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Make Rhetoric Great Again


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Make Rhetoric Great Again

By Adam Ellwanger| July 20, 2017

At the university where I teach rhetoric, an organization called the Center for Public Deliberation promotes events where students, faculty and other citizens can discuss issues that are relevant to American democratic life. Among the goals listed on the Center’s website are decreasing political polarization, creating safe spaces for dialogue between “co-creating agents in our communities,” and facilitating “respectful, reciprocal relationships” between participants.

But glaringly absent from the Center’s long list of educational goals is any mention of teaching students to win arguments. In fact, even during the recent renaissance of the ancient study of rhetoric in American universities, the field has retreated from teaching persuasion. There is virtually no interest in teaching students how to convince other people to adopt their perspectives. Though the way that rhetoric is taught in higher education may seem remote from the growing urgency of the political moment, this trend has major implications for the function of American democracy.           :snip:       

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