Thursday, March 4, 2010

CC and the Five Canons of Rhetoric (Part 1)

Let's talk about rhetoric.

Rhetorical skills, or the art of persuading others, can be divided into the Five Canons of Rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery.

means finding something to say. Arrangement is how an author organizes the things he or she wants to say. Style is the way something will be said. Memory means not only memorizing the argument to be presented but the art of bringing all the things you remember into context in order to enhance the presentation. Delivery refers to the public presentation of information.

For example, I could invent the words for a song, arrange them into rhythm and meter, determine that it is going to be a folk style song, memorize it in light of my appreciation for songwriters who influenced my love of music, and deliver the song as a round to be sung in many parts. The purpose of the song could be to persuade listeners to care for their communities.

We live in a time when anyone can upload their opinions via words, music, or video and call themselves artists. This easy access has greatly reduced our ability to recognize, let alone our willingness to reward, artists who put enormous effort into crafting a message.

Why pay to attend an opera with singers who have spent a lifetime developing their voices when you can laugh at a video of people hurting themselves online? Why produce a thoughtful TV show with gifted writers when narcissists will perform on reality shows for free? Why study the Constitution when charismatic politicians tell you they can give taxpayers anything the majority wants?

Families who appreciate the classical model recognize that the current deluge of trivia and the trivial has damaged our ability to engage in meaningful, responsible discourse. They want to train their children in the art of thinking and using words to clearly express those thoughts. Practicing the five canons of rhetoric inculcates these abilities. be continued...