Rhetoric is the art of effective, persuasive, winsome communication. It often gets a bad rap, though. Listen to today’s social, cultural, or political commentary. You’ll soon hear claims that someone’s spouting “empty rhetoric.”
Many see rhetoric as showy words without substance. A speaker sounds great. His facts don’t hold up, though, and his reasoning is flawed. His ideas are great, but they don’t seem to square with reality. He seems sincere, but we’re not sure he’s sure of what he’s saying.
Worse, some view rhetoric as a tool of manipulation. The speaker seems to be keeping something from us. Is he telling us the whole truth? What does he hope to get out of persuading us? Will he gain something valuable at our expense? Does he have our best interest in mind?
People’s concerns about much of today’s rhetoric are legitimate. Rhetoric has suffered much abuse and neglect. Some speak and write with great form, but their message has little substance. Some will say or do whatever they need to get our “like,” our dollar, or our vote.
We value rhetoric and want to see it restored. As the third phase of the Trivium, it provides a key, even capstone role for a K–12 education. Rhetoric doesn’t have to be a tool to simply get what we want. It needn’t be showy or manipulative. It needn’t be empty, either.
Instead, rhetoric can be skillful, straightforward communication. It can be informative and even inspiring. It can be honest and kind, genuine, and empathetic.
This is how Veritas sees rhetoric. This is what the art of persuasion should be. Veritas rhetoric equips students to have something worthwhile to say and to say it well.
Our approach to rhetoric values much of what Greeks and Romans said about the subject. We still sit at their feet to hear great insights. We still aim to put their best ideas into practice.
Greeks and Romans taught us how to come up with something to say. They taught us how to order our thoughts and order our words. They taught us, too, how to shape a message to an audience. They didn’t teach us much about using rhetoric to love and serve others, though.
The Veritas approach to rhetoric does. It turns to the Bible and the Christian tradition for guidance. It seeks to follow and teach the powerful example of Jesus’s words and deeds. We show high school students a better way to persuade.
How ought Christ’s followers to try to persuade others? How should their rhetorical efforts look different from those of the world around? How can they seek to persuade with empathy, understanding, compassion? How can they both speak to others and listen to them?
Jesus called us all to love our neighbor as ourself. A Veritas approach to rhetoric asks how we can do that in our speaking and writing and living. A Veritas rhetoric equips students to adorn truthful words with beauty, A Rhetoric of Love.
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