Ancient Greeks

Persuasion is Power– Understanding Rhetoric

I recently went to one of my favorite clothing stores to pick out a new dress for my friend’s wedding that is coming up, and me being who I am, I have to make sure that I have the perfect outfit for this specific occasion. When I go to Maurices, I’m usually the one you see taking a few dresses, a couple nice shirts, four or five pairs of pants and maybe a pair of shoes to the dressing room.

I firmly believe in taking as many items as you want into the dressing room–you don’t have to buy all the items you take in, but you can sure try them on for free!

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After trying on outfit after outfit, I just could not decide what to wear, and if you have never been to Maurices, here are two things that you should know;

  1. You need to go and check it out
  2. The people who work there are very…persuasive.

If you have been to Maurices you will know that it didn’t take long for an associate to come and help me. I couldn’t decide what dress to buy, and I had narrowed my choices down to two. The associate, who was very nice, agreed that I had a tough decision to make, but that she liked both dresses. I explained to her my budget and how much I wanted to spend, and her response to me was something like this;

“Don’t worry, buying both dresses will keep you under your budget with this coupon that you have with you.”

Here is another thing you should also know about Maurices

       3. Always bring coupons.

As you can guess, I bought both dresses….and two shirts…and a new pair of shorts. When I got someone else’s opinion on how I looked when I was wearing these items, I was able to make a decision that benefited both the store and myself.

Sadly, my wallet was the only one who suffered.

DCF 1.0 My experience shopping at Maurices is a mild example of what the Greeks, Romans, and even the Americans in todays generation fear when talking about rhetoric. Starting all the way during the time of the Ancient Greece until now, rhetoric has been viewed as powerful, useful, necessary and dangerous. Rhetoric, defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, has two definitions:

  1. : language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable
  2. : the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people

For the longest time, creating a persuasive argument, written or orally delivered was considered a highly desired skill. Even today, despite that there is time dedicated to studying language and grammar in the school systems, most students refer to public speaking, or being a good writer as a skill or talent. One of the first things that I have come to understand about learning language, proper grammar, and being able to create good quality writing involves much more than just skill or talent in the area. Being a good writer, understanding your language and being able to be a “persuader” involves exposure and practice; exposure to the content, and practice, practice, practice.

Like the Greeks who first held this belief, I agree that rhetoric has a large influence of one’s education. From the first couple of weeks in my Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing course, there are a few things that I have learned about writing, language, and rhetoric; CourtGavel

  • The power of public speaking has a large influence on the individual and the society that the individual is a part of.
  • Rhetoric can be both beneficial and dangerous—on one hand it can create an intelligent individual who fights for justice, or it can result in a one who fights for power instead of justice. THE COURTS —->
  • Knowing ones language, the rules of that language (grammar), and understanding rhetoric allows you to develop a deeper understanding of all other areas of study.

Above all of these things that I have learned in the best couple of weeks, I have grasped a better understanding of how rhetoric can shape the individual and a society. This has become one of the biggest things that I have discovered about rhetoric. Referring back to my shopping experience; I didn’t have to buy two dresses or anything at all for that matter. What was the deciding factor for my final purchases at the store results in several things (I really liked both of the dresses), but I probably would not have bought both if the associate who was helping told me that I looked good in both of the items. In other words, the associate told me what I wanted to hear so that I would get two nice dresses, and she would make money for her company.

TGreek philosophershis is how the art of persuasion works. What the Greeks hope to achieve was to have citizens who would deliver persuasive speeches that seek justice and explore moral truth, yet they soon discovered that sometimes that was not the case. Along with teaching language, grammar, public speaking and all other elements that come into educating others about rhetoric, there seems to be this necessary demand for teaching a values system among our students. The question is, how can we do that without causing problems, following state standards, and creating highly literate students?

With hopes of becoming a future elementary teacher, I want my students to not just be familiar with their language and the grammar involved, but to have the rules embedded in their deepest pools of knowledge and long term memory.  I think that the more our students practice getting to know their language, the better they will understand it. Plus, I need to prepare my students for the literature they will read in high school, and how will they be able to read and grow from the literature they read if they do not understand the history of their own language?

At the same time, teachers need to be more creative with the assignments that they are giving students. The typical written book report or essay is not something that promotes writing. Giving students options about how they learn and understand the content only enhances their ability to remember and store that new information in their minds.

Here are a few ideas that I want to use in my classroom;

  • Writing note books
  • Personal journals
  • Personalized Grammar resource book, hand made
  • Memorization games- tests grammar
  • Both oral and written exercises
  • Grammar puzzles and flash cards

Teach your students about rhetoric, about language, about writing and make them see why it is important. Having students who are know how to create a persuasive argument is rewarding to the teacher, unless of course you shop at Maurices and your students work there.

Final tip for your next shopping trip to Maurices:

4. Do not go into Maurices if your students work there and understand rhetoric.

 

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