In Andrew B. Myers’ “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Myers discusses the quickly escalating issue on college campuses today about students attempting to “scrub” the academic world of discomforting thoughts or ideas that would otherwise be taught. In this article, ethos, pathos, and logos are all employed to effectively make this argument valid. In Myers’ “The Coddling of the American Mind,” the subjects of microaggression, fortune-telling, trigger warnings, and the changing academic climate are discussed, employing ethos, pathos and logos.
Ethos relies on the credibility of the argument being made to firmly build its claims and reasoning. In this article, ethos is quickly established as the author ties in real life events at universities, instances of perceived microaggression on campuses, and how psychology relates to this topic. For example, the recent issues at Brandeis University involving the Asian American student association helps to shed light on this issue by providing an example of what this argument is about. Microaggressions can include a broad list of topics, such as offending someone about their race or gender, or placing stereotypes on other cultures or races. In this case, a group of Asians were offended by stereotypes in their school, and posted an installation in an academic hall. However, other Asian American students were offended by this, resulting in the installation being soon dismantled. In this way, the extensive evidence, examples, and supporting details help to establish ethos early on in this argument.
Pathos is another strong component of this article, as it ties in raw human emotions and appeals to the reader’s own feelings. Indeed, the author warns the reader that this kind of climate on campuses “prepares them poorly for professional life,” which can be a worry for any student that is about to enter higher education. Surely, the culture of campus should allow the freedom of speech and though provoking topics, rather than blanketing terms and concepts that may be perceived as harmful to particular students. The emotional pull in this article is prominent throughout, as commonly employed entities, such as social media devices, including Facebook, are a part of many students’ lives nowadays, and force the reader to consider their own patterns that may be similar to those discussed in the article.
Additionally, the discussion on emotional reasoning in this article further employs pathos. Emotional reasoning refers to how people process their negative emotions, meaning that if they feel negatively about someone or something, then it must be accurate. However, the author warns that this has led to an excessive outcry of “offensive” statements and actions on campuses, as hypersensitive students have let their emotional reasoning often dictate situations and their own decisions.
Labeling something that someone else says as “offensive” removes the ability of free expression, and seems to infer that the person has done something objectively wrong, calling for some kind of punishment towards that person. As an inherent component of ethos, we are all guilty at some point for using emotional reasoning to dictate our actions and words. In this way, ethos is directly employed to further involve the reader in this discussion.
This case of emotional reasoning can most effectively be illustrated through what happened with the Hump Day Campaign. At the University of St. Thomas, an event had been planned in which a camel was going to visit the campus for the day, allowing students to visit and pet it. Although it did not insinuate any reference to the Middle East, a student group quickly organized efforts to quell this event from happening, as it “would make for an uncomfortable and possible unsafe environment.” In this way, ethos is employed yet again as the two opposing sides to this very argument are illustrated in the debate over the camel. The reader cannot help but feel drawn to one side or the other of this heated argument, as it emotionally involves them.
Furthermore, logos is employed throughout this entire article, as it incorporates many methods of reasoning in a persuasive manner. For example, after much evidence and reasoning has been presented, such as the expansion of the definition of sexual harassment, the hump day ordeal, the discussion on emotional reasoning, and the thinking cure, the author concludes that universities are thus teaching students to use their emotions as weapons, and also encouraging an environment of hypersensitivity that is no longer conducive to thought-provoking learning through the presentation of divisive or disturbing material. Rather, it is teaching students to be nurtured by their authorities and professors that this kind of behavior is ok, that it is ok to declare anything that is provocative as “offensive,” and that everyone should react in a particular way.
Through a firm body of evidence, examples, and opinions on both sides of the argument, logos is utilized successfully in this article. Once substantial evidence has been presented, the author uses deductive reasoning to move towards a conclusion, such as his argument that universities are teaching students to catastrophize and have no amount of tolerance towards others. Through this argument, it seems that campuses have cultivated a population of students who are not only hypersensitive to a number of topics and issues, but also quite pessimistic and one-sided on a number of issues, rather than being open minded.
In summary, ethos, pathos, and logos are all utilized throughout this entire article, aiding in the effective argumentation of this topic on “The Coddling of the American Mind.” By emotionally appealing to the reader, establishing credibility, and using thorough reasoning to persuade the reader, the discussion is well presented and provides a solid argument.