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In the Basement of the Ivory Tower Essay

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Updated: Oct 20th, 2018


In his compelling masterwork, In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, Professor X laments on the poor education system among the people of low social class in America. The need to keep up the pace with American culture where higher education rules in all employment sectors is forcing everybody to enroll in college.

However, the excerpt cites lack of student motivation in correlation to poor learning environment as some of the issues failing most people to realize their American dream. Professor X also points out the unavailability of learning equipment as among the major problem in the middle class American colleges.

By using a judgmental tone, Professor X points at the lack of personal initiative and self-motivation among his students as some of the factors, which have led to their failure. Contemptuously, he thinks poor reading habits have also contributed to the pathetic results in the colleges. Through self-affirmation professor X uses sarcasm, revilement, blame game and self-defense as argumentative strategies, which not only draws mixed emotions in the reader but also questions his credibility as a professor.

Throughout his paper, Professor X indirectly ridicules his students’ poor performance in class. He views the class with contempt and concludes that they will either fail or never pass their term papers because they can never “write a coherent sentence” (Colombo et al 240).

For instance, he says, “remarkably few of my students can do well in these classes,” (Colombo et al 244) which means although the students make an effort to learn they lack motivation from their teachers. The description of his student’s professionals proves his disdainful view of them.

According to him, their education level can only qualify them as social workers, municipal employees or police officers among others. It is the job market, the crunching economy together with American culture, which forces people to enroll in colleges, but at the end of the course, they have nothing to show of it and therefore not all people should attend college.

The contemptuous description of his student as an argumentative strategy may turn out to be offensive to some people in the audience. Professor X efforts in availing his message to the audience is both demoralizing and discouraging to the students’ fraternity thus an effective argumentative strategy.

The second way where he ridicules the students is during his description of Mr. L as a stupid, failure, unexposed and illiterate woman.

Although he knows, Mrs. L is computer illiterate he declines to assist her in acquiring the necessary skills. Furthermore, he reminds her of the inadequacy when he says, “You have some computer-skills deficits” (Colombo et al 247) but recommends her to consult the librarian.

In addition, Professor X describes Mrs. L as a student who needs extra attention from the teacher but even his discovery does not compel him to give her the necessary assistance.

In one of the assignments she is unable to come up with the topic because Professor X says, “she never really came up with one” (Colombo et al 248). Therefore, when Mrs. L fails her term paper he concludes as normal. Insensitively, professor x fails to consider the emotions of his readers or the audience therefore the use of ridiculing language in his paper is not a good argumentative strategy.

The second argumentative strategy is the application of judgmental views while rating his students. None of his students is right in his or her work.

He says, “They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college,” (Colombo et al 249) which means although the students are post-high school they can never pass no matter how much effort an individual applies. According to him, the lack of effort in class is the driving force for his students’ failure. Furthermore, he concludes the scheduling of the classes at night as also another element, which leads to student’s failure.

He brands most of his students as failures when he says, “everyone wants to triumph. But not everyone can—in fact, most can’t” (Colombo et al 240), which means success lies only in the lucky few. Any student who comes across professor X’s essay will not only be angry but also discouraged to attend college. Therefore, his ability to judge negatively the students as below average in all their endeavors is an effective argumentative strategy.

The second judgmental example is where he views himself as a genius, learned and a better human being especially when comparing himself to his students. Although he tries to connect himself with the students, his judgmental and contemptuous attitude automatically disconnects the feeling. He lacks the compassion and professionalism to assist his students and at the same time, he sympathizes with their poor academic abilities.

Professor X discusses the way he researches and reads before his teaching lesson but eventually the students fail. Therefore, one of his major assertions is to lower himself to his students’ level, which he states, “I am the man who has to lower the hammer” (Colombo et al 239). He elevates his credentials skills and intelligence to a higher level, which draws a line between him and his students. His application of judgment as an argumentative strategy is may hurt the audience feelings especially students in the middle level colleges.

The third argumentative strategy evident in the excerpt is the lack of citation or references in the authors work. For example, he cites the need for higher education as a factor that is forcing old people to take up classes in college.

More over he concludes that the need for professionals in the job market as another element, which compels people to attend colleges. Unfortunately, he does not give the reader the sources of his information. In one of his conclusion, he says with affirmation that “Many jobs that never before required college now call for at least some post-secondary course work” (Colombo et al 246).

He perceives his observation as true without taking statistical research from employers or other published works. Professor X’s assumption leaves doubts in the reader’s mind while a person who uses his paper for research may be unable to validate the information rendering his/her work useless. Therefore, the application of self-credibility in writing the paper ends up as a futile argumentative strategy.

Another argument is the application of blame game together with pessimistic views as Professor X writes his paper. For instance, he says the learning environment as being at lower levels when compared to other institutions like Harvard (Colombo et al 238). The classes are dirty and not ideal and there is no adequate food for his students.

All of the complaints he cites as the reason for the students failure exist in other places. Surprisingly, he does not consider himself a problem at the school. He is pessimistic in everything everyone does. At one point, he even thinks on how to stop the institutions like government, industries and other corporate, which sponsor some of his students.

Therefore, Professor X detest all the events that take place in his school the only factor compelling him to work might be the need for a job. Pessimism as an argumentative strategy is not an effective mechanism because it enables the audience to brand Professor X as a half-baked professional.

Lastly, why does the author conceal his identity? The inability to reveal his identity to the audience questions the author’s motive behind the article. He calls himself Professor X and refers to his students with initials such as Mrs. L. the application of secrecy in his work raises doubts about his professorship and message.

In conclusion, the argumentative strategies Professor X applies are not only worrying but also sensitive to not only students but also to the teaching professional in the world.

The argumentative strategies enable the audience to read his feelings about the education systems especially among people of the low social class who struggle to make ends meet.

Although he judges negatively his students together with the school, the reader may wonder why he does not quit the school or his profession. Conclusively both the students and teachers who are under pressure to perform well may view him with discontentment.

Besides applying pessimist and disdain views, he ineffectively concludes about sensitive information without validating the source of the information, which raises eyebrows about his qualification. Finally, although he conceals his identity Professor X method of conveying his message is not effective because of it may draw mixed emotions in students, teachers, professors and other education facilitators.

Works Cited

Colombo, Gary, Cullen, Robert, and Lisle, Bonnie. Rereading America Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. USA: Bedford Books, 2010

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