BSLC Course: Public Speaking
If you are following my sabbatical at all, then you are aware of the fact that I have volunteered to teach two 6-8 week courses at my son's "experimental high school". That is not how they describe themselves, but the the subtleties of progressive education require a blog post or two of their own. For right now, all you need to know is that it is intensely student directed (yes, more so than Montessori or Waldorf) and the courses (all optional) are taught in a seminar format. It is hoped that the scholars will be interested, attend, participate, and develop projects and study opportunities from the sessions. None of that, however, is required. In this way, frankly, it is a whole lot like Sunday School.
Here is the reading list and description for one of my two courses. I chose public speaking because I know a thing or two about it. It is formatted somewhat like an art history class wherein we experience examples of fine public speaking and see what they can teach us today.
If you are interested in learning more about Bay State Learning Center (BSLC). Check out there web page linked here.
Public Speaking Workshop
This class is conceived as a workshop to look at some of the basic elements of public speaking. Over the years there has been a great deal of argument around whether a talent for speechmaking is something people are “born with” or whether it can be taught or cultivated through practice. We will be assuming Aristotle’s side (that it is teachable) and considering parts of his work on the subject.
In this course we will explore some of the basic skills necessary for public speaking and set them in the context of Aristotle's Rhetoric. We will take a look at his three elements of persuasion, ethos (reputation or credibility), pathos (emotional and intuitive connection), and logos (reasoned argument) and put them into practice while considering if there is anything the old guy missed. We will also view parts of some of the important political speeches of our era to see if we can find what made them so effective.
Reading: There is limited reading for this unit as much of our time will be spent watching and discussing a number of speeches. The basic text--that will provide a frame for our discussion--is “The Art of Rhetoric” by Aristotle, particularly Chapters 1 and 3. Of these Chapter 1 is the most important.
My Copy is the most recent one from Penguin Classics and is easily found at most book stores and ordered online.
Also, there may be written copies of specific speeches. There is one in particular: “Why the Church Should Demand the Ballot for Women” by Olympia Brown. There is a scan of this in the Google folder.
Using the lens of Aristotle, we will discuss a variety of speeches easily found on youtube. I am listing them here in probable order of appearance.
“I Have A Dream” Martin Luther King
“ A Day That Will Live in Infamy” Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“Hot Pockets” Jim Gaffigan
“A Time For Choosing” (exerpt) Ronald Reagan
“Languages” Eddie Izzard
“Speech to the 1988 Democratic Convention” Jesse Jackson
Part 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw0AFtZnRMM
And part 7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHd6XYMlP4I
[you are certainly welcome to watch all of it]
“Commencement Speech at CCNY Graduation 2016” Michelle Obama
“Speech to the 2016 Republican Convention” (excerpts) Donald Trump
“Speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention” (excerpts) Hillary Clinton
We will get some speaking practice in by making use of some fun (I promise) speaking games that will engage our creativity while also addressing the tree area that Aristotle mentions.
Finally, the scholars will be asked to think about a relevant project (of their choice!) to integrate what they have learned.
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