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Thread: Concern with Rhetoric

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Default Concern with Rhetoric

    Hello!

    My son on the spectrum is working through Refutation/Confirmation this year for Composition. He is having a hard time with the concept of this level--taking a story and refuting it (pointing out all that is wrong with the arguments, narrative consistency, etc) and then turning around and doing the opposite (confirming all the arguments, etc). This is strange to him, having to view the story from opposite perspectives. It feels wrong not to try to find the truth (does this story make sense or not?) but rather to practice rhetorical devices. Why not just study Logic and then apply it to this story? Why not only refute or confirm each story? .

    He is going with the assignments, although we are still on Lesson 1 after 6 weeks, but he is worried about how it might affect him. He wonders will he be tempted to use rhetoric to twist his siblings' arguments around? I had to smile at that, but he is so scrupulously careful that it really is bothering him.

    I have explained the value of this level as best I can. It is important to learn these rhetorical techniques so that you can recognize them in your reading of the news, politics, or when others may try to use them on you. It is also simply good writing practice.

    He is a black and white thinker. I think these exercises are great tools to expand his understanding of others' perspectives. But I would love some advice on how to explain their value to him.

    Thank you!
    Catherine

    2018-19
    DS15, 9th
    DS12, 6th
    DS10, 5th
    DD10, 5th
    DS6, K
    DD3
    DS 7 mos

    Homeschooling 3 with MP
    2 using First Form series in school

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    2,249

    Default Re: Concern with Rhetoric

    Catherine, this is a great question. It reflects not only his challenges in mental flexibility but also, and more importantly, your good work in raising him to love and defend what is true!

    You might try this so as to not trouble his conscience:

    1. He defends a position to the best of his ability.
    2. He then defends the opposing position as strongly and clearly as someone who believed that way would defend that position.
    3. When he finishes the rhetorical exercise, he then tells you (and himself) which is objectively true. Though not part of the rhetorical exercise, you can add this moral exercise to ease his conscience and assure him that we uphold truth no matter how well someone is able to defend it!

    To explain the value of this practice, you can be honest: He will encounter intelligent, albeit errant, thinkers in his young adulthood. He needs to know how they think! It will be an exercise in thinking like those who oppose truth would think. You can tell him that you would not ask a child to do this. He is only being asked to do this because he has the knowledge and maturity to do so. You can assure him you will help. You might listen to newscasts or podcasts you would not normally listen to, just to get his feet wet. What arguments do they make? Why do they think this way?

    To affirm his concerns, you can tell him that this is similar to when a person takes martial arts. The instructor says that these skills are learned to defend oneself, not to attack others unduly. So it is with rhetoric. He learns this to defend his position, ideally defending truth itself, and never to manipulate others or attack them. Rhetoric is persuasion, yes, but eloquent persuasion with truth, goodness, and beauty for the benefit of others as its ultimate aim.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    855

    Default Re: Concern with Rhetoric

    Hi Catherine,

    While I am not an expert in special needs by any stretch of the imagination, I did want to point out that Ref/Con is specifically working with refuting and confirming fictional stories. It is not asking him to refute or confirm moral ideas or true stories. That is precisely because we want them to practice looking at both sides. When he gets to Common Topic, it will deal with abstract ideas like "honesty". At this point we will not ask him to argue against honesty but only for it.

    I'm not sure if it would be of benefit to explain it to him or not but I thought it would be helpful for you to know that.

    Paul
    Paul Schaeffer
    --
    Director, Schools Division
    Memoria Press

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    282

    Default Re: Concern with Rhetoric

    Quote Originally Posted by cherylswope View Post
    Catherine, this is a great question. It reflects not only his challenges in mental flexibility but also, and more importantly, your good work in raising him to love and defend what is true!

    You might try this so as to not trouble his conscience:

    1. He defends a position to the best of his ability.
    2. He then defends the opposing position as strongly and clearly as someone who believed that way would defend that position.
    3. When he finishes the rhetorical exercise, he then tells you (and himself) which is objectively true. Though not part of the rhetorical exercise, you can add this moral exercise to ease his conscience and assure him that we uphold truth no matter how well someone is able to defend it!

    To explain the value of this practice, you can be honest: He will encounter intelligent, albeit errant, thinkers in his young adulthood. He needs to know how they think! It will be an exercise in thinking like those who oppose truth would think. You can tell him that you would not ask a child to do this. He is only being asked to do this because he has the knowledge and maturity to do so. You can assure him you will help. You might listen to newscasts or podcasts you would not normally listen to, just to get his feet wet. What arguments do they make? Why do they think this way?

    To affirm his concerns, you can tell him that this is similar to when a person takes martial arts. The instructor says that these skills are learned to defend oneself, not to attack others unduly. So it is with rhetoric. He learns this to defend his position, ideally defending truth itself, and never to manipulate others or attack them. Rhetoric is persuasion, yes, but eloquent persuasion with truth, goodness, and beauty for the benefit of others as its ultimate aim.
    Cheryl,

    Thank you so much. I shared your response with my son, and he understood the analogy with martial arts. I think he will very much appreciate being able to defend the exercise that he thinks is correct. He has just started to listen to some podcast debates between atheist and Christian thinkers. This will fit in very well!

    I reminded him that a few years ago he was very worried about studying Greek myths for similar reasons. He could barely remember that--"well OF COURSE I know why we read mythology!" So we are definitely coming along here! :-)

    Thanks again!
    Catherine

    2018-19
    DS15, 9th
    DS12, 6th
    DS10, 5th
    DD10, 5th
    DS6, K
    DD3
    DS 7 mos

    Homeschooling 3 with MP
    2 using First Form series in school

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    282

    Default Re: Concern with Rhetoric

    Quote Originally Posted by pschaeffer View Post
    Hi Catherine,

    While I am not an expert in special needs by any stretch of the imagination, I did want to point out that Ref/Con is specifically working with refuting and confirming fictional stories. It is not asking him to refute or confirm moral ideas or true stories. That is precisely because we want them to practice looking at both sides. When he gets to Common Topic, it will deal with abstract ideas like "honesty". At this point we will not ask him to argue against honesty but only for it.

    I'm not sure if it would be of benefit to explain it to him or not but I thought it would be helpful for you to know that.

    Paul
    Thank you, Paul! My son was glad to hear this. He is relieved to hear he will not be asked to defend something immoral. His main concern is that in defending a position he believes is incorrect, he is being untruthful. But I think he is beginning to understand why we are doing the exercises. Just still a little uncomfortable with it.

    Thanks again!
    Catherine

    2018-19
    DS15, 9th
    DS12, 6th
    DS10, 5th
    DD10, 5th
    DS6, K
    DD3
    DS 7 mos

    Homeschooling 3 with MP
    2 using First Form series in school

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