics of someone the audience can relate to, he has given them something to look forward to: Characteristics that they are familiar with because they see them in their everyday surroundings. Sizer essentially uses common ground to induce acquiescence toward his argument. A few examples are: a. When Sizer asserts that students bargain with their teachers for less work, “The kids play a game with the school, making deals with us, striking bargains. What will be on the test, Mr. Smith?” (180). Most teachers can say they have had this experience because I myself have done it to them, and so do other students all the time, teachers just might not think of it as “bargaining”. b. When Sizer discusses the lack of one-on-one time that is “valuable for students”(182), “Horace knows he should insist on a writing assignment from [them] every day […] but with 120? Impossible 182).” Teachers know they need more time with their students and do try to spend as much time as possible with them, but they know that it is almost


impossible to do so adequately with such a large load of students; they understand how Horace feels. c. When Sizer presents the fact that “age grading hurts kids (183)”: many teachers notice the differences in maturity or intelligence among students, but they may not have thought of changing the system to where students are separated by their intellect; therefore, the reader can now see eye-to-eye wit Horace, because he has great ideas, but the question that remains is how to implement them. Finding familiar ground with his audience and frequently referring back to it, allows Sizer to hold the attention of his audience throughout the presentation of his argument. This technique also allows him to control the thoughts of his audience on his argument by triggering their emotions instead of their logic, for example, Sizer brings up the hardships Horace faces outside of Franklin High school to make the audience feel pity for him, in turn, making them wish to change the system so that other teachers won’t have to suffer the same things, “And this in addition to all the rest he has to do outside those contact hours in class with the kids, not to mention his evening work at the family’s liquor store to help meet the household bills” (Sizer 182). All Sizer needs to gain their support is an instance where someone suffers and Horace reacts, like those instances presented above; Sizer uses an appeal to emotion, instead of logic, to create a logical fallacy. Although they are generally used in politics to persuade a group to act a certain way, Sizer has successfully used an appeal to emotion to gain the support of his audience, and within them, create a desire to better the high school education system.