What’s the Use of Classical Rhetoric?

Classical Rhetoric is not just about saying things persuasively, it’s about building a persuasive argument, even when you are trying to persuade yourself. That ain’t easy.

In today’s apprenticeship conference call, apprentices mentioned four different decisions people have used LTW tools to help them reason through;

  1. Whether I should go to Colorado
  2. Whether I should move out of my apartment
  3. Which school I should go to
  4. And my favorite: How can I persuade my parents to buy me an Xbox?

On the last one, a student asked her teacher to help her develop this one.

When classical education was lost, education became impractical. It never has been under the classical vision! That’s yet another reason why you need the Lost Tools of Writing (and maybe even to join the apprenticeship).

The teacher interview, part II: The Other Teaching Disability

The teacher who can’t communicate an idea from her own soul to the soul of her student can’t teach. So you need to figure out whether a prospective teacher can do this before you hire her. Questions to ask:

  • What is the best way to arrange the desks in a classroom?
  • If your student can’t understand a math concept (give an example, e.g. quadratic formula, carrying, etc.) what can you do for that student?
  • Why would you teach a fairy tale to a kindergarten class?
  • What makes a great work of art a great work of art?
  • Why do the great mathematicians talk about how beautiful math is?
  • How do you help a child understand an idea (this is a very subtle question, so don’t be surprised when they don’t know what you mean or become suspicious that you are trying to find something out indirectly).
  • Have you thought about any ideas lately? Which ones? What happened to you when you thought about these ideas?
  • Show a work of art, book, DVD, CD of a composition, etc. and ask: what is the idea expressed by this [thing]?
  • Are you thinking right now? About what?
  • Have you ever thought before now? About what? What happened?
  • What would happen to your curriculum and teaching style if you let your students think?
  • Would you rather go to Pittsburgh or by bus?
  • Why aren’t you laughing? (this is really the only question you need to ask. Everything hinges on their answer to this question.) 

OK, some of those questions are a little subtle and maybe silly, but if somebody thinks about ideas, they’ll be OK with them. Sometimes. You’ll have to exercise discretion in your use of them.

What other questions have you asked/been asked that can help determine whether the other person is able to communicate an idea to the soul of a student?