Here is a syllogism for you:
- Major premise: Teenagers love to talk.
- Minor premise: Teenagers always have an opinion.
- Conclusion: Teenagers love to share their opinions.
It’s a fact of life, one that too few English teachers embrace. Instead, we are continually assigning canonical literature and essays in which they analyze the writing of that canonical literature. While I certainly think there is some merit in both areas, we need to start listening more to the needs of the 21st century and less to what we love: Charlotte Bronte and William Shakespeare. The reality is that 97% of our students will not go on and become English majors. They will pursue majors like business, marketing, and engineering; majors that rarely (if ever) require a literary analysis. Students will be required to read and write pieces to persuade others of their idea, aptitude, and ability.
Instead of fighting the system we need to start empowering students to effectively communicate their opinions in a way that better prepares them for their future. We need to be teaching students about how to construct a formal argument, how to read for biases and logical fallacies, and how to reach their audience for effective persuasion.
While I’m not suggesting we completely disregard the significance of teaching fiction and literary devices for non-fiction curriculum, I do think we need to reassess our priorities and find more meaningful, authentic ways to embed persuasion into our existing curriculum. This topic is wide and vast—far larger than a one week post. However, this week I’m going to provide suggestions to lay the groundwork for incorporating persuasion into our classrooms.