We spend a lot of time persuading others. Whether it is what kind of take-out food we want, what to watch at the cinema, or just exactly what to think of Donald Trump. One thing is certain, a lot more time than we think is spent trying to persuade. For most, persuasion is part of their daily routine. For some, their job is built entirely around it. We often see politicians persuading people that their party is the best, celebrities persuading the public to give to charity, lawyers persuading an audience of someone’s innocence or guilt.
So, it’s safe to say that the ability to persuade is pretty important, which is why my focus has been on classical rhetoric of late. If you’ve been following my blog recently, you may have noticed that I have been writing a lot about classical rhetoric and how it can improve writing. I have talked about structure and techniques, but – apart from some small quotes from literature – have provided very little in the way of an example of how it could be used. With this in mind, I have decided to give an example of a polemic I wrote a month or so before Christmas as a piece of coursework for my Master’s degree.
So what exactly is a polemic? It is, in the briefest terms, a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something. Politicians are often seen delivering these. The idea of a polemic is to persuade the audience, often by creating an emotional response or call to action.
The polemic below uses several of the schemes of repetition I’ve talked about previously, such as anadiplosis, diacope, and antimetabole. It also follows the basic structure of a piece of classical rhetoric, which I mentioned here. The layout is as follows: exordium (introduction), narratio (background facts), confimatio (main body of text), refutatio (dealing with other points of view), and peroratio (conclusion).
This piece was written for public presentation.
Primary Education is Lacking
Primary education is lacking! Lacking in creativity, creativity which is crucial for an individual’s professional development, development that could shape that individual’s future career and life. Creativity – a word often mistakenly attributed to the arts – can take many forms. For example, a person can be creative in maths, science, cuisine, dance, teaching, learning, writing, exercising, or engineering, the list goes on. We live in a world of constant innovation, a world where creativity in the workplace is often valued above a regular academic degree. Why then, do primary schools insist primarily on crushing that creativity and self-expression with exam coaching and standardised testing?
Primary Education is lacking! For the last two years, the government has been driving children towards a future in STEM subjects, with little regard for what that child is actually good at. Three of the five primary schools in my local area have an ‘art day’. An ‘art day’, can you believe that? One day a year where the children can express themselves artistically. Even outside of primary education creative curricula suffer, Art History is gone, Drama is going, Creative Writing is going to go. Even here, in this university where I studied Creative Writing, you can no longer study a Creative Writing degree because it has been assimilated into professional writing. But I digress, this year in primary schools we have seen the implementation of new, ‘more rigorous’ tests for which eleven-year-olds must be drilled even harder to achieve a passable grade. It’s as if we’re going to put a big stamp of approval on a child’s head after school that says ‘this product is fit for work.’ This focus on learning by rote, this focus on repetition, this focus on looking good as an educational establishment is stifling the creativity of the children of this country.
Primary Education is lacking! Time and time again it has been proved that learning by rote does not suit every pupil, and that very few students find rote learning stimulating. Stimulation! Where is the stimulation that should be present in every classroom? It isn’t there. There is nothing even slightly stimulating about repeating the same exercise over and over again. A more diverse and creative curriculum is needed, where the individual child is nurtured, rather than taught as part of a thirty-strong group. These children are educated in groups, but groups unable to educate each other. These children are told that there is one answer to a question, they are told to work by themselves and to not copy each other, because – they are told – it is cheating to work together to solve a problem. Outside of primary education, this is called, ‘cooperation, ‘coordination’, or ‘collaboration’.
Primary education is lacking. So what can we do to stop it lacking? For a start, stop separating children by age. Why is age the most important characteristic of a child? It is not their age that makes them unique, but rather what they enjoy doing. There are ten-year-olds out there who far excel me in watercolour painting, and one of those child’s peers – who sits next to them in class – may be fantastic at maths, but terrible at painting. Why is it fair to teach them as though they are complete equals? It isn’t.
Now some may say, that it isn’t fair if we don’t treat every child the same. That only being treated equally guarantees that every child has an equal chance in life. To that, I say it’s not that simple. Yes, we should give each child equal time, but if every child were equal, then every child would learn the same way, at the same time, and achieve the same grades. Children do not ship with factory settings, their minds are as complex and as vast as the ocean. If you do not explore that ocean, and only bother to take the same pre-established routes, then how can you expect a child to develop into a diverse and skilled member of the future workforce? Others may argue that the system must work because it has been in place for so long. And that is exactly the problem, we still have the same classroom system from a hundred years ago, it is time to move on and reflect our progressive society in our education system. Primary education is lacking, and if we don’t stop this destruction of future creativity, there will be no-one creative enough left to fix it in the future. Thank you.
As always, I appreciate the time you take reading my articles. Have a good week.
Another post on classical rhetoric (focusing on balance) is coming next week.
Thanks for reading.