VCE Outcome 3: Language Analysis Essay

Remember: five important jobs for language analysis
1. Writers ideas, arguments and contention
2. Purpose and bias of the writer
3. Persuasive techniques and tone
4. Effect/Affect on readers and/or audience
5. Critical analysis/evaluation – different perspective

Actually, the analysis presented below goes too far in challenging the writer’s position (point 5)…

Language Analysis- Bicycles Are Not Better

    Fifteen years ago, the field of Gifted Education in Australia was troubled and trapped by myths, prejudices and poor practices. It was believed that children with high IQs (the top 5%) were needed in classes to pull up the grades of weaker students. It was thought to be unfair to focus on the needs of the most able. It was considered unnecessary to assist those with advanced cognitive abilities. Over the years, however, studies showed: that gifted students’ abilities were above and beyond their classmates; that if their needs went unrecognized they developed harmful and disruptive learning habits and behaviors; and that disengagement and failure was common when suitable provisions were not made. The greatest block to Gifted Education was the misguided desire for a false egalitarianism in education. Mercedes Jenson’s article presents a similar desire to reduce everybody to the same drive. It burns with arguments that I’ve heard only too often, and ultimately goes nowhere. It shouts and complains with the irrational road-rage shared by the, “unlucky 95 percent of the people” trapped in their cars. The article dreams of a fast and free ride to work, but remains stuck behind the steering wheel hitting the horn. Typical!

Even if I were to agree with the writer, that ‘Bicycles Are Not Better”, she seems determined in her first column to prove otherwise. For example, I almost always ride 40 km to work, and I travel by bike from job to job. I do so in wet weather. If I can’t get on one train line I easily and often ride 5-10 km to another. The only valid point in this repetitive sequence and list that she makes is that I am lucky to enjoy “wonderful exercise cycling” and keep “fit and healthy” Yes, as she points out seven times, cyclist are “lucky”. Nevertheless, you make your own luck, and for the motoring writer to rhetorically assert that everyone would cycle “if they could” is a false exaggeration of the miseries of the 95% who don’t. The fact is that cycling demands physical and mental efforts – strength, time, determination, organization etc. People will deliberately choose not to exert themselves to meet the challenge of cycling, because they are comfortable and complacent in their cars. Despite her generalized assertions of cycling being the choice of the “lucky”, what the sarcastic Mercedes really hopes to emphasise is the sad plight of almost everyone else.

    The argument that motorists by comparison to cyclists are left up the creek without a paddle is made explicit in both words and images. The impossible situation drivers face has no solution: they have as much chance (she argues) of being able to ride a bicycle as they do of “parachuting into the city”. The reader can imagine the frustration and despair as would be expressed by the writer in her rhetorical questions. The humor of this paragraph, however, is deliberately juxtaposed with the seriousness of the next, which exposes ideas that are (she presents) “dangerous” and “totally unfair”.

    The motoring writer doesn’t actually intend to prove that “Bicycles Are Not Better”. Such a prejudicial belief is already well established for 95% of commuters – there is no need for her to convince them otherwise. What she does need to do is demonstrate a united and common position, so that her readership is inclined to then accept her actual contention in which she argues against the creation of “extra bicycle lanes on major roads”.

I described above how a set of students were effectively discriminated against, until their needs were recognized and met. The same is true here – Mercedes mistakenly believes it is unfair for cyclists to be able to ride to work, because not everybody is a cyclist. Such egalitarianism is misguided, and clearly unfair to the minority group. In a democratic society, we should be able to make our choices as long as they do not negatively affect others. Mercedes knows this, and inaccurately blames cyclists for “traffic jams and long delays”, when obviously they are not responsible. In fact, what really is “sure to annoy and enrage [anxious] drivers” is only the sight of commuters travelling with the speed and freedom they do not share. So what? Should cyclists be forced to slow down or “penalized” because cars can’t actually keep up? That makes no sense! The idea is to speed travel time up! Mercedes also complains against spending “millions of dollars” on cyclists when they are only a small minority. She does not, however, admit that such funds represent much less than the 5% proportion of the budget for works on roads that would reflect the number of the taxpayers using the facilities. To deny any expenditure on cyclists because they are a minority… such is misguided desire for egalitarianism.

    I think our motoring writer needs a few lessons in democracy; namely with respect to freedom, choice and equality. Forcing everyone to suffer is not the solution. Nor is the problem of cycling nearly as bad or impossible as she makes out. Unfortunately the majority of commuters and readers share her fears of and prejudices towards cyclists, and her bitter rhetoric and scornful sarcasm is shared by many drivers trapped by their own road rage. It might not make much sense, but traffic jams are rarely good for cool and clear thinking.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.