Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Rhetoric Companion - A Review....

What is rhetoric? We often hear the term as a negative connotation in terms of modern politics. Merriam-Webster defines rhetoric as the art of speaking or writing effectively. Some educators say it is the capstone of classical Christian education. In a world driven by social media, rhetoric is the goal our students should be aiming to reach. Along this vein, N.D. Wilson and Douglas Wilson have written The Rhetoric Companion, A Student's Guide to Power in Persuasion. I was recently gifted a copy from Timberdoodle in an exchange for a review.

The Rhetoric Companion is an easy to read guide. According to the back cover, it offers 31 "lively and practical lessons" covering the following material and more...

  • A critical appreciation of the essential ancient rhetoric texts
  • The Pauline view of presentation and persuasion
  • How to develop copiousness and leave an audience wanting more
  • The concept of "stasis theory" and how to grasp the crux of an argument
  • How successful proof obligates an audience to believe
  • Composition exercises with each lesson
  • Suggested reading material for each lesson from Artistotle's Rhetoric, the Rhetorica Ad Herennium, or Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria

The Rhetoric Companion is designed as an independent course with assigned readings from Aristotle and Quintilian. However, if your student wants or needs further study in rhetoric, lessons four through eight of The Rhetoric Companion deal with the Five Canons of Rhetoric, making it a possible good fit with The Lost Tools of Writing by the CiRCE Institute. Later lessons explore a variety of fallacies, making The Rhetoric Companion a potential pair with The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn.

Each lesson is four to six pages, providing commentary, suggested reading, exercises, and review questions. The exercises give practice in writing and speaking rhetorically. For example, the lesson one exercise says:
Find twenty-five short, well-written excerpts from any outside reading and copy them (with citation) into a commonplace book. Select the strongest ten and work on delivering them orally until you can do them justice. Introduce and deliver them publicly. (p. 15)
I envision the review questions either to be done independently by the student on paper or as discussion questions with a parent or classmates. There is a brief 54-page answer key available for the review questions.

Given the assigned speeches and opportunities for suggested public speaking, I think The Rhetoric Companion would make an excellent co-op or group study for older students. In the Introduction, Wilson and Wilson state, "This text is designed for students of classical rhetoric who are old enough to drive, and young enough to still be breathing." Timberdoodle includes The Rhetoric Companion in their Twelfth Grade Kit. I would agree that it would best serve upper level high school students.

Overall, I enjoyed reviewing The Rhetoric Companion by N.D. Wilson and Douglas Wilson. Obviously, my kids are not old enough to work through the study at this point. However, I do plan to keep The Rhetoric Companion and re-visit its possibilities when they reach the appropriate developmental stage. If you're searching for guidance in teaching rhetoric before your student graduates, I would encourage you to consider The Rhetoric Companion, A Student's Guide to Power in Persuasion.

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