The objectives for this unit are:
· Students will write before, during and after reading the provided speeches;
· Students will develop their own definition rubrics and assessments to evaluate their own writing and the writings of others;
· Students will be given opportunities to learn and discover the changing times of the 1950's through a variety of speeches and orations.
· Students will write pieces that express their own voice and their own experiences in life while modeling great works of famous writers and speakers.
While teaching this curriculum unit, lessons should include background information as well as reading and writing activities. Teachers can decide what parts of history are necessary (e.g. whether to focus on the Greek models or Roman). The classic roots of rhetoric lend themselves to creating rubrics based on these traditional models. In looking at the history of rhetoric as well as the benefits and strategies for teaching persuasive writing, teachers can move into using speeches from the 1950's and 1960's to drive home the point
teach history and literature.
By definition, rhetoric is a form of expression through speech making, influence and/or oratory. Persuasion, whether it be in writing or orally, is the highest form of rhetoric. Often it is defined by calling the use of rhetoric or the ability to persuade an art and terming it as art makes it much more creative and important.
This unit aligns with the standards and objectives set forth by the City of New Haven as well as the National Council of Teachers of English. The City of New Haven sets forth Five Bold Goals that seek to move students ahead within the next five to seven years. One such Bold Goal has 95% of students meeting state and national literacy standards. Some of the city standards that this unit will address are looking at the process of constructing meaning through reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing and researching. Students will read and write about famous speeches from the 1950's (and some from the early 1960's) and will listen or view those said speeches to gain more insight into their influence during the time period. Furthermore, this unit address standards set out by the National Council of Teachers of English in that it encourages lifelong learning, work and enjoyment of language arts as well as encouraging students to construct meaning and use their language and voice to get their points across.
History of Rhetoric
Formal rhetoric began in the 5th Century B.C. in ancient Greece. The Greeks utilized and formed the functions of rhetoric and discourse. Although modern teachers may use terms like persuasion and argument, the Greeks were addressing the same issues just using terms like rhetoric and discourse. The idea of rhetoric grew out of the idea that oration was the means by which philosophy was developed and disseminated. Oration was the main medium because written texts were not the norm. In fact, the great works of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle became written text because students and followers wrote them down. In ancient Greece, the belief was that through rhetoric and discussion one could clarify and discover truth
The Sophists were a major group in early Greek rhetoric as were the teachings of Isocrates (486-338). Sophists were a group of orators who traveled from city to city attempting to attract students of public speaking and rhetoric, for a small fee (this small fee often comprised their credibility). Their basic belief was that "excellence" in speaking and living could be taught. Isocrates also taught public speaking but believed the speaker would need some talent and desire in order to be effective. However, he did feel speaking about important questions and themes could make the
a better person, a truly novel idea at the time. Isocrates established the first formal school in Athens, even before Plato
Plato and Aristotle are two names synonymous with rhetoric and thought. Plato's largest rhetorical contribution was distinguishing between true and false rhetoric. More specifically, he criticized the Sophists for essentially telling audiences what they wanted to hear and not making an effort to search for and examine truth. This in turn translated into the Sophists not attempting to better themselves or the audience.
Aristotle made greater strides and established norms and created treatises that are respected and used even today. Aristotle began by challenging that rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic within the first lines of his "The Art of Rhetoric". He basically asserted that when discussing matters of civil law, there is a need for rhetoric instead of dialectic
Aristotle identified three types of rhetorical evidence to effectively get a point across or persuade another. Those types are ethos, pathos and logos. Ethos is where one convinces another by establishing that he/she is fair, honest and informed. This type of evidence values credibility and its necessity in persuading others. Pathos is an argument strengthened by an appeal to another's emotions. Once the speaker taps into someone's emotional bank, the ability to persuade may become easier. Lastly, logos is the use of inductive or deductive reasoning. Concrete data or examples are used to support assertions. Clearly these three rhetorical proofs carry over into modern writing and can be used for students to analyze and evaluate arguments
Aristotle also defined three types of civic rhetoric: forensic, deliberative and epideictic. Forensic is used in legal scenarios where there is a prosecution and defense. Deliberative is more often used in political arenas where a speaker may be for or against change. Lastly, epideictic speeches are those made at occasions, such as funerals, conventions and inaugurations
Roman rhetoric also had significant contributions in modern academic circles. Quintilian (35-100 A.D.) established five rhetorical canons of study. The first canon would be
or invention. Essentially, it is the process of developing ones argument. Next,
or arrangement of the argument so it is most effective. The next steps are
or style and presentation respectively.
(delivery) play major roles. in the speaker's presentation of the argument. Teachers today can easily create a rubric using this model to evaluate student writing and/or delivery
Current rhetorical study is greatly influenced by research. Whether it be results, statistics or theories, research plays a major role. This is obvious in how much emphasis we put on proof and research based assignments.
Persuasive writing, speech delivery and rhetoric go hand in hand in the classroom. Often the strategies and models set forth by the Greeks can be used by teachers to assess and evaluate students writing. For example, using Quintilian's model of rhetoric, especially the idea of arranging your argument to make it most effective, can be easily utilized in the classroom. With the growing emphasis on persuasive writing as a means of standardized assessment, we short change our students if we do not include a segment of persuasive writing in our curriculum.
What is persuasive writing? In short, like its counterpart rhetoric, it is the presentation of an argument with carefully investigated and accurately stated evidence. The writer should have a clear idea about where he/she stands. The strongest arguments not only support the writer's point of view but also acknowledge there may be other opinions; however, the writer is quick to invalidate those opposing viewpoints. Persuasive writing can be assigned as a written paper but can also transition into writing and speaking assignment. This idea would fall in line with the Greeks' idea of speaking and rhetoric because so many of their ideas were discussed rather than written. Just as there are a great many topics for persuasive writing, there are a variety of models that students can use when writing
One model is reminiscent of the Roman rhetorical model. The writer begins with an introduction that establishes the argument and its importance. Next, the writer states his/her case potentially offering background information that led the writer to this topic in the first place. This is truly an interesting idea because it also encourages the writer to state why he/she chose his/her standpoint. It seems important to find out
and it forces students to become somewhat invested in the topic.
Following this two-fold introduction, the writer will develop his/her case using specific, supportive evidence and details as well as anecdotes to really strengthen the argument. After refuting opposing ideas, the writer will finish with a strong conclusion further showing his/her conviction in the topic
Another model is
from Helena High School in Helena, Montana. This model serves more as a pre-writing evaluative tool in developing a persuasive essay. The acronym stands for:
ole: Who am I and what is my role as a writer?
udience: How should I write this and who is my audience?
ormat: What is the best format for me to use?
opic: Is my topic completely focused?
trength: What am I trying to do in this piece of writing?
In using this model, the teacher and student can conference and work together in developing a strong argument. Although basic, it is sometimes the most elementary formats that can help students develop their strongest arguments (5).
Another strong model comes from Winthrop University. It breaks down the persuasive essay into different parts and emphasizes the fact that students should feel free to elaborate where needed and to work toward creating a cohesive essay that brings in the audience. This model outlines what is coined
The Classical Argument
boasting how closely it relates to the Greek rhetorical models. This argument is made up of basic components and essentially elaborates on a student's already learned five paragraph model of writing
The classic argument of persuasive writing begins with an introduction that appeals to the audience by capturing their attention and establishing the writer's point of view. Like expository writing, the introduction should include a thesis statement. Next, is the narrative. In the narrative portion, the writer summarizes background information and provides any other information needed for the reader to understand where and why this issue has come about.
The next step is the confirmation that lays out all the evidence and claims that support the main themes and ideas. Although it is common for teachers to encourage students to present evidence or assertions from strongest to weakest, I am of the opposite school of thought. The reader should never be left with the weakest claim; they should walk away with your strongest idea on the brain.
Next, the refutation and concession where the writer lets the reader know there are opposing viewpoints. Writers should not spend too much time highlighting all the opposing ideas because they may weaken their own argument. Lastly, the writer comes to the summation. In this section, the writer summarizes all the main ideas, amplifies the force of the argument and offers solutions (7).
We would be remiss in not addressing fallacies and illogical thinking when discussing persuasive writing. Logical fallacies are an oxymoron in and of themselves since fallacies are illogical or faulty reasoning. In addition, these illogical conclusions or ways of reaching the conclusions can put holes in a writer or speaker's arguments. In oral debate, the speakers should not only avoid these type of arguments but also seek to invalidate others reasoning by invalidating their arguments. Logic is a huge part of rhetoric thus making logical arguments that much more important. Teachers can easily assess writing using an anti-fallacy rubric or by having students peer edit looking to identify fallacies in others writing.
The following are examples of some of the more common fallacies found in speaking and writing. They are:
· Argumentum antiquitatem: This Latin phrase translates into the idea that something is acceptable or right because it's always been or done a certain way.
· Argumentum ad logicam (argument to logic): This argument assumes something is true because some
has offered proof. However, the argument can be refuted or invalidated because there may be other information out there to disprove it.
· Argumentum ad misericordia (appeal or argument to pity): Appealing or using pity to validate an argument does not use facts in any way and essentially cannot make what is true untrue no matter how sad it is.
· Sweeping Generalization: Essentially any generalization assumes something to be true in any case presented. For example, saying all men are strong. Although it may be true in
cases, it is
true in all cases.
· Slippery Slope: In a sense it is a weak cause and effect argument that has no strong basis.
As always fallacious argument when someone attacks a person or a specific institution or belief just for the sake of attacking invalidates the argument. Knowing the fallacies can encourage students to research in more places than just one internet source or one book source. Proving their case using multiple experts or research can undoubtedly lead to a strong persuasive essay
Persuasive writing often focuses on controversial or important topics of the time period in which they are written. The writer normally seeks to find an issue that is important in his/her society and in their world; thus allowing those looking back to see what was valued during the time period. This way of thinking was no different in the 1950's and early 1960's. This post war era is filled with speeches and orations that clearly show what was going on during that pivotal time in history.
The 1950's: A Time of Change
The post WWII period was one of change and revolution in society. With the production of the hydrogen bomb to the end of the Korean War to the refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, the time period set in motion a myriad of racial, social and political change.
Society during a major war tends to band together to fight the great enemy. After WWII, this society that had once been so joined together separated once again. Women who worked in factories went back to the home. Races that once were against the enemy side by side went back to a segregated existence. Fear of communism and racial tension were on the rise and the times were definitely changing.
The advancement of television broadcasting brought war, racism and consumerism into the American living room. Companies found new ways to reach the public. Images were thrust into American life, both good (with new television sitcoms and news programs) and bad (images of war and racial unrest). Norms and ideals changed as well because what was seen on television became what was normal and desired. This is something today's student can almost not imagine; a life that may have begun without television.
Gender roles were also changing and women were beginning to question their prescribed roles in society and how they could make contributions as more than just wives and mothers
Great Speeches -- Post War America
Nixon's Checkers Speech, 1952
"..why can't we have prosperity built on peace rather than prosperity built on war"
- Richard Nixon
On September 23, 1952, Senator Richard Nixon delivered his famous Checkers speech. With the inception of broadcast television and its place in the 1950's American home, Senator Nixon landed in living rooms to refute allegations that he used campaign funds for personal use in his bid to become the Vice Presidential candidate.
The speech begins with Nixon immediately stating he is a man "whose honesty and integrity have been compromised"
. Nixon's intent is to come clean and point out the allegations were not only claiming what he did was illegal but also that those allegations were immoral. Within his speech, he details the need for a political fund to support his campaign. He says "The taxpayers shouldn't be required to finance items which are not official business but which are primarily political business" (Nixon, 1995-2006). He continues to submit proof in the form of a financial audit to prove he had not misappropriated funds.
Toward the end of the speech, he references Checkers, the family dog, and namesake of this oration. He makes clear the dog was a gift that refuses to return and ensures no favors or promises were a result of this gift. Nixon concludes by turning the decision of his innocence over to the American public. He lets them know how much he trusts them and the ability to see the honest man he is.
The Checkers Speech serves as a model for effective persuasion in its use of so many different rhetorical techniques. Nixon clearly knows his audience and appeals to the 1950's value on family and home life. He mentions his wife numerous times and how much faith and trust he has in her. American wives could certainly appreciate this. Nixon clearly mentions the family dog as a ploy to pull at America's heart strings. What full blooded American post WWII could fault a man providing a dog for his family? Nixon also appeals to America's Cold War fears by mentioning how Communism is a far greater problem that the question of $18,000.
Teachers can use this speech as a model to have students look at ways to convince a reader of their particular point of view. Persuasion is found a multitude of times in this speech and easily serves as an example for students
Dwight D. Eisenhower -- "Atoms for Peace"
"I know that the American people share my deep belief that if a danger exists in the world, it is a danger shared by all..."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Early in his presidency, Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his "Atoms for Peace" speech before the United Nations in 1953. The nuclear arms race was threatening on the horizon and put great fear in the hearts of the nation. The speech mentioned the danger of the nuclear arms race. His speech went through a variety of revisions because initially he felt that his speechwriters were giving too much frightening information to the American people; not what a president wants to leave his nation feeling. The speech was received quite well and he received praise from the press for his delivery and his message.
Eisenhower begins the speech sharing his belief that the greatest threat to peace and safety not only within the United States but within the world is the creation and stockpiling of nuclear arms. The United States should not be fooled into believing they are the only ones with nuclear arms; our Allies and our enemies (the biggest being the U.S.S.R.) are in on the secret of nuclear weapons. Eisenhower highlights two major points: the first being what was stated above about so many countries having the potential to create nuclear arms and the second being that the potential now exists to destroy the entire world with these weapons.
Eisenhower then goes on to state the United States has never and will never believe in the idea of destroying humanity. He says "it is not the purpose or hope of the United States" to start any kind of war or battle in which all of human kind is destroyed; however, he recognizes that with the kind of weapons being made, the possibility does exist
Toward the end of the speech, he focuses on two major ideas. He first says that we want and should move forward with peace and happiness. Eisenhower even states that he does not want to consider or call Russia an enemy. He also proposes the Atomic Energy Agency. Eisenhower does what all great speakers should do; point out a problem or issue and then offer a solution. The Atomic Energy Agency does just that. He then pledges to go before Congress with a game plan to address the threat of nuclear war.
Nuclear war may not be the foremost political issue in 2006 but the speech can still resonate in the modern classroom. Eisenhower makes statements that clearly show his patriotism and his desire to continue to have America as one of the largest powers in the world. These ideas in a post 9/11 world still hold true.
His speech making and persuasive techniques, like Nixon's speech, serve as models for students to analyze and write. Teachers can assign students to read Eisenhower's speech and have them identify persuasive techniques (appealing to national pride or using statistics and research to support a claim). Teachers can also have students choose a national issue and highlight the problems and create solutions as Eisenhower did with his creation of the Atomic Energy Agency
William Faulkner -- Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1950
In 1950, Stockholm, Sweden was the setting for writer William Faulkner to deliver his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. It is rumored that he delivered the speech in such a terrible way that it did not become notable until it was read and seen on paper. This speech clearly is a great example of why writing is so important if the delivery is less than stellar.
Faulkner begins his speech by saying that the speech is not for him but for his work. He says "-a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit" (11.). He actually sees the acceptance speech as an opportunity to speak to young men and women about not losing their "souls" and not losing perspective of their lives. At this time, society was so afraid of nuclear war and Communism that writing about emotions and matters of the heart are often pushed to the wayside. Faulkner says, however, that one
feel fear since it is the most base of emotions and feeling that fear will ultimately make writers even better.
Faulkner is also very optimistic about the future. He believes whole heartedly that even though the future seems dreary with the prospect of Communism and racial tension, man will prevail because of his spirit. He also reminds writers that they have the privilege and duty to uplift the human spirit and those reminders of the past will help to change the future
Martin Luther King -- "I Have A Dream" John F. Kennedy -- Inaugural Address
I grouped these two speeches together for two reasons; the themes are quite similar and they are two of the most well known speeches in all of history. Although given during the 1960's, it seems remiss to not include them in a unit about persuasive writing and rhetoric. These speeches can be used either in chronological order or simply as a method to introduce some of the more mechanical elements of persuasive writing.
Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. In the midst of racial tension and political unrest, King urges the nation to lift itself up from the ruins of racism and segregation to come together and form one great nation, as our forefathers intended. He has a "dream" that his sons and daughters will be able to live and work among their white counterparts. He challenges the nation to look at what it was founded on and once again, urges people to honor what was intended for the United States of America.
John F. Kennedy could never have known when he delivered his inaugural address on Friday, January 20, 1961 how famous and influential his words would be. This address coined the famous "And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Kennedy also is asking his country to do something in light of the unrest and injustice it was facing. He speaks more to the threat of world powers against the freedom and sovereignty of the United States. He acknowledges threats of Communism and encourages all nations to not be afraid to negotiate but also not to negotiate out of fear. Kennedy speaks to the nation as a whole group to band together, regardless of race, religion, nationality or gender, and forge against our enemies.
The delivery of these speeches moves people to this day. When reading Dr. King's words, we cannot help but notice the eloquence of his language and writing. He fills his speech with similes and metaphors. He uses references that appeal to people from the highest class to the lowest class; from the North to the South. Dr. King utilizes all that is within him to appeal to the public at large thus making his speech one of the most famous in all of history. Kennedy's words still ring true in a nation fighting terrorism post 9/11 and can be used to show students how words can still be significant even forty years later. Both speeches allow a teacher to not only teach content but to emphasis the importance of audience and delivery in any type of writing or speech making
Transcripts of all the speeches featured can be found on the American Rhetoric website at www.americanrhetoric.com. The site not only includes the transcripts but also videos and/or audios of those speeches.