How I Understand Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the ultimate form of individuality. You don’t think it’s right and makes no sense, but it is and does!
By now it is accepted that people learn in different ways, so how can something like rhetoric be taught one way and expect the entire class to understand? You really can’t, it takes the individual person to be able to make the connections for themselves so that rhetoric actually makes sense. Understanding rhetoric is no different than understanding anything else in life.
Let’s take my standby example for everything, photography. There is a workflow, or process of making pictures, that is different for everyone. Just because it is different does not mean that it is wrong, it just means that it is different. In my experience in taking photography classes in different schools is that the way my newer classes are being taught are completely different than what I knew before. It has taken a lot to get used to, just trying to figure out how these classes are run. It’s the same as trying to teach students one way to learn something.
In middle school we all get taught how everyone learns different ways, the ones who learn by listening, or by doing, or watching I think it is, rhetoric is something that has to be taught and understood by the individual. So just because rhetoric doesn’t make sense to anyone else doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, it just means that people are all different and understand things differently.
This quote by Ralph Emerson Waldo is what I started thinking about when I was trying to define rhetoric:
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
This might not make any more sense than my definition of rhetoric, but after looking at Emerson’s quote I realized that being yourself has to translate into the classroom too or else you really are not being yourself. Worrying what others think some of the time is no better than the ones who worry about what others think all of the time. Emerson makes a point of saying that individuality is an all or nothing idea. This is where I started thinking about rhetoric again, a person can’t worry about if others understand what they think of rhetoric. We all come up with our own definitions, and as long as it makes sense to the individual then that’s all that matters. If others understand how we see rhetoric they are the ones who believe in individuality, the others are the ones who constantly try and force others into fitting a specific social norm.
The social norms hold individuality back and try to keep everyone the same. This would be trying to teach rhetoric the same way to everyone across the board and everyone would understand. But, that is just not the case, that’s why we all have different definitions of what rhetoric means and everyone has a different story behind how they came up with their definition. There is nothing wrong with understanding differently, the problem is when others try and force similarity or when the individual is shot down and silenced when they try to explain their meaning. Rhetoric is that individuality that cannot be explained the same way by everyone because no one understands it the same exact way.