Home Lifestyle COLUMN: A classroom conversation on ethos, pathos and logos

COLUMN: A classroom conversation on ethos, pathos and logos

Mr. McDonald: Good morning class. Class, please come to order. Jonah, please take Carley’s pigtail out of the inkwell. Paul, please stop playing the air guitar and be seated. Thank you.
Now students, today we are going to learn about ethos, pathos and logos.
Teigan: Mr. McDonald? Weren’t those the guys in the fiery furnace?
Mr. McDonald: No, Teigan. That was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Ethos, pathos and logos are ways in which we can convince people to agree or disagree with what people have to say.
Jonah: They sound like new Marvel characters to me!
Ava: Uh, Jonah, you are soooo extra!
Mr. McDonald: Ava, please.
Ava: Sorry.
Mr. McDonald: Ok, class. As I said EARLIER, we are going to talk about ethos, pathos and logos. Has anyone ever heard of ethos, pathos and logs?
Mr. McDonald: (takes a calming breath) OK, you know how when you see a commercial on TV sponsored by the ASPCA or PETA and you see the puppies chained up out in the snow…
Noah: I can’t stand that commercial. They always show it just after the Super Bowl and then they play that stupid Sarah McLaughlin song “Angel.” Talk about a post-Super Bowl buzz kill.
Mr. McDonald: You, Noah, have just experienced pathos. The creators of that commercial are trying to play on your emotions.
Teigan: Well, that sucks.
Mr. McDonald: Teigan.
Teigan: My bad.
Mr. McDonald: Now, let’s talk about ethos.
Jonah: Still sounds like a Marvel Character to me.
Mr. McDonald: Jonah!
Jonah: Sorry.
Mr. McDonald: Now, how do you know that I am a qualified teacher?
Paul: You told us.
Mr. McDonald: Yes, I told you. But, do you really know that I’m qualified?
Paul: Well, maybe, I guess, I don’t know.
Mr. McDonald: I have three pieces of paper that hang on the wall and two teaching certificates in my desk which certify that I have completed all necessary courses to receive my three degrees and teach in Michigan and North Carolina.
Paul: Right.
Mr. McDonald: So, in the eyes of Richmond Community College, St. Andrews Presbyterian College and East Carolina University, the State of North Carolina and the State of Michigan, I am qualified to stand before you and teach you literature.
Paul: Ok.
Mr. McDonald: That is ethos. I have shown that I am qualified and certified to be your teacher. Now, let’s talk about logos.
Jakob: Mr. McDonald, Mr. McDonald, Mr. McDonald.
Mr. McDonald: Yes, Jakob.
Jakob: I know what logos is.
Mr. McDonald: You do? Please tell me.
Jakob: Logos is when you have all the great stickers and logos on all of your stuff like I do on my skis.
Mr. McDonald: (Sighs, shakes head, sighs once more) No Jakob, that’s not right. Close, but not right. And by close, I mean, not close, but I’m encouraged.
Paul: Dork
Mr. McDonald: Paul
Paul: My bad.
(Jakob smiles)
Mr. McDonald: Logos means making a logical argument that is built up using reasoning and evidence.
Jakob: What?
Mr. McDonald: For example, the candidate won the election with 43% of the vote whereas his opponent only had 42% of the vote. I know…math. If I stand before you and say, “Fifty-seven percent of all middle schoolers like chocolate milk” and yet, I have not done any research that proves this pronouncement, then I’m just creating statistics. Logos is why I always ask you the question “why?” Give me facts. Prove your facts. Do the research.
So, class, let’s review:
Logos…logic based on research
Jakob: So, Mr. McDonald…
Mr. McDonald: Yes, Jakob (cringing)
Jakob: If I show a picture of a puppy chained up in a snowstorm, I have a degree as a vet and I can give statistics….
Mr. McDonald: Yes, Jakob?
Jakob: That’s ethos, pathos and logos.
Mr. McDonald: Very good, Jakob.
Jonah: They still sound like a bunch of Marvel characters to me.
Mr. McDonald: Jonah!
Jonah: My bad.


Christopher McDonald is an accomplished educator and military veteran with experience in print and radio. Reach him at cmcdonald@richmondobserver.com.

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