Why do certain speeches “work” and so many others do not? Rhetoric supposes that we use language to persuade, challenge and unite, in all aspects of our lives. To awaken to this reality, you will explore how language has been, and might be used to help us powerfully and clearly articulate our viewpoints. As you study how the earliest Americans manipulated language as conquerors, colonists, and revolutionaries, you will become skilled in analyzing and manipulating language in order to articulate and achieve your own aims. These domestic examples will be juxtaposed with international case studies to strengthen your sense of global awareness, identity, and possibility.

Course Units

What are the principles and powers of rhetorical language?

Suppose language behaved like matter, was subject to similar laws and principles, could be built, shaped, and manipulated as wood or stone. How might you become a wordsmith, forging new meaning from the building blocks of language? In Unit 1: Suppose, you will study the ancient masters of rhetorical form – the Greeks. You will read and engage with Aristotle and Socrates to learn how to craft a clear, unified message. You will practice using the devices, strategies and forms of language to unite your peers, delineate the parts of an argument, and build common ground with your opposition. Here are the Unit sub-guiding questions you will pursue:

  • What makes some rhetoricians more effective than others?
  • How will you learn from others to increase your own rhetorical skill?
  • How will you evaluate rhetoric using rhetoric?

What rhetorical lines divided colonial America?

In this unit, you will study how language challenges the status quo, for the good and for the bad. In the Internal Investigation, you will explore the rhetoric that divided the first European settlers in America. In the External Investigation, you will research other voices (from the past and present) that dared to break the silent majority, disagreeing with a major point of view. You will create a brief report on your research. Inspired by the voices you investigated, the Action Project will challenge you to meticulously analyze a speech that challenges injustice somewhere in the world. You will create an interactive presentation that teaches others about the techniques used and whether or not they are effective. Here are the unit sub guiding questions you will pursue:

  • What was the rhetoric of colonization?
  • Who has used rhetoric to challenge the status quo?
  • How is rhetoric used to educate and inspire others?

How does rhetoric inspire and mobilize?

In this unit, Unite, you will study political speeches to learn how we might also inspire, unite, and mobilize others for a cause. Reading masters of rhetorical skill from different historical eras up to the present, you will learn the rhetorical skills and devices that tend to attract and unify ideas and people. You will practice building unity by writing a formal proposal. Finally, you will share your broader dreams with others in the hopes of inspiring them to action. Here are the unit sub guiding questions you will pursue:

  • What sort of rhetoric inspires and unites?
  • How will you attract partners using rhetoric? (Or, when is 1 + 1 > 2?)
  • What is the most persuasive way to share your dream?

  • ISS: .25
  • English: .5