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Sixteen year old Vita Wallace is an activist for children’s rights. In her argument, “Give children the vote,” she attempts to show that an injustice has been made to citizens of the United States. Wallace’s major claim, or thesis (McFadden, 2003), is that citizens under the age of 18 shouldn’t be denied the right to vote on account of age. Rather, she argues, children should be allowed to vote at whatever age suits them individually. By saying individually, she is using a qualifier, words and phrases used to limit and modify the overgeneralization of claims (McFadden). It is important that Wallace uses the term individually, because she recognizes that an age limit would be inappropriate for some children. After this point, most of the essay is dedicated to her opinion on why it is important for children to vote. Wallace’s uses appeal to the reader’s values, also known as warrants (McFadden). The emotional pleas may cause the audience to stop and consider her logic, but lack of facts and evidence leaves the argument unconvincing. With her jumpy writing and scattered thoughts the argument is hard to read, and even harder to believe. Therefore, I found the essay to be unsuccessful in persuading my opinion.
The logic and evidence used to support her major claim, known as grounds (McFadden) is hard to find. The strongest evidence in the whole essay is statistics of eligible adult voters. With this information, she points out that only 36-40 percent of eligible adults actually vote. However, 25 percent of the population is under the age of 18, leading to Wallace’s statement that “Although elected representatives are responsible for all of us, they are responsible to only a few of us” (Wallace, 1998, p. 146). This statement would be effective but Wallace loses her credibility at the end of the paragraph when she calls politicians and voters selfish. By doing this she is using a fallacy, statements based on poor logic and mistaken belief (Clark, p. 81). By saying they are selfish she is using an Ad Hominem argument, which is an attack on the person rather than the issue (Clark, 1998, p. 83).
Throughout the essay Wallace develops many minor claims, which are secondary statements supporting the major claim (McFadden). Right away she discusses “Discriminatory laws” which prevent high school drop-outs from getting their driver’s licenses.
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Another one of Wallace’s minor claims is that ability to read and write should not be used as a criterion to vote. Wallace cites historical examples of literacy tests that were once used to test whether one could vote or not. Literacy tests were eventually banned because they could be manipulated to ensure discrimination (Wallace, p. 147). Here again she is using values of democracy, liberty, and freedom to support her claim. Her values are connected by backing, which is information that supports the warrant (McFadden). I think that Wallace had a good idea to compare literacy tests to driver license exams because discrimination is a universal taboo. However, in the next few sentences Wallace claims that children wouldn’t attempt to vote unless they could read or write. Wallace also believes that she wouldn’t have even wanted to vote until she was at least 8 or 9, but may have taken an interest sooner. Wallace once again bases this part of her argument on her own experience, rather than evidence from others. I find her argument to be unsuccessful because she tried to speak for everyone by generalizing her experiences.
One of the strengths I noticed is that Wallace is aware of many counterclaims, arguments which others would say, that refute a claim (McFadden). For this reason she is well prepared and offers several rebuttals, arguments that refute a counterclaim (McFadden). However, I found her rebuttals to be based on fallacies rather than evidence. For example many people may argue that politicians would just try to con kids into voting a certain way, Wallace rebuts that children would not fall for this and if they did, not for long. However, this is not only her opinion, but a hasty generalization, caused by drawing conclusions from insufficient evidence (Clark, p. 82). Wallace makes assumptions about how kids will act based only on her personal behavior.
Wallace’s final minor claim is that states do have the power to change the voting age requirements. She then cites the Fourteenth Amendment saying that it is legal to change the voting age starting at state level. This is excellent information but once again is lost by the remainder of the paragraph. It is one of her stronger points, but doesn’t mention it until the last page. This seems like information that she should have included sooner. In general I thought the final page of the essay was difficult to read. I became lost in a jumble of information that I thought was poorly placed at the end of the essay when it should have been towards the front or middle. Wallace finally had a good opportunity to enhance her major claim, but she lost the audience due to poor organization.
Although Wallace used universal values in trying to persuade the audience the argument failed for three reasons. The majority of the paper fails due to overall lack of credibility and evidence. This is because she bases much of her argument only on personal experience. The final reason I found her essay unsuccessful was the overall choppiness of the paper due to poor organization. Overall, Wallace’s argument may have been more successful if she would have focused on actual evidence rather than opinion.
Clark, I. (1998). “Give children the vote” The genre of argument. Boston Thompson Heinke.
McFadden, J. (Sept. 12 & 14, 2003). Intro to Toulmin Lecture. Buena Vista University. Storm Lake, IA.
Wallace, V. (1998). “Give children the vote” The genre of argument. Ed. Irene L. Clark Boston Thompson Heinke p. 145-48.