Weekend Pop Culture: Presidential Rhetoric Day 2

There is much to be studied in regards to political rhetoric, as discussed in yesterday’s post about analyzing the published media from each Republican candidate.  However, there is a plethora of lessons from analyzing the consistency of a politician’s style through multiple speeches to studying the most commonly used words used in an election season and why.  However, beyond studying style, there is much to examine in regards to the development and nature of an argument.  As English teachers we often forget the value in teaching students how to dissect an argument and evaluate it. 

An easy way to help students learn this skill is to study political speeches, determine the argument, and then read commentary about the material.  Given our current political climate, there is a lot being written about the candidates and our President.  In fact, pretty much any time any of those individuals speak there is someone writing an evaluation of the material.  Below are some great sources to consult for commentary.

  • New York Times:  The search feature on this site is excellent because the publication will sort archives and provide an overview. 
  • The New Yorker:  The literature on this site is much more scholarly and therefore recommended for high-performing students.  What I like the most about this site is that they have a clear page for the 2012 election, which makes it easier to browse. 
  • New York Magazine:  Okay, I know this is the third source with “New York” in the title, but let’s be honest:  they have the best publications!  The reason this is getting recommended is because of the language.  This magazine has a pop-culture focus, which makes the writing playful and relatable to students of various ages and abilities.  Also, it, too, has a specific politics section. 

One example of a writer evaluating an argument is Patrick Riccard’s post about the responsibility of the federal government in regards to education, which critiques the current Republican candidate’s positions.  After studying the Republican candidate’s views of education, ask the students to read this critique about the plausibility of those claims.     This is a great example to model because Riccard breaks down the claim and examines them conceptually, not just the way in which the arguments are crafted. 

What this offers them is an opportunity to study the argument and purpose for writing in a piece and then determine how to critique information responsibly.  This then offers them the chance to write a counter argument to something in their daily lives, anything from an article in their high school paper to an op-ed from George Will about students wearing denim to a New York Times article about Lady Gaga.



Photo from NS Newsflash

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