Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halfway There...

It's officially the halfway point and I have to admit that I'm not sure where the time has gone. One short speech, two long ones, and lots of non-discussion later... I'm not sure what the students are getting out of the class. I haven't a clue if they are learning anything about speaking; I'm certainly not sure if they've learned anything useful. I hope they have. Honestly, I've tried to explain and demonstrate the power of words. But, students range from engaged to barely present intellectually. 

That's pretty strange, when you think about it. I wonder if I've lost their interest at this point. I can't tell if they care at all about the course. Then again, if I wanted a science degree and had to take speech, I wouldn't care about it much either. I'm not sure there is a reason to care. How can I say such a thing? Because the truth is that most people never do speak in a public forum and about the same number will ever think critically about the content of what anyone else says.

I'm cynical, certainly, and maybe I hope to change one or two minds about how we think, but for the most part I'm not sure that's likely. I'm not into theory, certainly not into the classical traditions of rhetoric, and couldn't tell you all the big Greek or Latin words for how to analyze a speech. What matters to me is that if a student wants to learn to speak, I can do my best to help him or her.

My ideas about speaking are nothing more than a hunch. That hunch is no different, I suppose, that what all the famous dead men wrote about speaking. That makes me think they weren't so smart or wise -- their works are simply the ones to survive and the ones we quote.

So Aristotle had some ideas. That's nice. Do they apply to my students? Maybe. Or maybe my hunches are just as valid as anything some thinker wrote in the fourth century BCE. I wish I could care more, but I don't. It isn't like I'm ever going to grasp theories about human "constructions" of knowledge and I don't really mind that my mind is more practical.

Students need the practical more, anyway.

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