Pathetic Appeals Exercise


First, spend 5 minutes alone reviewing “I Went to Mexico.” Then, in groups of 3-4, respond to the following questions. Be ready to share your responses with the class. (30 minutes)

  1. I Went to Mexico to Meet Asylum-Seekers Trapped at the Border. This Is What I Saw,” is written by Ashoka Mukpo, a reporter for the American Civil Liberties Union, and published on the official ACLU website. What is the ACLU? What is their mission? (look it up for more information.)
  2. The article offers a lot of information, but it does not pretend to be impartial or merely informative; it makes a clear argument. What is that argument and what is it trying to persuade you to feel, to believe, and/or to do?
  3. This argument relies on a number of pathetic appeals to make its case more powerful. The piece isn’t written in an overly emotional tone, but there are many instances of charged language and of energeia (bringing a situation to life or “before the eyes” of the reader). What are some instances of pathetic appeals in this piece? Point them out and explain how they work (what feelings they evoke, how they evoke them, and what might those feelings help persuade you to believe or to do?)
  4. Report back to the class


“The Thousands of Children Who Go to Immigration Court Alone” also makes an explicit argument and uses a number of pathetic appeals to make its case. It makes a two-pronged argument: 1) that it is unjust that unaccompanied children aren’t guaranteed a right to a government-appointed attorney in this country, that children as young as 4 must go to immigration court ALONE, without representation, and that 80% of those without an attorney are deported. And 2) that it is even more unjust that those unaccompanied children who are settled in Fresno are less likely to get an attorney and a have a more difficult time actually getting to court than those settled in San Francisco.

In your groups, locate some of the pathetic appeals in this piece, including the visuals and the videos. Discuss how they work. Be ready to report back.