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Rhetoric

Rhetoric is often defined only by its negative uses. People talk about "empty rhetoric" as though the words were synonymous, that anything like useful or meaningful rhetoric is an oxymoron. If your only experience with rhetoric is in the speeches of American politicians, such an attitude is justified, but when considered in its Classical context, rhetoric is an essential tool (in some ways, the essential tool) for any successful communicator.

Students in the Roman Empire and Medieval Europe were introduced to the art of communication through the progymnasmata, a series of fourteen skills to be learned by students on their way to public careers. This stage was preparatory to guided speech-writing, which in turn preceded unguided oratory—students learned theory first, then its application, and finally were sent to work on their own.

The original rhetors, or speech-instructors, were known as Sophists. Their goal was to educate young noblemen in the art of virtue using philosophy and rhetoric as guides. Unfortunately for their subsequent reputation, the Sophists charged a fee for this service, leading Plato to condemn them as liars and quack philosophers. Today, a sophism is an argument employed specifically for deceptive ends, and sophistry and rhetoric both have a bad name.

Leaders in the Classical Christian education movement are working hard to reclaim rhetoric as a valid academic subject and as an important skill for Christian communicators. It is not, they claim, simply a way to wrangle words and sound smart without any foundational substance. It is the art of constructing valid arguments and presenting them in a clear, compelling and engaging way.

As the third element in the Classical liberal arts trivium (after grammar and logic), rhetoric synthesizes its predecessors into one effective unit. Some educators take a more relaxed approach, not delineating clearly between rhetoric and essay-writing or public speaking. Others approach it more formally, presenting each of the rhetorical tropes (figures of speech) and requiring students to be able to use each one in original compositions.

The courses we prefer take a more moderate approach, offering both the formal fundamentals and their everyday application. Some focus on writing, others on public speaking; the best cover both. Above all, a good rhetoric course emphasizes the purpose of rhetoric—to communicate truth and wisdom—while de-emphasizing its misuse (as merely a clever word-game).

Every student of rhetoric needs to start from the same point, however—with guided rhetorical analysis. In order to write a compelling speech or essay, one must first be able to identify the rhetorical tools in the works of others, evaluate their effectiveness, and understand the relationship between language and logic.

Because the return to rhetoric instruction is still in its early stages, there aren't that many programs available. We've tried to select those with a specifically Christian orientation, though that's not always possible, especially for older students. What we have managed is to avoid any rhetoric courses that promote the manipulation of language over regard for the truth, and to offer only those which focus on communication rather than mere cleverness.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

 

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24 Items found Print
Art of Rhetoric
by Aristotle
Reissue from Penguin Classics
Ancient Greek Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
$7.50 (1 in stock)
Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student
by Edward P. J. Corbett, Robert J. Connors
4th edition from Oxford University
for 9th-Adult
in Speech & Debate (Location: APO-03B)
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Classical Rhetoric through Structure and Style
by Adam Muller
from Institute for Excellence in Writing
for 9th-12th grade
in IEW Advanced Materials (Location: B16-03E)
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Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle
by Martin Cothran
from Memoria Press
for 9th-12th grade
in Speech & Debate (Location: APO-03B)
$33.96
Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle - DVD Set
by Martin Cothran
from Memoria Press
for 9th-12th grade
in Speech & Debate (Location: APO-03B)
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Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle - Package
by Martin Cothran
from Memoria Press
for 9th-12th grade
in Speech & Debate (Location: APO-03B)
$138.45
Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle - Teacher Key
by Martin Cothran
from Memoria Press
for 9th-12th grade
in Speech & Debate (Location: APO-03B)
$4.21 $2.98 (1 in stock)
Figures of Speech
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from Hermagoras Press
for 9th-12th grade
in Grammar Reference (Location: B15-02A)
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Introduction to Aristotle
by Aristotle
from McGraw-Hill
for 9th-12th grade
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
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Journey
by Peter Kreeft
from InterVarsity Press
for 9th-Adult
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My Fellow Americans
by Michael Waldman
Har/Com from Sourcebooks
for 9th-12th grade
in American Presidency (Location: B03-00E)
$12.00 (1 in stock)
Office of Assertion
by Scott F. Crider
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for 9th-Adult
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Persuasions
by Doug Wilson
from Canon Press
for 9th-Adult
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Rhetoric
by Aristotle
from Dover Publications
Ancient Greek Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
$4.50
Rhetoric Alive Book 1
by Alyssan Barnes
from Classical Academic Press
for 10th-12th grade
in Writing and Rhetoric (Location: B16-01A)
$26.95
Rhetoric Alive Book 1 - Teacher's Edition
by Alyssan Barnes
from Classical Academic Press
for 10th-12th grade
in Writing and Rhetoric (Location: B16-01A)
$29.95
Rhetoric Companion
by N.D. Wilson & Douglas Wilson
from Canon Press
in Speech & Debate (Location: APO-03B)
$24.00 $17.50 (1 in stock)
Rhetoric Companion - Answer Key
by N.D. Wilson & Douglas Wilson
from Canon Press
in Speech & Debate (Location: APO-03B)
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Robert's Rules of Order
by Gen. Henry M. Robert
from Scott Foresman & Co
for 11th-Adult
in Speech & Debate (Location: APO-03B)
$7.00 (1 in stock)
Skills for Rhetoric - Set
by James P. Stobaugh
from Master Books
for 8th-12th grade
in For Such a Time as This Literature (Location: B18-07A)
$40.78
Skills for Rhetoric - Student Edition
by James P. Stobaugh
from Master Books
for 8th-12th grade
in For Such a Time as This Literature (Location: B18-07A)
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Skills for Rhetoric - Teacher Edition
by James P. Stobaugh
from Master Books
for 8th-12th grade
in For Such a Time as This Literature (Location: B18-07A)
$15.99 $11.00 (1 in stock)
Trivium Tables: Rhetoric
from Classical Conversations
for 7th-12th grade
in Classical Conversations (Location: B03-04A)
$10.00
Writing & Rhetoric Book 5 - Teacher Edition
by Paul Kortepeter
1st edition from Classical Academic Press
for 5th-6th grade
in Writing and Rhetoric (Location: B16-01A)
$22.95 $14.00 (1 in stock)