Saturday, December 11, 2004

Secret Thrills of Teaching Rhetoric

I teach a class each semester on advanced composition and rhetoric, using this book as one of the texts. The students are mostly education majors who must take the course as their last exposure to a writing class before they are turned loose on the job market.

This semester's final exam included a creampuff essay question that brought this response in the first paper that I graded. "Students should know who Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, and Quintilian were." Quintilian! Take that, constructivists!

Of course, who knows what she will actually do once she has a classroom of her own. I just like the fact that I'm able to pass on a little bit of the Classical Pagan tradition here at a minor state university.

Over the break, I plan to snuggle up with Progymnasmata: Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric to design some new in-class writing exercises.

UPDATE: In all fairness, I should point out that there is a "Classical" wing in the Christian homeschooling movement. But they run up against opposition from their own co-religionists, as in this excerpt from the "Classical Christian Homeschooling: Frequently Asked Questions" page:
Classical education seems like the best model to produce truly educated children. But as Christians, how can we use the model established by the pagan Greeks and Romans? Does Christian classical education have a Biblical foundation?

Answer coming soon

I'll be watching for that answer. See also my earlier post about the possible dangers of "addiction to Greek mythology."

As I try to point out gently to my own students, rhetoric cannot really stretch its wings when there is a Holy Book With All The Answers limiting what can and cannot be discussed or even asked.


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