“Best In Class” can be seen as full of rhetorical strategies and rhetorical appeals. Margaret Talbot uses exemplification as a rhetorical strategy in order to capture the audience's attention. Throughout the essay, she introduces many rhetorical situations, many being about becoming valedictorian.
Talbot writes about issues of naming students valedictorian. She states that there are too many factors that can play a role in a students classification. Rules, regulations, circumstances, and agreements are made to title students as number one of the graduating class. Talbot may have used conscientious consumption to help readers understand how witty and quick students will be to gain a title. Davies, one of the valedictorians, deliberately chose classes that award more credits because 'if the G.P.A.s were the same, the award goes to the kid with the most credits.' As a result, Davies' actions were controversial and sparked up hate within the graduating class. Students will do anything to gain the title, which we learn further in the reading. In addition, Talbot uses the schools and students who have had similar experiences with the title of valedictorian. She is trying to emphasize to the reader the problems of altering the valedictorian title. Her rhetorical strategy depends on focusing the impact and pressure of being valedictorian on one specific school. This allows her story and characters to have a more personal feeling to it. Throughout her essay “Best in Class” Margaret Talbot describes the situation at Sarasota High School, although the main topic does not involve that particular school but the valedictorian situation that happened in that school and many others. Many schools across the country removed the valedictorian and salutatorian award due to the pressuring and competitive environment it creates. Talbot brings up the Sarasota situation multiple times as a rhetorical strategy. With the use of repetition, the point is driven across that valedictorian awards should be removed. The use of repetition provides emphasis on the main idea of the story, making the audience understand why they should believe the author.
Talbot states that since her graduation, twenty-two AP classes were added to the school. AP classes give students a small—but significant boost in their G.P.A. Therefore, students have more opportunities to raise their ranks if they take multiple AP classes. Talbot uses this information to illustrate how it can be difficult to dictate a valedictorian when every student can attend these classes. The personal instance can be applied to each school district since schools are looking to advance the student's knowledge and in return creating a conflict where too many students are tied in proficiency. Talbot's experience in high school adds a personal element to the story. She says in paragraph fourteen that back in her high school years there were a very minuscule amount of AP classes compared to current years. This shows that the demand of AP courses along with competition has increased dramatically. By doing so, it shows she can personally relate to the change of pressure in education and she is not just using hard cold lawsuits and files, but her own experience with the matter. The author's flashback to her times in high school allows us to compare the weight of AP classes when she was a high school student and compare it to the specific stories of the students that she interviewed. She has been in their shoes because at one point she was vying to be at the top of her class. It allows the audience to see her interest in the topic that she writes about and proves that it holds a special place in her writing.
Talbot wants to inform parents, students, and the school board on the effects of the valedictorian praise. By including the student's responses to being named 'co-valedictorian' or not receiving the title, the reader will understand the stress and motives that students have when trying to reach the top. Students have become too competitive; filing lawsuits on the school board for the minuscule difference in a GPA compared to another student. Talbot illustrates the importance held within the valedictorian title that pressures students to compete with not only each other but with the education system. Talbot attempts to appeal to students and parents who are involved in academic success. Shedding light on an issue that is not typically discussed and sharing multiple accounts can cause make the reader trust the authors intentions. Talbot relies immensely heavy on the interviews with students to provide evidence of her intention. By including the interviews she shows a counter to the schools argument. The school continued to degrade and belittle the valedictorian and what it stood for, however, it remained important to students. Due to its importance, that is why it typically ended up in lawsuits and fighting among the students. It created not only competition and a motive for students to strive among their peers, but an increase in academic importance which they expressed vividly in the interviews. This approach would appeal to her audience because her audience is aimed towards people interested in education, students, teachers, and even parents. All of which, take a particular interest in education and controversial topics like the standards set to become valedictorian. Talbot heavily interviews students to show the emotional affect and stress that being valedictorian does to a student. Their parents hire lawyers, the principle struggles to settle a compromise, and students will go to great lengths to try to see themselves as number one. The audience is given a direct source of information and people to feel empathetic for instead of using statistics of high school valedictorians. Most of the people reading this essay are high school students, so they can relate to the pressures of rank and GPA more easily than adults can. The people she talks about are portrayed as more human and empathetic that way.