At this cynical stage in human history it's become standard procedure to dismiss all rhetoric as cheap blowhardiness, devoid of value and without any inherent value. The ancient Greeks viewed it quite differently--as a model for couching important arguments in appealing, intelligent and comprehensible terms. Adam Muller's Classical Rhetoric through Structure and Style assumes the latter definition and presents a traditional treatment for high school students looking to improve their communication skills.
How Does This Work?
The 31 lessons included in Classical Rhetoric through Structure and Style are intended to be used in conjunction with the Institute for Excellence in Writing's Teaching Writing: Structure & Style. Without Teaching Writing as a primary course foundation, Classical Rhetoric will be more difficult to implement, but not impossible. Like all IEW writing courses, Classical Rhetoric is a teacher-directed program; students should not be allowed to complete the work on their own.
This is introductory rhetoric. Muller uses the progymnasmata model, in which students are introduced to fourteen progressive elements of rhetoric through introductory lessons; students are not required to invent arguments or compose wholly original work at this stage, instead analyzing and interpreting existing works. While there are one or two adaptations, most of the texts Muller includes for analysis are classics of the Western canon, from Chaucer to Homer to the Gettysburg Address (students are guided through a complete rhetorical analysis of the latter).
Each lesson begins with one or more objectives, a source text to be read by students, and an extensive multi-part assignment. There are frequently supplemental exercises, and always extra rhetoric information, including the often seemingly abstruse terminology of rhetoric (which Muller effortlessly explains and clarifies). There are periodic unit reviews which ensure students have retained and are able to practice everything they've learned. Answers to all exercises are included in the back of the book.
All assignments are writing-based (the goal of rhetoric, after all, is improved communication skills), and Muller provides checklists throughout for students and to measure their own efficiency and ability to use rhetorical tools. Most of the assignments are rooted in literary analysis; students are particularly directed toward discovering the rhetorical tools as used by great writers of the past. This isn't just reading comprehension--students are required to actively and logically engage often difficult texts to discover meaning and substance.
The ancients saw the cultivation of character as one of the upshots of a thorough education in rhetoric. This isn't a specifically Christian course, but Muller doesn't ignore this element, nor does he neglect to include Bible passages among excerpts for both exercises and examples. Students will learn both the fourteen primary building blocks of rhetoric, and be consistently reminded that without a solid understanding and practice of virtue, knowledge and use of rhetoric is worthless.
Our Honest Opinion:
If you're using Teaching Writing: Structure & Style, this is where you'll want to start with rhetoric. Muller explores the Classical contributions and uses the ancient model without slavishly adhering to outmoded structures--in short, he is a modern traditionalist. The weak link is needing to use this with IEW's much more involved program.While Classical Rhetoric through Structure and Style is an excellent course, ifyou're just looking for a solid introduction to rhetoric for older students and don't have any background with IEW products, we'd suggest investigating The Rhetoric Companion by N.D. and Douglas Wilson.
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