Rhetoric for Refutation

Example 1

The biggest refutation to my hypothesis of grass fields being safer than turf fields is of course that grass fields are more dangerous. This seems obvious to a lot of people; grass fields are choppy and unkempt. Well, this isn’t the case for NFL stadiums. They literally hire people to keep the field in great playing conditions.

Author’s Position: In the NFL, grass fields are safer than artificial turf.

Your Worthy Opponent Says: Grass fields are choppy and unkempt.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Unmask the False Analogy that NFL fields are like high school fields.

Explanation: Common knowledge is incorrect. People’s concerns about grass turf, the Author can suggest, are derived from their experience of amateur, collegiate, or high school fields of play. Those concerns don’t apply to playing surfaces in the NFL, which are pristine.

Additional Notes: We can indicate with signal phrases that we’re making a rebuttal argument without directly signaling “the biggest refutation to my hypothesis.”

  • I’ll use blue to highlight signal phrases that indicate there are other points of view.
  • I’ll use red for accommodations that show respect for the divergent viewpoint.
  • And I’ll use green to indicate where the rebuttal begins.


Critics of natural grass playing surfaces like to cite the woeful condition of their neighborhood high school field to illustrate the danger to athletes’ ankles and knees. Granted, those fields suffer a lot of abuse, and playing on them after several home games in a row is hazardous. It’s even true that many school districts have replaced their grass fields with artificial turf because they can’t afford the high cost of maintaining perfect grass. But the NFL, for the sake of reducing player injuries, is willing and able to make that continuing investment. 

Example 2

Having a college degree can give a graduate the opportunity to receive higher paying salaries and stable incomes. A college degree can also give a student the potential to receive higher raises. Not every student who receives a degree gets a stable income. Student A attended college, received a degree, and found a career that had a stable salary. Student C attended college, received a degree, and found a job that offered salaries that do not pay enough to pay off student’s expenses. The push to try to make students attend college is leaving many students optioning out the “build your own business” idea, which is the idea many of the billionaires in today’s society had.

Author’s Position: Some, but not all, college degrees are good financial investments.

Your Worthy Opponent Says: On average, college degrees pay off.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Unmask the False Conclusion that students should be encouraged by “average outcomes.”

Explanation: Readers should be unable to escape the comparison between Student A and Student C, two graduates in different disciplines whose outcomes should not be “averaged.”

Additional Notes: The more appropriate comparison is between Graduates, not Students. Debt becomes a burden after graduation, when it needs to be repaid.

  • I’ll use blue to highlight signal phrases that indicate there are other points of view.
  • I’ll use red for accommodations that show respect for the divergent viewpoint.
  • And I’ll use green to indicate where the rebuttal begins.

Defenders of expensive college degrees like to point out that “college graduates, on average, earn $750,000 more than non-graduates in their lifetimes.” And it is true that certain graduates in high-paying fields do thrive. But it is also true that when Bill Gates pulls up a stool at his local bar, he raises the “average income” of all the patrons by tens of millions of dollars without actually benefiting any of his drinking buddies. So, the fact that Graduate A, whose MBA launches her directly into a well compensated financial services job, can easily repay her student loans, does not benefit Graduate C, whose new degree in the philosophy of philology lands him no job at all, even though their degrees were equally expensive.

Example 3

It is sometimes hard to believe that a device used to alert you of a fire is actually causing them. There have been some reported fires that have started due to a detector, which have not been researched to see what actually caused the fire. An article titled “Fire services on alert after smoke detector is blamed for causing two blazes,” published by Daily Mail, provides two cases in the United Kingdom where smoke detectors caught fire inside houses. Fire investigators on the case say they are on the side of caution because of these incidents and are taking the situation very seriously. These detectors were installed by fire services for a fire prevention safety campaign.

Author’s Position: Not only do smoke detectors not always alert residents to home fires, they sometimes actually cause fires.

Your Worthy Opponent Says: Smoke detectors are “slam dunk” beneficial devices for home safety.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Paint the divergent opinion into a corner.

Explanation: In itself, an anecdote about a faulty smoke detector wouldn’t be persuasive, but failure of the Ideal Smoke Detector probably will be.

Additional Notes: This is the third argument in a row for which the Rebuttal Position is represented by the fairly weak Straw Man of “common knowledge.” The better paper would find a legitimate, credentialed spokesperson for the Rebuttal Position and then obliterate that point of view. I found someone to take the fall.

  • I’ll use blue to highlight signal phrases that indicate there are other points of view.
  • I’ll use red for accommodations that show respect for the divergent viewpoint.
  • And I’ll use green to indicate where the rebuttal begins.

No one would deny the value of smoke detectors for preventing tragic loss of life from home fires. But they are not the “slam dunk” always-beneficial devices safety professionals commonly declare them to be. Battery-operated models work only when they’re charged. Hard-wired models operate only if they’re properly installed. Short-circuits in wired models can actually spark fires. And homeowners are notorious for choosing bad locations for detectors, or installing them poorly, or failing to maintain them.

But the clearest indication that detectors are not foolproof occurred in 2011 in Humberside, England. British fire professionals had selected the Fire Angel ST 620 for its “ground-breaking” smoke detection technology and its 10-year power pack. Local firefighters installed more than half a million of these smoke alarms for free in homes throughout the UK in a massive public safety initiative. Despite their high quality and the reliable installations, these devices, when they sounded their low-battery warning, were uninstalled by homeowners and then spontaneously caught fire. Chris Blacksell, Humberside’s Director of Safety, was forced to admit: “We have contacted every fire service in the country to find out if there have been any other incidents involving detectors [and] have decided to not fit that type of detector until our investigation is complete.”

Example 4

The video also claims that nothing short of an enthusiastic “Yes!” qualifies as consent. Anything along the lines of “okay” or “sure” would therefore not be valid. But again, has every person that has answered in such a half-hearted manner felt as though they were raped?

Author’s Position: The definition of rape as sex without consent is a bar so low that no one can engage in sex without fear of committing a crime.

Your Worthy Opponent Says: Consent, even between loving partners, is rarely unambiguous, and rarely continuous, and even when it is, the sex partner cannot know it, so most sex takes place without known consent, and that is rape by the current too-inclusive definition.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Reduce the definition of consent to absurdity.

“No means no” was a functioning definition of rape that served us well for decades. Any sex act that proceeded following a “no” was rape. The sex partner who heard the “no” was obliged to suspend intimacy or proceed with a crime. Such terms were manageable. Today, the sex partner is at a loss to know whether a crime is being committed or not, because to proceed without knowing that continuous unambiguous consent is being granted is to risk being accused of rape. Sex without consent can occur without a “no” being uttered. Rape can take place any time a “yes” is not being heard. It’s no longer the obligation of the less interested partner to say “Stop this now.” Instead, it’s the obligation of the more interested partner to hear, without interruption, a constant chorus of “Yes! Oh God, yes!”

Example 5

So how does that apply to people whose skin color is white or lighter but are not even white? they are Hispanic, African American, or any other ethnicity. This is an ongoing issue because people who are multiracial have been told that they have the privilege and that they are treated better because they are not fully one of the ethnicity. But how is anyone supposed to know what privilege is if they all believe it is only based on a lighter skin color.

Author’s Position: Multiracial Americans are uniquely oppressed because they are stigmatized by at least two races.

Your Worthy Opponent Says: Multiracial Americans, are advantaged over black or Latino Americans because they enjoy the privileges of being white.

The Rhetorical Strategy: Expose the duplicity of the argument.

Explanation: Failure to acknowledge discrimination in others is a fatal flaw in those who argue their own discrimination.

  • I’ll use blue to highlight signal phrases that indicate there are other points of view.
  • I’ll use red for accommodations that show respect for the divergent viewpoint.
  • And I’ll use green to indicate where the rebuttal begins.

Surely no one wants to be treated badly, but that doesn’t prevent minorities from competing for the distinction of being “the most oppressed.” Black Americans rank their suffering against that of Latino Americans, who assert their relative oppression by the majority culture against the deprivation status of Asian or Arabic immigrants. Each group has reason to believe that members of other groups enjoy privileges denied to others. Even aggrieved majority white Americans assert that they suffer from reverse discrimination. At the heart of all such assertions is the underlying claim that members of other races “can’t understand what it’s like” to live in another’s skin. The obvious irony of the argument that multiracial individuals are privileged by their part-white ethnicity is that it’s made by people who “can’t understand what it’s like” to live at the juncture between two ethnic cultures.

In-Class Exercise 1

Background: American public schools are funded primarily by local property taxes on the homes and businesses in their own neighborhoods.

Not only do these children endure difficult lives at home, for low-income areas often lack resources, they are being sent to school to endure even more difficulty with developing and learning. The middle class seems to be dissipating as the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider and wider. Funding has been cut a tremendous amount and in some states, pre-K education has been cut entirely and some schools had to deny some kids from attending school due to population. The states have not hesitated to cut funding, yet they haven’t made any true effort to gain money to support the schools. Most of the children from poor areas come to school without having eaten breakfast, or having just encountered secondhand smoke, abuse, or neglect, dressed in thin, poor clothing and torn shoes. The bottom line is that their lives are difficult enough. Why should they suffer even more in the place they are supposed to succeed? In the place they have a right to succeed? Everybody talks about the gap, but nobody does anything to fix the gap, or even attempt to do so. Children from these areas are dropping out of high school before they graduate. There were about 3 million teens in 2009 that did not have a high school diploma or were not enrolled in school at all. The drop out rate for low-income students is five times greater than the drop out rates of high-income schools: 7.4%. High school dropouts are not able to apply for 90% of the world’s jobs. This means that children from low-income areas are denied a job that pays enough to support them before they even get a chance to get an interview for the job; they are turned down on the spot, and it is all because of the lack of funding in low-income communities.

What is the Author’s Position? Keep it short.

What Does the Worthy Opponent Say? State it positively like any other reasonable claim.

The Rhetorical Strategy: What would be the best strategy to refute the claim?

Explanation: Explain if needed.

In-Class Exercise 2

Background: Adderall is prescribed millions of times to treat hyperactivity, attention deficit, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors, particularly in youth.

This is where the problem starts, depending on the drug to make you perform, rather than relying on what you are normally equipped with to perform. The purpose for the pill is being put into effect, but what happens if the pill is not there? An article titled, “Adderall Addiction and Abuse” posted by the Addiction center states, “The brain of an addicted person is dependent on Adderall to stimulate alertness and productivity. Without Adderall, addicted people often feel tired and mentally foggy. These are symptoms of Adderall withdrawal, a strong sign of an addiction.” Someone who relies on this artificial performance, after receiving the skills they have obtained through the drug, can act like a bubble pop when the drug is taken away. It becomes a way of life. You take that pill everyday because the doctor prescribed it, and now you are reliant on that pill to succeed. Take coffee as an example, I’m sure many people insist that coffee is what gets them through the day. Without this coffee, they would be useless.

What is the Author’s Position? Keep it short.

What Does the Worthy Opponent Say? State it positively like any other reasonable claim.

The Rhetorical Strategy: What would be the best strategy to refute the claim?

Explanation: Explain if needed.

15 Responses to Rhetoric for Refutation

  1. thecommoncase says:

    Exercise 1
    Author’s position: states should give low-income communities more funding for schools
    Worthy Opponent’s Argument: families should move to higher-income communities when they can afford it so their kids can have a good education
    The Rhetorical Strategy: expose the irrationality of the argument & explain why it’s unreasonable


  2. thecommoncase says:

    Exercise 2
    Author’s Position: taking Adderall makes people dependent on the drug for daily function, which is bad
    Worthy Opponent’s Argument: Taking Adderall helps people get through their daily life if they struggle without it
    The Rhetorical Strategy: discuss therapeutic treatments that don’t involve taking medication


  3. christianity19 says:

    Exercise #1:

    What is the Author’s Position?

    States should help the poor areas which the schools need some funding.

    What Does the Worthy Opponent Say? State it positively like any other reasonable claim.

    Families should move to towns like Medford Nj, or Haddonfield so that the kids can have a good education.

    The Rhetorical Strategy: What would be the best strategy to refute:

    Say why the argument is irrational and explain why it’s unreasonable

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What is the Author’s Position?
    -The author believes that children in low income communities have their educational opportunities undermined due to a lack of government funding and reliance on community funding.
    What Does the Worthy Opponent Say?
    -The opponent is described as the people who talk about the gap, but refuse to actually do anything about it.
    The Rhetorical Strategy?
    -Prove the existence of financial deficit.
    -This argument carries no weight if specific examples can’t be shown. There needs to be proof of a financial issue in public schools in low-income communities.

    What is the Author’s Position?
    -Adderall falsely allows children to believe that they are capable of performing strongly but only when on the drug.
    What Does the Worthy Opponent Say?
    -These children need Adderall in order to function like everyone else.
    The Rhetorical Strategy?
    Provide examples of coping strategies.
    If the author can provide examples of how therapy can be substituted in place of Adderall and be just as effective, then the opponents argument will dissolve.


  5. rowanrat says:

    Exercise 1
    Authors position: The current situation of the wage gap as a result to lack of funding has a significant impact on the learning and development of children in schools
    What does the worth opponent say: Funding for low-income schools is a financial loss among students who typically perform poorly and the significant rate of drop outs in these schools.
    Rhetorical strategy: identify the benefits of receiving funding for schools that would fix the issue that the author is identifying


  6. person345 says:

    Example 1:
    – The author believes that there isn’t enough funding for public schools in low income areas
    – An opponent will say that cities have programs to make sure that children in these low income areas have the best education
    – Find evidence of what an opponent would say to this argument

    Example 2:
    – Prescription drugs leads to addiction
    – Since Adderall is needed to focus, it is necessary
    – Include benefits of Adderall and explain why people with OCD and ADHD need this medication.


  7. christianity19 says:

    Exercise #2:
    Author’s Position: taking Adderall makes people dependent on the drug for daily use is not a good thing
    Worthy Opponent’s Argument: Taking Adderall helps people get through their daily life, but need to learn to go a day without it.
    The Rhetorical Strategy: discuss other treatments that don’t involve taking medication

    Liked by 1 person

  8. rowanrat says:

    Exercise 2
    Authors position: Those taking adderall become dependent on the prescribed drug to perform day to day functions resulting in high rates of addiction amongst patients.
    Worthy opponent: taking adderall is necessary for individuals to function like everybody else.
    Rhetorical strategy: identify the harmful effects of adderall and drug addition.


  9. compiistudent says:

    In Class Excercise 1:
    Kids who attend underfunded schools are likely to fail in life.
    If the kids try hard enough even in their situation, they can still succeed.
    The fact of the matter is that kids who have more funding than others are just more likely to succeed. They”have more tools and resources, while still working extremely hard.

    In Class Excercise 2:
    If you use adderall (or any substance) you become reliant on it and can’t live without it.
    Even if you do use adderall daily, if you’re using it to help you with something like work or school, then its ok
    You really shouldn’t be dependent on anything if it causes you unhealthy side effects when you’re off whatever it is.


  10. imgoingswimming says:

    Exercise 1
    Author: The author believes students that live in low-income households deserve more funding in order to keep them in school.
    Worthy opponent: An opponent might say students in low-income communities should find a job along with school in order to support their education and also mention that there is not research on schools that already have funding.
    The rhetoric strategy: How many students have jobs in order to support their education and how many already have funding but still drop out.


  11. carsonwentz1186 says:

    Exercise One:
    Author’s Position – The lack of funding to low income communities is responsible for the gap between the rich and the poor as the middle class is seemingly dissipating.
    Worthy Opponent – Don’t see an opposing claim
    Rhetorical Strategy – Expose all of the flaws of low income living and education while calling out the opposition for lack of effort to raise funding.
    Explanation – By exposing the flaws of low income living and education, you would gain more of a following to help create more of an effort to raise funding for those communities.

    Exercise Two:
    Author’s Position – Addiction starts with the reliance on a drug rather than what you are already equipped with.
    Worthy Opponent – The use of Adderall helps struggling people with alertness and increases productivity.
    Rhetorical Strategy – Suggest what life would be like for addicted people without the pill or drug being used to highlight the bigger issues with the usage of Adderall.
    Explanation – By highlighting the issues the people addicted to Adderall would have without it, you would create more awareness of the risks for those thinking about using the drug.


    • carsonwentz1186 says:

      Exercise One:
      Opposing Claim – If student gave enough effort, they could still find a way to succeed if they were truly committed to their success.


  12. icedcoffeeislife says:

    Exercise 1:
    What is the Author’s Position: The author’s position is that he does not support that public school funding is being cut and the difference between high and low-income families.
    What Does the Worthy Opponent Say: The worthy opponent because school funding is coming from income taxes, which some may feel need to be lowered
    The Rhetorical Strategy: Where the funding that was cut, is being used now.

    Exercise 2:
    What is the Author’s Position: the author’s position is they are against the use of Adderall as a way of comping with people that have ADHD in youth.
    What Does the Worthy Opponent Say: Wit the help of taking Adderall children are able to focus better and be more productive thought the day.
    The Rhetorical Strategy: identify the harmful effect that Adderall has and how it may lead to different drug addition.


  13. justheretopass says:

    In class assignment 1
    What is the author’s position? The author’s position is that it’s not fair that low income students have to suffer when they go to school because of the lack or resources they have due to the income of the neighborhood.
    What does the worthy opponent say? The worthy opponent says that children who go to low income schools might be willing to work harder to make it from there to go explore higher education in a better environment.
    Rhetorical Strategy Start ways to have low income schools gather money from fundraising and from high income schools.
    Explanation States who have not acknowledged this problem are more likely to see low income students fail rather than states who have acknowledged the problem.

    In class assignment 2
    What is the author’s position? That a young person’s brain has been triggered to think you need it to work.
    What does the worthy opponent say? Adderall helps people get through the day.
    Rhetorical Strategy If the author states how the young kids can benefit from adderall.


  14. johnwick66 says:

    Exercise 1:
    Authors position: Wants low income area schools to receive better funding to help the students who go to these schools to have a better chance to succeed. .
    What does a worthy opponent say?: While low income schools can be a problem its the environment these kids live in that needs to be changed.
    Rhetorical strategy: Open up how the kids in these areas are simply trying to survive in these areas.
    Explain: Low income schools can affect the students who go there, however its not the biggest problem that can be fixed for them. The kids who live in these areas experience a lot of awful things like poverty, crime, and gangs to name a few. Even if we increase the quality of the schools students will still encounter these things as soon as the bell rings. The key to helping these kids is to better the environment they grow up in, by removing(or at least reducing) gang activity and crime in these areas, it gives kids a chance to focus on academics rather than “Will I make it home tonight?”
    Exercise 2:
    Authors position: Depending on a drug like Adderall to let you preform rather than your own , is a dangerous dive into addiction and should be reduced.
    What does a worthy opponent say: People receive these medications in order to treat the afflictions they currently suffer from to take away their meds would simply leave them in a worse state.
    Rhetorical strategy: Explain how by taking away these medications you leave the patients worse off than when you give them the meds.
    Explain: The people receiving the medications need them for a reason, in order to treat them for their disease. Without them we would leave them to suffer with whatever they are dealing with. Its either give them a chance to deal with their problems or leave them to suffer with it.


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