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Learning to Read: Malcolm X's Stance on Rights

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In Learning to Read, Malcolm X conveys his point and opinion on education by using logos, pathos, and ethos. These three rhetorical techniques that Malcolm X employs allow him to present his argument and persuade his readers to make his case. The thing that Malcolm X is attempting to teach his readers is that though formal education is great, you do not necessarily need a formal education to sound clever and educated. He believed that the only factor teenagers have to do to teach themselves is to read every day. He notes that rhetoric, the ability of persuasive speaking, reading, and writing, is the most essential thing to get a better position in society and reputation in life. To find out how to study and write, Malcolm X asked the jail library for a dictionary, pencil, and paper. He then started copying down each and every single line of the dictionary and on the second day of owning the dictionary, he realized that he had retained some of the data that he had copied down. 

Realizing this, Malcolm did the identical thing each and every single day till he had copied the whole dictionary. Malcolm tells us that before receiving the dictionary, he would examine books, however, he would have no clue what ninety- 5 percent of the phrases even meant. “I woke up the next morning, thinking about those words-immensely proud to realize that not only had I written so much at one time, but I’d written words that I never knew were in the world, moreover, with a little effort, I also could remember what many of these words meant,” said Malcolm X. Malcolm uses the appeal to reason of his argument to provide an explanation for his progress to his readers by saying, “I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-bank broadened, I could for the first time pick up a book and read and now begin to understand what the book was saying”. Malcolm X makes use of the pathos of his argument to reflect on how analyzing benefited his life through saying, “I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life, as I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive”. 

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By announcing that, Malcolm X created an emotional connection with his audience. At the opening of the section, he was an eighth-grade dropout, was involved in organized crime, and sentenced to eight to ten years in prison at the age of twenty, and has now totally turned his life around with the help of motivation, dedication, and the desire to study and do better for himself. Malcolm X establishes credibility for his argument by citing a time when an English journalist called him in London and asked him a few questions on his private experiences. The journalist asked Malcolm X what his alma mater was and Malcolm X answered by saying, “Books, a good library” (Malcolm 360). For those who do not know, by asking Malcolm X what is alma mater was, the journalist is asking which school or university did he graduate from. The importance of the interview was that an English journalist had heard Malcolm X talk and desired to know what college he had attended because of how properly he spoke. But in reality, Malcolm X did not attend college; his training and rhetoric capabilities were acquired through his “prison studies,” as he would say. 

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