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T1 Sample

Joe Shmoe
Professor  Karpowicz
English 101
Analysis Essay

Condoms: Proof that Limbaugh Needs to Learn about the Issue

Condom distribution in high schools, an issue that should provoke a response from any parent or teen, is at the heart of the debate in “Condoms: The New Diploma,” an article written by popular conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. The article first appeared in Limbaugh’s 1992 book, The Way Things Aught to Be, and it is centered on the moral argument that handing out condoms to teens encourages them to have sex. While Limbaugh’s intentions seem to be soundly in favor of the moral growth of the children of the American public school system and his essay uses humor to hold the reader’s interest, it ultimately fails because of its poor authority and faulty logic.

One of the major strengths of this article is Limbaugh’s great use of language to engage the reader. The semantics attempt to persuade through a sort of folksy style and humor that Limbaugh has mastered. With phrases like “well, hold on a minute,” and terms like “folks” (515, 517), Limbaugh succeeds in avoiding a dry, academic tone, coming off as a friend telling it to the reader straight, in language he or she can understand. Moreover, the examples that Limbaugh uses have some effect by virtue of the humor that they involve through exaggeration. For example, in response to the opposition argument that kids are going to have sex anyway and we should protect them by giving them condoms, Limbaugh suggests that by that logic we should offer the kids who are going to smoke “packs of low-tar cigarettes” and “disease-free hookers” to those that are having sex (515). In effect, these elements engage the reader through a style that is easily accessible and understood, elements that are crucial to any good piece of writing.

However, those aren’t the only elements that are required for a solid argument, and it is on other levels that Limbaugh’s work begins to break down. First off, the reader must wonder whether Limbaugh has the authority to be speaking on such moral matters as condom distribution. His position as a radio talk show host certainly grants him a wide audience to speak to, but it offers no real credentials with regard to this particular issue. Also, his self-proclaimed conservative affiliation suggests bias, since his reader will likely be able to predict his position well before he states it. Moreover, Limbaugh tackling moral issues when he himself has been the subject of such moral scandals as drugs use is more than a little hypocritical. All in all, the lack of authority on the part of the author serves as a major blemish on the argument he is presenting.

And that lack of authority bleeds over to taint Limbaugh’s sources and ultimately the logic of the argument that he is trying to make. His hypothetical situations are entertaining but lack the solid authority of specific examples required to make his points. Beyond the suggestion that students should be provided with cigarettes and hookers, Limbaugh has the reader imagine a situation where two imaginary students, Johnny and Suzie, are parked in the family car with Johnny trying to “score a little affection” (515). Everything goes incredibly right for Johnny when he “whips out his trusty high school-distributed condom” and announces that the school says sex is okay (Limbaugh 515). While entertaining, Limbaugh’s example relies on the faulty premise that guys with school-sanctioned condoms will make poor decisions and worse, young women will be dumb enough to submit, based on the fact that the young man has a condom from the school administration. The logic is ridiculous.

Limbaugh’s argument ultimately fails along similar logical misgivings and lack of authority when he offers the reader a statistic about the failure rate of condoms. He notes, “the condom failure rate can be as high as 20 percent” (Limbaugh 518). However, Limbaugh offers no source for such a shocking statistic, calling into question its validity. Moreover, the language of the statistic is slippery at best. The words “as high as” specifically serve as deceiving because they nullify the percentage that comes afterward. Essentially, any number can be inserted. Condom failure rates can be as high as 100% if a condom is used once and breaks. Limbaugh offers a statistic that may shock the reader but holds little value when scrutinized for soundness.

The above statistic is emblematic of the value of the article. It offers shock and entertainment, but not much more. There is little doubt that Limbaugh has good conservative values at heart when arguing on the issue, and it’s clear that he does want the best upbringing for the youth of America. Similarly, there is little doubt about Limbaugh’s ability to communicate and entertain his reader. However, the real value of the article is limited to just that, entertainment. When tested for logic and authority, Limbaugh’s work does not pass.

Works Cited

Limbaugh, Rush. “Condoms: The New Diploma.” Current Issues and Enduring Questions: An Argument Rhetoric and Reader. Eds. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. Boston: Bedford, 2002. 515-518.

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