What’s interesting is politicians use the same technique when running for office (and sometimes even when they aren’t). They offer just enough information to offer insight into a particular viewpoint; while encouraging listeners to respond to their perspective in a particular way.
Rhetoric, then, in these contexts implies we use reasoning skills to make decisions whether they affect day to day life, or circumstances which cause civic ramifications. Once rhetoric was known as the “ancient art of argumentation and discourse.” It was a device used to start a discussion.
According to the Core Curriculum guidelines students are taught to see issues from different perspectives; provide an argument which includes an analysis of the information and how it affects their world; consider potential disagreement; use writing skills to prepare a research proposal; and learn and use proper language for such academic papers.
Successful rhetoric includes writing; and reading is an important element in writing. This process enables critical thinking based on information gathered on a particular subject. Critical thinking also includes analyzing information related to the subject based on other available media such as art, film and advertising. Further, ideas from other people based on their experiences and opinions can also be factored in effective rhetoric data. A well developed argument, based on all analyzed information, intermingled with personal opinion can then be presented.
This idea can be skewed however, based on the motives of the reason for the rhetoric. One article I read, tied the rhetorical idea, to a political discussion where politicians were attempting to inspire people to support their most recent energies, while commercials were interspersed that were filled with manipulation, half truths, error and bias. This format can leave even the most focused mind trying to formulate their best reasoning and decisions making skills around these conflicting ideas.
When trying to teach young people in a classroom about rhetoric, does this scenario then, not imply that deception is part of the “art form” and must be used to be effective? When I used the phrase, “Do you want to have a bad day?” on my children, there was no deception in place. They knew they were coming close to crossing the line of any leniency. But this doesn’t seem to be how rhetoric is used in the real world anymore.
Another problem which seeped into my research on this subject included the idea that our students have become so involved in “analyzing the subject matter” one important factor is ominously eliminated from the “rhetorical” framework: emotion. Words should make us feel something. It is why we read and even write. We want to feel empathy, joy, pain, sympathy, anger, outrage, intrigue or any other number of emotions from the text. These emotions, when felt, can alter the way we feel about a given subject and should impassion our argument if genuine.
Reading should be for personal, as well as, relevant reasons. Research is required for evidence, base on truth, to substantiate arguments. But reading must also include emotions which can teach, disturb, create questions and cause readers to move forward based on how it makes them feel. This reading and writing then, can create a genuine discussion also known as rhetoric, perhaps even in it’s most original form: the “ancient art of argumentation and discourse.”