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SJSU MLK Rogerian Argument Pass Discussion


Rogerian Rhetoric

The four basic stages through which a Rogerian argument should pass:

  1. An introduction to the problem and a demonstration that the opponent’s position is understood.
  2. A statement of the contexts in which the opponent’s position may be valid.
  3. A statement of the writer’s position, including the contexts in which it is valid.
  4. A statement of how the opponent’s position would benefit if he were to adopt elements of the writer’s position. If the writer can show that the positions complement each other, that each supplies what the other lacks, so much the better.

Please answer the three discussion questions below after reading MLK’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail (attached

Q1: Break down MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” according to the Rogerian Model (listed above). Does MLK adhere to the tenets of a Rogerian argument? Does his argument pass through the four stages listed above? Identify some of the ways MLK attempts to achieve this.

Q2: Why is building common ground with opponents (those who disagree with you) so effective? Why is this such a successful strategy for persuading people to adopt a new position or perspective on an issue of dispute? And why doesn’t this happen more in 2021?

Q3: Why do you think MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” continues to hold such historical significance? The historical moment it captures? King’s legacy? The impact of the letter on the Civil Rights Movement? The way he argues? What makes it so special? And, more importantly, do you think it still holds relevance today? Are there lessons we can draw from it and apply to contemporary problems? If so, which ones?


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