Category Archives: Rhetoric

Descriptions of Rhetoric, discussions of its use today.

The Pitfalls of Classical Homeschooling

You’ve done your homework, made your preparations, and purchased all the Great Books you plan to read during this year of Classical Homeschooling. What could possibly go wrong?

In previous blogs I lauded the merits of Classical schooling. I have worked in the Classical realm for 20 years and have watched many, many children move through their high school careers. I maintain that this is a marvelous method for educating young minds. And yet there are still some reservations to keep in mind as you go along.

glasses kidFirst, this method is not for everyone. It entails a huge amount of reading, and not every child has a natural bent toward reading. For some, reading takes a lot of work, whether from a mild to moderate learning disability, or because his mind is always on some activity he would rather be undertaking, or simply because he hates it. If the reading is just taking too much out of your child, then consider 1) testing him for a learning problem and/or 2) finding another path of learning for this one child.

Second, some in the Classical model have a tendency to overemphasize one area at the expense of others. For example, Classical is more heavy on the humanities; that’s just its nature. However, do not think that since you are “doing Classical” you can just put off math and science for another time, or minimize its importance. No, remember that all things are connected, and that we do not just separate out the subjects. All of this is part of one well-rounded, well-educated child. In fact, learning math and science helps a child to think more logically. That can help him to make connections during his Dialectic and Rhetoric stages. This is important in higher level thinking.

Third, some in Classical figure that this kind of program is only for the humanities kid, and not for the math/science student. That too is wrong. It’s not just the English major who needs to think well, to write well, and to learn history. Science and math students–yes, and engineers–need to know how to write reports and studies. All of them also need to make logical, compelling, and beautiful defenses for their faith. Don’t let your math and science kid convince you that he doesn’t need to go very far in his humanities. That’s just not correct. In fact, when Rhetoric is taught well, the math guy will like learning how to write for Rhetoric just as well as the humanities kid. (As the author of Biblical Worldview Rhetoric and the teacher of that class for many years, I can attest to the number of engineering guys who passed through my classes with flying colors. There’s something about the formulaic method in Rhetoric that they seem to love just as much as the potential English major!)

Fourth, the Classical method is not necessarily THE only way to educate. It is, in my opinion, superior in many ways. But it does not give a parent or teacher license to brag, boast, or snobbishly declare that all other ways are rubbish. That’s just irritating, unkind, and wrong. I urge all parents to educate their children WELL. Use what methods you can afford and what you have the time and inclination for. However, Classical schooling does not give you license to rub other people’s faces in it. Don’t let me catch you doing it.

In fact, in some places I have witnessed overemphasis on the METHOD of Classical and Christian education, rather than on the HEART. Once Christ has been abandoned as the center of all things, it will all fall apart quickly. Keep perspective, knowing that Christ is at the center, holding all things together. Never make Classical THE THING in your lives more than Christ is.

Fifth, some people will try to sell you on Classical models that 1) might not truly be fully Classical or 2) may be wrongly administered or 3) might just be low quality. Inspect the material well. Does it include answer keys, supply links and lists of extra reading? Does it cover enough material for 9 months of deep study? By high school, your child should be able to spend one to two hours per day on each subject. Is the curriculum providing enough rich materials for that kind of study? Or does it skip around from here to there, not focusing for very long? Does it offer opportunities for students to reflect on what they read and make connections to their studies?

One popular Classical set of studies, selling from Ancient to Modern syllabi, piles the reading on to the students but does not supply any kind of teacher guide so that the parent or tutor can help the student make connections throughout. That’s unfortunate. Some programs I have seen will provide classes for 8 weeks and then encourage parents to give their students full credit. I beg to differ; no 8-week course can give the kind of breadth and scope necessary for a full high school credit (hardly even for a half-credit). Nor should you, for example, award an English credit for some curriculum that has you read a few books and write one or two essays. Be reasonable. That’s cheating your child of valuable and necessary learning.

Sixth, and this is very important, the student in Classical all the way through high school may tend toward arrogance if not carefully balanced. existentialismAgain, some of this has to do with the exclusivity that one might feel about having done this wonderful thing called Classical. But much of it comes from knowing that you are reading and studying some very difficult material at a very high level of thinking and writing, and that just makes you superior to your peers. Arrogance has no place in Classical and Christian education. This kind of learning may cause you to think deeply, write beautifully, stand up and speak well for yourself, and you may be able to hold a conversation about existentialism with the best of them, but that does not make you even one small step better than others. Parents, do not let your teenager take that unwise step. May your child grow into a humble, patient, wise, and caring young man or woman, groomed by Classical education.

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Filed under Biblical Worldview, Classical Education, Education, Homeschooling, Literature, Parenting, Rhetoric

Classical Homeschooling at the upper levels

In my last blog I touched on the parroting aspect of the grammar level of classical schooling. If you were to continue schooling your child this way all the way through high school, you will have failed miserably. Education runs aground if it ends in parroting. Without the growth and expansion of the dialectical and rhetoric stages of education, a student will not know how to handle the information he has learned all along, and he turns out no better than his public-schooled peers.

Dorothy Sayers, in her 1947 essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” asked her readers if they were not disturbed by certain signs of modern education:Dorothy Sayers

Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? Do you put this down to the mere mechanical fact that the press and the radio and so on have made propaganda much easier to distribute over a wide area? Or do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?

 Sayers, in her post-World-War-II thinking, is asking how an educated people could have succumbed to the propaganda of such madmen as Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin. What would she say today about our political-correctness run amok? Where people spout empty philosophies that sound so great but are completely meaningless? Or where people spew forth ideas full of the failings of philosophies past (i.e. socialism)?

You will be easily led down the wrong path if all you can do is parrot back what you have learned. If you cannot plumb the depths of what you study, if you cannot separate emotion from fact, and analyze the information that is coming at you, if you cannot then articulate your beliefs, you run the risk of falling into the trap of whoever holds power. This is why we teach our students how to think, analyze, process, make connections, read for themselves the ideas of the past. This is why we educate classically.

Thus we begin a discussion of Classical Schooling at the upper level. The standards suddenly just got higher, didn’t they? When you look for curriculum for your teenager, you need to discern what is being taught. Is it more rote learning? Is it empty of meaning? Then discard it. Does it teach a student to make connections between disciplines? In other words, does it encourage the reader to study the philosopher and the age in which he lived, and then look at the impact of that philosophy on the age that followed? Does the curriculum walk a student through history to make a point? Does it bring in the writings of great thinkers (both good and bad) in their own words?

One very impactful part of high school Classical schooling comes when students make connections that startle them and get them thinking. I have my students read “The Communist Manifesto” and then Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address. They are stunned to see ideas put forth in FDR that they had just read in Marx. It’s those kinds of connections we want to see.

Some Classical curricula just piles on the work, pumping students full of learning but never encouraging them to pause and contemplate the connections they need to make during these crucial teenage years. If there is no directed learning, just a lot of reading, discard it. Does that mean there needs to be a teacher at the other end? Maybe. If there is no teacher material that helps you, the parent, to direct your child’s thinking and make significant conclusions about the material, then perhaps this isn’t the curriculum for you.

Over the years I have encountered six or seven key brands of curriculum that consider themselves classical, and perhaps a handful more of classical schooling brands that tout an online form of some sort. Evaluate them carefully. Ask questions.

If this is an online or face-to-face learning experience, ask lots of questions. Hold them to a high level of accountability, because they are probably asking for a lot of money. Will there be someone to direct my student’s thinking, to help my student break down the information he is consuming? Will someone give my student directed feedback at regular intervals so that his learning/writing will improve and grow? Is this taught from a biblical or secular worldview? Is it learning just for the sake of learning, or is this learning in order to produce a thoughtful young man or woman? What will they be reading? Will there be plenty of primary resources to read?

Focus on writing. Be sure that you begin their writing in their earlier years, and be sure to continue at a high level throughout the Dialectic and Rhetoric level. They should be done with grammar by (or including) 9th grade or so, and they should be able to focus on writing well from then on. Ensure that the student gets directed feedback on his writing from someone who can hold his feet to the flames, so that he can grow as a writer. Do not ignore his writing! A purposeful Rhetoric curriculum will improve his writing as well. By the end of his high school career he should have learned how to express his thoughts beautifully, both written and orally.

A thoughtful, purposeful Classical educator will look at the young child and envision him as a high school senior, and the parent/teacher will begin to pour into him those things that will form him into the thoughtful human being God has created him to become. Isn’t that the goal of parenting anyway?

In my next blog I will talk about the hazards of Classical schooling.

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Home Schooling in High School means pursuing excellence well

“This is why we home school.”

a-messy-roomI hear that phrase a lot, and I’ve said it myself. We choose to home school for so many reasons. Some families are athletic or musical, and they need more flexible schedules. Some just believe that the alternatives out there–public or private schools–are not desirable for them. And others believe that God has called them to raise and educate their children themselves, combining their faith with their children’s education.

No matter the reason you elect to home school, I want to speak to you. Whatever you choose to do in educating your child, do it well. Choose carefully. Don’t over-commit, when over-commitment means you cannot do everything well.

Years ago I had a long talk with a mom whose daughter had spent much of her youth in violin lessons and violinperformances. The child was very talented, said the mother. They had focused on her violin lessons, rehearsals, travels, and performances, almost to the exclusion of anything else. I know it may be hard for some of you to believe this, but the mom told me that her daughter, at age 15, had not had more than elementary math, no science, and no writing or grammar. She was anxiously seeking my advice, and this turned into a very difficult meeting. I had to be brutally honest with her about the reality of her situation. Her daughter might earn music scholarships to college because of her talent, but she won’t get accepted to those colleges because she couldn’t handle the academics. Mom refused to hear what I had to say, and I have no idea what she did for her child afterward.

The lesson here is balance. Yes, those music lessons or those athletic abilities are really important. In balance, however, what takes priority? Is it your child’s figure-skating success, or is it her ability to perform academically, think well, write well? If, on average, your child is not holding her own on those yearly standardized tests, you need to examine why, short of any significant learning disability that may get in the way (and I am not talking about learning disabilities).

Another parent asked my advice on a schedule for her daughter’s first year of high school. She had signed up for all the basics: English, history, Bible, science, math, foreign language, at our online school. Then she added that a local co-op had a Shakespeare class they really wanted, plus she would be taking dance, drama, and piano, and then taking one day to babysit at the co-op while other moms taught. (And she would participate in two major dramas a year.) Given the number of hours in a day, and what it takes to succeed in each academic class (much less sit in each class each week), that child was starting out with a deficit of time, and the hole would just get deeper through the year. “Be ready to pitch those non-academic commitments overboard when it gets to be too much,” I told the mom. They never did, and their daughter was completely burned out halfway through the year.

Choose well, and choose wisely. Be selective about what your children do. Maybe you are like us, with kids who had no outstanding athletic or musical abilities, just wanting to have fun in band or soccer. Our rule for them during high school was “Youth Group Plus One.” In other words, they could do Youth Group and add one more activity beyond that each year. It could be fall sports and a spring job, or band all year, or drama. This kind of restriction was set so that they could learn the layer of priorities in their lives. For our children, work and worship needed to be learned and reinforced in proper balance as they developed into young men and women. They didn’t need more things piled on top of them just so they could stay busy. We didn’t always do a great job at that, but it was a principle we tried to stay with.

exhausted kidOvercommitment plagues most of us. We love lots of things, want to be involved in every great activity.  “This is why we homeschool” cannot–should not–be used as the reason for signing up for more than can humanly be done. If that debate tournament schedule means you will miss too many classes or too many homework deadlines, rethink your priorities. You could say no to the class, but do you need the class more than the debate club? Sometimes you just cannot manage both–one has to give way. Choose wisely and well.

Think about a manageable formula. For each academic high school course your child takes, he should study 1.5 to 2 hours per day, on average. Some courses will take more time, some less. What kind of time is left? (I know I have already stirred a hornet’s nest for some of you, who disagree that any child should spend that much time studying. So be it.)

Sometimes homeschool families overcommit more than “other” families do, just because they use that popular phrase “this is why…” Could it be you and your children BOTH need a little lesson in saying no? Balance work and activity, fun and worship. Say yes to a select few things, and then proceed to ENJOY your homeschool.

See related posts here, here, and here.

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Filed under Biblical Worldview, Education, Grammar, Homeschooling, Parenting, Rhetoric

Slouching mediocrity: I already KNOW how to write…

broken pencilParental angst about writing instruction for their homeschooled children fills my email inbox. Somehow parents know that math and science and history are SO much easier to deal with: Answers are either right or wrong.

Children take personal offense, though, when mommy tells them that their paragraphs were wrong.

As a writing teacher, I totally get it. In order to maintain a good relationship with their children, some moms who are not as sure about teaching writing will hire someone else, go to some other source, for help. That’s wise, for parents who just are not comfortable. I maintain that there is a right attitude and a wrong attitude about teaching good writing skills. Let’s take a look at some who misunderstand.

Some parents exhibit a lack of understanding of just how important good writing can be. I wish I had a dollar for every time a parent told me, “We believe a good reader will turn out to be a good writer, so we just expose our child to good books, and we know that when he is ready to write, he will be great.” This is like learning how to cook by eating at gourmet restaurants. Surely you know a lot about good food, right? So cooking like a chef will be a breeze.

Reading a lot of great books will help you in countless ways (see a previous blog about that). Exposure to the timeless classics expands the vocabulary, broadens the reader’s world, allows him to make connections to literary allusions in other works, enhances critical thinking skills, and more. It may also help improve one’s writing simply because his vocabulary is so greatly increased. The practice of imitation in Rhetoric uses pieces of great literature so that the student copies, by hand, the words and thoughts of great writers. Doing so will enhance a student’s grasp of the grammatical flow and thought process of the writer.

However, just absorbing the words in a great book will not translate to making a good writer. It’s not as if he will read and read and then suddenly *poof!* he is automatically a good writer. Not at all.

Similarly, other parents have told me that writing and writing week after week has improved their children’s writing skills. Does he get feedback on his writing, I ask? Well, no, but he is writing. But then how do you know he is improving if he has no guidance, no direction, no correction in his writing?

So there are two elements in growing a good writer: the practice of writing, and guidance in writing. If parents are not comfortable doing that at their own kitchen table, I advise them to find someone who is able to do that for them. Interview that person: what are his or her qualifications? What standards does he use? What experience does he have? I often suggest finding an English major currently in college who wants to earn some extra money, or an English teacher who is retired or a mom at home now.

There is a plethora of online writing classes these days; if you go that route make sure you are getting what you pay for. Will your child get regular, guided, personal feedback on every piece of writing, aiming him toward better writing on his next assignment? Some online organizations just don’t offer that kind of personal service. They are good at assigning but not so good at grading. Remember: no feedback = no growth. Since I teach at an online school I can recommend a very good one to you–just email me and we’ll chat. 🙂

I’ve encountered other kinds of misunderstanding about writing from homeschooling parents. One is that parent who had a bad experience back in third grade with a writing curriculum and was then afraid to try anything again. My advice: don’t give up. (See my post about schooling with excellence.) Keep trying to find that next writing curriculum. Find someone who can help you if you feel lost. Don’t just pass that off as something your child will never be able to do well. Short of a learning disability–and often even with one your child can do well–there is no reason he cannot learn to write at a college level while in high school.

Another comment comes from the parent who tells me that her high school child has joined a “write a novel in a year” club. Someone hands out information on how to write dialog and how to create a good couple of characters, and off the child goes to write a novel. The instruction is vague at best, and the product may be a sweet little story, but this child has not learned college-ready writing skills.

Or the parent who wants to make sure her child is doing “every kind of writing.” Somewhere someone told a parent that her child will be a good writer if she learns every kind of writing. By that I assume they mean journalism, poetry, compare/contrast, opinion, persuasive, short story, and whatever else I may have left out. Let me get you straight on this one: All that is great to know. However, the one basic skill a high school (and even a junior high) student needs in his tool box is Expository Writing: the essay that proves a thesis. College-level writing.

What are those college writing skills of which I speak? The expository essay presents an idea in a thesis and then proceeds to argue that thesis–prove it–with support through an essay. Call it a five-paragraph, ten-paragraph, or twelve-page paper, that is the writing skill your child will need to be ready for those college-assessment tests. Teach him how to incorporate and cite quotes, how to prove his thesis with argumentation, to introduce and conclude well. Teach him to do it in a paper or in an essay. Teach him to do it in a timed format (40 minutes and then 25 minutes, for example), because those college-assessment test writing portions are timed. If you can’t do it, then ask someone to do this for you.

Think of it this way: Your child wants to be a musician and picks up an instrument to play beautiful music. Instead, out come horrid sounds. Give that child lessons and theory; teach him how to play scales and chords; teach him the classics of the masters on that instrument. Then he can go and play all sorts of other types of music on that instrument to his heart’s content. Just as in writing. Teach that expository essay, and that child will be able to do all sorts of other kinds of writing as well, with practice.

See related blogs here and here.

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Daring to be mediocre

I recently attended a homeschool convention, one of the largest in the country. While I noticed many of the usual things–moms with rolling carts and rows of little heads following behind, little boys carrying wooden swords, little girls donning brightly colored…um…aprons and bonnets–I also noticed the plethora of educational material being sold to homeschool families. Not all of it excellent.

Yes, that is the purpose of the convention, for sellers to market their wares. And yes, this is an enormous group of homeschoolers ready to purchase next year’s collection of curricular materials. But not–absolutely not–is all of that material well done. Nor does it push students toward excellence. At best, it reaches the merely mediocre.

I’m not sure what came first–the poor curriculum or the parent who didn’t want to buy the best out there. Some of it has to do with money. But some, I am convinced, has to do with not wanting to challenge those little sweet children to work hard and do their best.

As a mom, I have heard my fair share of whining (and not all of it from my children). Plenty of times I have caved to that high-pitched, foot-stamping, grouchy-faced I-don’t-wanna. But not when it really mattered in the big picture. In the big picture, we were there, digging in our heels, telling them they were going to work on that hard math until it was done right. Digging in to tell them to rewrite that essay until it shined. Refusing them a coveted TV show until the science was studied. Withholding car keys until the grade was raised.

And when it mattered, we sacrificed and found them quality education where we could, when we could. In our patchwork quilt of educational choices, sometimes we didn’t always make the right decisions, but we were quick to change course the next year in an effort to find them the challenge they needed. Not all of their challenges were pleasant for them. But in the doing, they pursued excellence, and we pushed for it in them.

I wish I could challenge every homeschooling parent–AND other-schooling parent as well–to buck up and be unafraid to do what’s hard for your child. What is your end goal? It has to be excellence, doesn’t it? I’ve asked that question of many, many parents about their children. Some don’t have an end goal in mind, just keeping their heads down to get through one more year. Enduring the sour scowls and moaning meemies while simplifying the load just to get their children off their backs. I’ve watched them take their children to low-goal-setting homeschool co-ops where well-meaning moms teach subjects they might have once studied themselves. I’ve been asked to teach at such co-ops only to be rejected, told that my style of college-prep writing instruction was too hard for their high school students. They just didn’t want to make their children work that hard.

Set high goals for your students, and keep reaching. Don’t give up. (Real story, honest!) One parent told me, “We had a bad experience back in third grade with an English curriculum, so we haven’t done much writing since then.” How old is your child now? “Seventeen.” And he hasn’t written an essay yet. And he wants to go to college. When was reality going to sink in? At that point it was MY hard job to tell the parent that her son was not going to be ready for college in a year.

(Another real story!) Another parent asked, “Is that class going to be fun? My daughter only wants to take classes that are fun.” How old is your daughter? “Going to be a senior.” You have never challenged your daughter to enjoy the hard work. Remember, sister, that labor was hard when you delivered her? Was the hard work worth it? Of course! Why not allow her to do hard things once in a while, reaping the fruits of such labor as she goes along?

Parents: dare to reach for the excellent, the difficult. Challenge your child to work hard and to enjoy the doing of it. Hebrews 12:11 says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” I want to produce in every child that satisfaction of a difficult job well done, having reached higher than he has done before. That’s why I ask my seniors in Rhetoric to write a 15-17-page thesis paper–and then defend it in front of their peers. And they do it well!

I want to see curriculum that stretches the mind and the imagination. Find material that reaches beyond your child’s abilities and urges him to grow. Set the bar high and run beside him as he pushes to get over it. Discard the simple, the “five finger grammar method” or whatever else is cheap and simplistic. Go for the challenge and avoid the mediocre.

See related posts here and here.

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Lies, fallacies, and other election year nonsense

Mud-slinging is dirty businessTo catalogue all the lies being tossed around during this ugly election campaign season would be a daunting task. No one is immune; lying and exaggerations are common to all–presidential and non-presidential.

However, I will attempt to classify the crazy claims of one side against another, by simply revealing types of fallacies frequently used.

Ad Hominem. Literally, “to the man.” Remember when you were a kid and argued with a sibling or best friend? You couldn’t defend yourself against your opponent’s sharp tongue, so you got fed up and said something like, “Oh yeah? Well, you’re stupid.” Ouch. That immediately takes attention off of the argument at hand and turns into a defense of one’s intellect. Politicians who want to deflect attention from their own record will quickly resort to ad hominem attacks of their opponents. Thus the argument becomes one of character, not substance.

Ad Baculum: This one means “to the stick.” If you cannot convince someone with the truth, then use the veiled threat, or perhaps just a plain, open threat. How about the one that Democrats have trotted out time and again: If the Republicans win this election, old people will have to eat dog food in order to pay for their prescriptions; children will starve because the school lunch program will end; the water will be poisoned; the air will be unbreathable. This kind of fallacy got center stage during Clinton’s campaign against Dole.

Appeal to pity:  This one not only covers the above smear Clinton’s side perpetrated, but it goes deep to touch the heartstrings of a soft-hearted American public. This is when both sides trot out the families whose lives have been touched by the wonderful candidate for office. It happens when candidates bring out some hard-luck cases whose lives will be even worse if an opponent wins. Those sad-faced pictures of starving children and bed-ridden seniors are sure to tug at your emotions. But what have they got to do with the case at hand?

Ad populum: If you can’t get them with pity, go after your audience’s need to follow the crowd. Cite popularity polls, then conclude that if so many people want a, b, and c, then everyone else does too. Not too many people want to go against the flow, so they will certainly join the crowd. Never mind that this has nothing to do with the big issues that need addressing. Ad populum also  appeals to a common bias or prejudice, such as racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, and such. “If you don’t want to be called a bigot or racist, then you will vote for ________.” One side in this year’s presidential race accused the other side of trotting out people of color just to seem like they weren’t racists. Never mind that this side wants to have people of color give some speeches too. If this side does it, it’s not racist. If the other side does…

Straw Man: Oversimplifies an opponent’s argument before refuting it. The fallacy is committed when a person ignores his opponent’s “actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position” (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/straw-man.html).

Bulverism: This fallacy is pretty simple. You shut down the debate by oversimplifying and judging the character of your opponent. This is a subset of ad hominem. This one says “It figures you would say that; you are a Christian” or “You Republicans are all bigots; I’m not going to listen to a word that comes out of your mouths” or “All Democrats are left-wing liberal nut-jobs.” You have dismissed the validity of an opponent by lumping him in with a broad category.

Big Lie Technique (also “Staying on Message”): “The contemporary fallacy of repeating a lie, slogan or deceptive half-truth over and over (particularly in the media) until people believe it without further proof or evidence. E.g., ‘What about the Jewish Question?’ Note that when this particular phony debate was going on there was no ‘Jewish Question,’ only a ‘Nazi Question,’ but hardly anybody in power recognized or wanted to talk about that.” Or most recently, one side accused the other of wanting to drain Medicare. That lie was repeated over and over until the other side launched a counter-offensive, accusing the first side of doing that very thing. But that lie was repeated often enough that it took on a life of its own, and many folks see it as the truth now.  (Quoted material from http://utminers.utep.edu/omwilliamson/ENGL1311/fallacies.htm)

Non sequitur:  This one means “does not follow.” Whatever conclusions a politician comes up with in his push for election, do not make sense in light of what he has said before. Take this crazy one for example:

Brilliant mind

Obviously there is much, much more wrong with this than a non-sequitur fallacy. What do you think?

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Great contemporary speech for Rhetoric

If you are studying or teaching Rhetoric, this speech will make for some great discussion. I encourage you to save this one. It is passionate, articulate, focused, and uses ethics and logic quite well. Every word is well placed and carefully considered. His final paragraph is wonderful.

This man is the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He speaks before a House committee regarding a mandate under “Obamacare.”

Transcript of LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison’s
Feb. 16 Testimony before House Committee on Government and Oversight
Mr. Chairman, it’s a pleasure to be here. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a body of some 6,200 congregations and 2.3 million members across the U.S. We don’t distribute voters’ lists. We don’t have a Washington office. We are studiously nonpartisan,
so much so that we’re often criticized for being quietistic.

I’d rather not be here, frankly. Our task is to proclaim, in the words of the blessed apostle St. John, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sin. And we care for
the needy. We haven’t the slightest intent to Christianize the government. Martin Luther famously quipped one time, “I’d rather have a smart Turk than a stupid Christian governing me.”

We confess that there are two realms, the church and the state. They shouldn’t be mixed – the church is governed by the Word of God, the state by natural law and reason, the Constitution. We have 1,000 grade schools and high schools, 1,300 early childhood centers, 10 colleges and universities. We are a machine which produces good citizens for this country, and at tremendous personal cost.

We have the nation’s only historic black Lutheran college in Concordia, Selma. Many of our people [who are alive today] walked with Dr. King 50 years ago on the march from Selma to Montgomery. We put up the first million dollars and have continued to provide finance for the Nehemiah Project in New York as it has continued over the years, to provide home
ownership for thousands of families, many of them headed by single women. Our agency in New Orleans, Camp Restore, rebuilt over 4,000 homes after Katrina, through the blood, sweat and tears of our volunteers. Our Lutheran Malaria Initiative, barely begun, has touched the lives of 1.6 million people in East Africa, especially those affected by disease, women and children. And this is just the tip, the very tip, of the charitable iceberg.

I’m here to express our deepest distress over the HHS provisions. We are religiously opposed to supporting abortion-causing drugs. That is, in part, why we maintain our own health plan. While we are grandfathered under the very narrow provisions of the HHS policy, we are deeply concerned that our consciences may soon be martyred by a few strokes on the keyboard as this administration moves us all into a single-payer … system.

Our direct experience in the Hosanna-Tabor case with one of our congregations gives us no comfort that this administration will be concerned to guard our free-exercise rights.

We self-insure 50,000 people. We do it well. Our workers make an average of $43,000 a year, 17,000 teachers make much less, on average. Our health plan was preparing to take significant cost-saving measures, to be passed on to our workers, just as this health-care legislation was passed. We elected not to make those changes, incur great cost, lest we fall out of the narrow provisions required under the grandfather clause. While we are opposed in principle, not to all forms of birth control, but only abortion-causing drugs, we stand with our friends in the Catholic Church and all others, Christians and non-Christians, under the free exercise and conscience provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government. The conscience is a sacred thing. Our church exists because overzealous governments in northern Europe made decisions which trampled the religious convictions of our forebearers. I have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War. I have ancestors who were on the Lewis and Clark expedition. I have ancestors who served in the War of 1812, who fought for the North in the Civil War – my 88-year-old father-in-law has recounted to me, in tears many times, the horrors of the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, Bud Day, the most highly decorated veteran alive, is a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

We fought for a free conscience in this country, and we won’t give it up without a fight. To paraphrase Martin Luther, the heart and conscience has room only for God, not for God and the federal government. The bed is too narrow, the blanket is too short. We must obey God rather than men, and we will. Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences.

Thank you.

President Harrison’s full transcript and video from the hearing, as well as a video message and previous statements to the church, can be found at www.lcms.org/hhsmandate.

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