20 January 2017

Inauguration Speech Rhetoric Lesson in Listening

I just read Trump's inauguration speech and had an idea for my English class next week. We're about to transition between units, so it's kind of timely in more than one way.

I got a lot of hyperbole from people I respect, on Facebook and in person, before I had a chance to read for myself, and even saw reports that climate change and LGBT pages were being taken off of the WhiteHouse.gov page already (guess what, it's standard archiving procedure). Now, having read the whole thing, I won't say their dread is 100% unfounded, but I will say that they latched onto some pretty distorted soundbites.

So I think it's time to return to rhetoric.

After all, my high-flyer student who was the first to take the new SAT after our SAT Prep class said our work on rhetoric in our senior English class, with "A Modest Proposal" and J.P. Sears, was actually what prepared her the best for the writing section. Not to mention the graders I've known who said it was pretty much what the whole writing score boils down to.

Of course we'll refresh on ethos, pathos, and logos and maybe spend a little time analyzing those, maybe have a little scavenger hunt for logical fallacies. We might even check out some of the extreme social media interpretations out there.

But first, we'll listen.

Listening is probably THE hardest thing for me to do in a debate setting, but it is THE most important skill for all of us to master, especially those with any sort of power, privilege, or authority. So these "super seniors" in their fifth year of high school, before they graduate with a diploma and an AA and/or AS are going to actively practice it.

I don't mean I'm going to make them listen to the speech (I'm that bad with listening myself--I won't watch the video when I can just read it). I mean they're going to have to listen to another side. And they're going to have to hear it inside themselves.

Their task?

Pick any two quotes from the speech that two different people might interpret differently. Analyze what ideas and information influence their interpretations and which you think is closer to the President's actual intent.


Now they can pick actual people: their raucous Rebel-flag-flying Uncle Randy and Killary herself, Bernie and their favorite youth pastor. Toby Keith and Katy Perry. Or they can construct their own liberal/conservative, socialist/libertarian, SJW/neckbeard stereotype. Or they can just try to see it two different but uncategorized ways.

But what they'll have to do is acknowledge that their way is NOT the only way to see the speech.

So maybe it's not the end of America, or democracy, or the rights and freedoms we've come to enjoy.

But maybe it really feels like it too.

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