Jump to content

Welcome! 


Where classical school and homeschool teachers talk.

 

 

Discussion Starts Here.

For the Children's Sake.

Learn from Others.

Add Your Voice to the Conversation.

Glad You Are Here.

Give Us Your Question.

JTB_5

Rhetoric with Substance

Recommended Posts

I've taught Rhetoric in some capacity for about a dozen years, and ten of those in classical education. One of the enduring difficulties of teaching students to speak well has been helping them have beautiful style that isn't just fluffy nonsense or pandering to a like-minded crowd. Admittedly, I find my own writing often lacks the sort of substance I want for it, so perhaps it is a problem in the teacher as much as in the students, yet it is frustrating to try to give good feedback when students are technically doing fine, but don't really have anything meaningful to say. Am I alone in this difficulty?

In recent years I've been trying to draw upon some specific sources to help me get more out of students than their maturity and my own limitations afford. I've turned to Shakespeare mostly, but even this year I'm doing more imitation exercises of substantial speeches rather than prompts that draw more heavily upon student reserves. I have been pleased with how the students gain facility with the style and delivery of Shakespeare, though I don't know to what extent their own writing or speaking has been influenced by the bard.

What are some strategies you use to help students speak with substance and not just with shimmer or shine?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi JTB, 

I wonder if you have tried using classic philosophical literature as a source for speech writing. For example, reading a short dialogue by Plato (Crito) and discussing when and whether it is morally acceptable to disobey the laws of your country, your parents, your church. Then you could have them write their Rhetorical exercise advocating for, or against, a particular resolution such as: "National laws are like one's parents and should always be obeyed even if the law is unjust" or "National laws are to be respected but should not be obeyed when they are unjust." 

I understand that the Lincoln-Douglas debate form is useful for concisely arguing over a position as well. Maybe you could incorporate that form, drawing from philosophical, theological, or ethical content for the "substance" you're looking for. 

Some excellent philosophical works that are short (or have short selections), along with a suggested prompt that might be good fodder for debate and speech-writing. 

1. Epictetus (the Stoic), letters. Should we accept misfortune or fight to prevent it?

2. Pascal, Pensees. Should we "wager" that God exists? Should we prove God's existence (rather than just wagering) or is proof impossible? 

3. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. How should we deal with "busy-bodies, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious" people we encounter? Is Aurelius' strategy a Christian one? 

4. Plato, Crito. Should we always obey the laws of the land? Is civil disobedience ever the right course? 

5. Plato, Euthyphro. Is holiness doing whatever pleases God? Do pastors really have knowledge of what pleases God? What is the relationship between piety and justice?

6. Plato, Apology. Is philosophy the love of wisdom? Is Socrates arrogant or humble? Is Socrates guilty? 

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Dr. Keith Buhler said:

Hi JTB, 

I wonder if you have tried using classic philosophical literature as a source for speech writing. For example, reading a short dialogue by Plato (Crito) and discussing when and whether it is morally acceptable to disobey the laws of your country, your parents, your church. Then you could have them write their Rhetorical exercise advocating for, or against, a particular resolution such as: "National laws are like one's parents and should always be obeyed even if the law is unjust" or "National laws are to be respected but should not be obeyed when they are unjust." 

I understand that the Lincoln-Douglas debate form is useful for concisely arguing over a position as well. Maybe you could incorporate that form, drawing from philosophical, theological, or ethical content for the "substance" you're looking for. 

Some excellent philosophical works that are short (or have short selections), along with a suggested prompt that might be good fodder for debate and speech-writing. 

1. Epictetus (the Stoic), letters. Should we accept misfortune or fight to prevent it?

2. Pascal, Pensees. Should we "wager" that God exists? Should we prove God's existence (rather than just wagering) or is proof impossible? 

3. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. How should we deal with "busy-bodies, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious" people we encounter? Is Aurelius' strategy a Christian one? 

4. Plato, Crito. Should we always obey the laws of the land? Is civil disobedience ever the right course? 

5. Plato, Euthyphro. Is holiness doing whatever pleases God? Do pastors really have knowledge of what pleases God? What is the relationship between piety and justice?

6. Plato, Apology. Is philosophy the love of wisdom? Is Socrates arrogant or humble? Is Socrates guilty? 

Thank you very much for this list of ideas. I am always looking for great writing assignments, and these look wonderful. I appreciate it!

Edit: I wrote "writing," but of course debating with these would be just as good. Thanks again!

Edited by JTB_5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×