So you’ve survived the diabolical arguing years of childhood. Now it’s time to enter the third time period of classical education: the rhetoric stage.
Children reach the rhetoric stage as teenagers, sometime around 14. You know they’ve reach it when your arguing machine stops arguing over EVERY little thing, and instead begins to discuss and ponder events in his life.
The teens are concerned with being heard and expressing themselves clearly.
Welcome to the Rhetoric Stage
Those years of arguing are necessary to bring about the gifted high school students we’re blessed to teach. The teenagers are now able to outline and create logic arguments. But a logical argument isn’t enough.
Adults also need to know how to style their words so people want to hear what they have to say. So high school students develop skills in expressing themselves as well as skills in presentation. In other words, it’s time to teach rhetoric using a text like Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student.
Our young adults also must develop a world view and understand right from wrong, not from a child’s perspective of Mommy and Daddy say so, but from an adult’s developed moral sense of right and wrong.
This means long, in-depth discussions. We don’t simply discuss cause and effect in world history, we discuss moral questions raised.
Is it appropriate to attack civilians in war if it means the war will end sooner? What were the differences between George Washington and Napoleon? What did those differences mean for their countries?
We listen as much or more than we teach. The Socratic method is perfect for this stage. Ask leading questions, make the teens work through ethical issues, see the weaknesses of both sides of an argument, and determine what is right, what is wrong, and why.
The parrot develops the knowledge, say of a car. What is a wheel, an axle, an engine? The arguing machine of the dialectic stage studies why we can’t attach the wheel to the engine and instead must attach it to the axle. The rhetoric stage student now learns to build their dream car, or life, for themselves.
Our goal as classical educators is to guide our children from being little parrots spouting off learned facts, rules, and morals from memory to being adults who can apply the facts, rules, and morals to all situations.
It takes time, energy, and patience. Seeing our children turn into adults concerned with right and wrong, ready to take on the world makes all the work worthwhile.