Jonathan Kozol’s essay The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society is one of his numerous works addressing the issue of the wealth of American society. Considering the fact that homelessness, illiteracy and segregation are widely spread in the United States, and the number of illiterate adult Americans in 1980 exceeded 16 million of people, Kozol regarded it important “to put a human face” and draw attention of the conscious members of the society to the human sufferings and ethical dilemmas caused by human illiteracy (Kozol 38). Therefore, one can define that the purpose of his essay is to prick the conscience of the Americans by informing them about the inequity caused by illiteracy of some layers of the society. By means of numerous examples from the American everyday life Kozol highlights the preeminent influence of humans’ education for the personal safety, awareness, health, relations, travelling, right of choice and, therefore, wealth and life quality on the general national level and hence on the democracy. In general, it is essential to mark out that the combination of such means of persuasion as ethos, logos, and pathos appears to be very effective in making the article interesting, easy for perception by any audience, quite informative and credible. Kozol’s essay very logically and effectively informs almost all demographic groups about the negative effects and sufferings caused by the lack of choice almost in all life spheres.
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Regarding the figure of the author and his reputation, it is essential to emphasize that his article deserves attention and should be referred to credible ones for several reasons. Firstly, he has been a well-known activist and writer for four decades. His moving and incisive critiques have stirred the consciousness of many Americans. He has written numerous articles on the issue of human and national American wealth (Kozol 38). Secondly, Kozol has much working experience with the poor while his work as a public-school teacher in the poorest schools of America has made him aware of the real situation with education in the society.
In the article The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society, Kozol has focused the readers’ attention on the consequences of humans’ illiteracy and the moral and physical suffering it can bring to people, who live in a democratic society. On the general level, the writer highlights the role of people’s awareness for political events and namely for the elections. He emphasizes that making “informed decisions based on serious print information” is the main point for citizen’s conscious voting on the government elections (Kozol 39). Afterwards, this choice becomes exceptionally influential for the wealth of the nation. In addition, Kozol provides numerous examples of how illiteracy can harm human’s everyday life. The illiterate person cannot read the menu, the medicine or other instructions or prescriptions, the letters, health insurance or other documents, use mail properly, check bills and accounts, distinguish between the labels, travel freely. To sum it up, Kozol marks out the negative effects and sufferings caused by the lack of choice almost in all life spheres.
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In the beginning of the essay, the author highlights the importance of the issue he is going to discuss. Usage of comparison to such events as “danger faced by passengers on Eastern Airline” and “dollar costs incurred by US corporations and tax-payers” makes the audience understand that the author is going to talk about the timely issue (Kozol 39). Taking into account the examples used by Kozol, it becomes evident that the intended audience consists of all citizens of America regardless their gender, interests or other affiliation. This is proven by the fact that the writer uses different examples that are understandable for those, who buy food in the supermarkets, use medicines, pay bill and, therefore, do all the things, which are met in everyday life.
At the same time, Kozol mentions that the power of knowledge has been investigated before by Socrates, James Madison. Therefore, he emphasizes that this issue has been an important and timely one for many centuries. Such chronological analysis contributes to the logic of the article.
A separate attention should be paid to the introduction of the essay, which hints the readers about the importance of information provided by the author. The conclusion is quite laconic and pushes the readers to reflections on democracy beliefs connection with the level of education. Having heard all Kozol’s arguments, the audience gets the opportunity to use its own knowledge and education to analyze everything mentioned above.
Regarding the logos of the article, it is important that Kozol widely uses the inductive type of reasoning showing how irreplaceable the right of choice is for people and how illiteracy deprives humans from equality, rights, wealth on numerous life examples. Moreover, each argument is supported by evidences and separated into a separate abstract. Numerous abstracts and the structure of the essay make it easier for comprehension.
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The author uses numerous quotations to support his ideas. As well as the examples are taken from the common everyday life, the quotations are also of ordinary people like “a woman in Washington”, “one illiterate woman” etc. Such evidences contribute to the non-formal orientation of Kozol and better perception by the audience.
Usage of the personal pronoun “I”, especially in the abstract about the author’ dream is another effective mean of the author to highlight that each citizen is involved into a discussion of this issue. The style and tone used by Kozol makes the audience feel involved in the described situation and hence lets them perceive the article more emotionally.
The logical appeal is interrelated with the ethical and emotional ones. The wide usage of personal pronouns “we” and “our” throughout the text, which contributes to making the readers feel closeness to the author as parts and members of the same nation, contribute to the bigger effect on the audience. In addition, Kozol tends to use rhetorical questions, which imitate the dialogue with the audience and contribute both to the pathos and logos of the article.
To sum up, Kozol in his essay has managed to concentrate the readers’ attention on the impact of illiteracy on the right of human choice and, therefore, its importance for supporting the equality in the democratic society. The usage of non-academic language, personal pronouns, examples from the real life, and quotations of ordinary people makes the article easy to comprehend by people from different social layers. The rhetorical questions, numerous abstracts, laconic introduction and conclusion, chronological sequence used in the article effectively persuades the readers that knowledge is the most important power for any society and especially for the democratic one.