Rhetorical Education For Our Generation

Reading Response 2

The liberal arts education of the medieval ages consisted of the trivium plus the quadrivium. The Trivium were the very tools of learning comprised of Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. These three can also be understood as Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom which were keys to learning the rest of the subjects and anything beyond, thus making you a “liberal artist”. Liberal in the sense of being free. Free to think for oneself and free to make informed decisions to guide a person through life. Unfortunately as Wayne Booth points out in “The Rhetoric of Rhetoric”, we are now living in a time of miseducation where the powers of rhetoric, or rather rhetrickery are being used to cause more harm than good. The general public who have gone through the compulsory “miseducation” system now fall victims to a “new censorship” a self imposed censorship, one that takes years to promulgate starting from Kindergarten or even Preschool.

How can this problem be resolved? I do not have an answer but I do believe that in order to live in a society where the public’s needs are met they first need to be heard and not only heard but more importantly, understood. In this age of “information bombardment” whether be it through television, social media or newspapers never before has the tool of understanding been most vital. I wonder what Thomas Paine the author of “The Age of Reason” published in 1794 would have to say about our current state. Nevertheless, one thing that Booth prescribes we should all learn to do and learn to teach our children and students is to listen. Like the philosopher Diogenes said, “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” Booth argues that we are not taught to deal with opposition and I agree. The TV shows teach us not only that violence is pervasive but that the only way to win an argument is to shout down our opponent, threaten them or even act it out. And it’s no wonder that children spend at least as many hours watching television as they do in school where teachers fail to guide them through Rhet-Ed (rhetorical education). To listen means to come to terms with what the person is saying. If you are able to put yourself in their shoes and state what it is they are arguing you have then understood your opponent.

Through a recent study on the Refugee Crisis in Europe my powers of reason have been tested again and again. I have spent hours reading misrepresented arguments and viewpoints but this one tip of listening has helped me. Understanding a point of view even if it is bias clarifies your own views and solidifies your standing. Listening and understanding may be inconvenient at times but the reward is fulfilling because afteral what we should all be striving is to know the truth. For once you do, you shall be free indeed.