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Rhetoric Alive! Book 1: Principles of Persuasion (grades 10-12) Review by Laura Delgado

Persuasive Speech and Writing in the Tradition of Aristotle
(Physical Teacher and Student Books)
Alyssan Barnes, PhD
Classical Academic Press
2151 Market Street
Camp Hill, PA 17011

If you are a classical homeschooler, or if you’ve ever spent any time with one, you are undoubtedly familiar with the term “rhetoric.” Rhetoric is the third stage of the trivium, and it refers to focusing on the arts of communication and expression. In fact, rhetoric is defined as the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing. Classical Academic Press’s Rhetoric Alive! Book 1: Principles of Persuasion is based on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and it teaches students the essential components of persuasion through textual analysis and discussion, weekly workshops, imitation assignments, and oratory presentations.

The program consists of a 359-page Teacher’s Edition ($29.95) and a 359-page Student book ($26.95). Both are essential. A daily one-semester schedule is included as an appendix, but several ways to adapt the course to a full year are offered. The one-semester course scheduling option has students typically giving a minimum of one presentation per week, focusing on voice, posture, audience engagement, eye contact, organized delivery, fidgeting, memory, gestures, and putting it all together.

The following topics are covered in this course: The Three Rhetorical Appeals (ethos, pathos, logos), The Five Canons of Rhetoric (invention, organization, style, memory, delivery), The Three Kinds of Rhetoric (deliberative, epideictic, judicial), and Rhetoric Gone Wrong.

During the course, students will read selections from Plato’s Republic, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Plato’s Phaedrus, St. Augustine’s Confessions, and many others. These excerpts form the basis of the discussion text that usually occupies Day 2 on the schedule. Day 1 is occupied by reading and discussing the chapter. Day 3 is typically a workshop (think along the lines of a senior high level activity). Day 4 is presentation preparation, and Day 5 is the presentation.

It is nearly impossible to overstate the amount of material and ground covered in this course. Your student will not only study the classical concept of rhetoric, but he will have the opportunity to apply his knowledge in both a written and spoken capacity. The written exercises in the book are not terribly onerous (an example is a sample college application essay of no more than 650 words), but each serves a very specific point. There are no wasted assignments in this book, which, when you are the parent of an advanced high school student, you appreciate. Time is precious and curriculum hours must be appropriated carefully. You get plenty of bang for your curriculum hour buck with Rhetoric Alive!

Further, in contrast to other rhetoric programs for this age, Rhetoric Alive!’s inclusion of a speech element takes the curriculum to a whole new level. Given that many people think first of the spoken word when they consider someone who is a gifted rhetorician, it only makes sense to include speech as a component of a rhetoric program, but how many programs do so? If you’re not trained in the art of rhetoric yourself, you needn’t worry. Grading/evaluation rubrics are included for each speaking exercise. This curriculum is far from “plug-and-play,” but given how thorough it is and how much your student (and you!) will gain from it, it has been made as user-friendly as possible. From schedules, to grading rubrics, to a fully filled-in Teacher’s Edition, Rhetoric Alive! makes it completely doable to incorporate teaching rhetoric into your high schooler’s curriculum.

While the price for the two books needed for Rhetoric Alive! is a fair one, I do wish you could buy the books as a set for a slightly reduced price the way you can other similar curriculum items from Classical Academic Press, if for no other reason than it simplifies the process when ordering for multiple children in multiple subjects. For my part, I always order the Teacher’s Edition of things, and I like being able to order the two as a set (and then add extra student books). Otherwise, I have been known to forget the Teacher’s Edition. That’s a minor complaint, though. Overall, classical homeschoolers, and anyone who wants to school their children in classical rhetoric, will rejoice at this addition to Classical Academic Press’s oeuvre.

—Product review by Laura Delgado, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2016