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that when only a course in debating or in oratory if you prefer-exists in a college, some of its best students, after a few years outside college walls, write as follows: I find little use now for the special training in formal debate: of course, I do find helpful, as an aid to clear thinking in general, the principles which I was taught underlie fair-minded discussion. But, after all, I was not given what I most need. I have once or twice had, as member of a committee, to submit a report. It needed to be clearly, simply, and at the same time persuasively drawn. I found much difficulty in adapting to this work the principles of strict argument. I have met similar difficulties with letters and editorials which I have written for newspapers. In both, formal argument was out of the question in my limited space. Mere statement of what seemed to me facts, was dry. How could I have written as I felt I should? Or another says: : I have been called upon repeatedly, as a man interested in the betterment of civic conditions, to speak at dinners. I find such speaking slow torture, for I am not a wit, and I do not know how to speak seriously yet interestingly. Yet I am unwilling to take refuge in the speech so often heard, a patchwork of good stories that are trite and new stories that are poor, all, new and old, inappositely introduced. Still a third writes: In my native town I was called upon on an occasion of local importance to make my neighbors understand the significance of the life of a famous fellowtownsman of the past, but I was all at sea as to my task, and do not care to send you my speech. A fourth says: I am a college instructor. One of my classes is large, and I must contend against the languor that pervades it after it has come directly to my lecture from its luncheon. Sometimes students at the back of the room find the pictorial morning papers more absorbing than my instruction. There is even leakage, for unfortunately some of the class are nearer the exits than I. Must I "popularize" my lectures? That is, these graduates
are meeting difficulties inherent in writing committee reports and concisely effective editorials or communications to the press, in after-dinner speaking, commemorative addresses, and lecturing. Surely, with all the wealth of illustration which the past offers, we can give these men some aid, and as surely we should in our college courses. We can keep them from writing the average eulogy—a fulsomely phrased listing of the events of a man's life; from writing the commemorative address so often heard—a mere compilation from current histories, phrased in language individual only in its tameness. We can help to train them to go back of facts, statistics, and conditions in order to find messages from the past to the present; to reconcile seeming contradictions in lives of varied activities; to try to make comprehensible men too often misunderstood. We can show them that even the after-dinner speech should have a central idea and plan, as well as freshness and individuality of presentation. We can, perhaps, prevent them from falling into the too common fallacy of thinking that to keep large bodies of students attentive the quality of the work must be weakened, or extraneous attractions must be superimposed on good material. In all this a broad field opens out before us, a field of large consequence because, as I believe, for one man who applies from day to day the principles he learns especially for formal debating, five work in one or more of these other forms of public discourse. For these reasons I think that a course in the Forms of Public Address is for the larger number of undergraduates much more important than even the best course in formal debate, or in oratory as it is ordinarily understood. This book represents an effort during the past five years to develop in Harvard College a course which shall provide the training called for in these criticisms of old students of mine.
Moreover, I believe that for a long time we teachers of English composition have over-emphasized phrase as com
pared with thought. Probably there is not one of us who, after ten years or more of earnest teaching, has not felt baffled and humiliated at the relative barrenness of the results. It is not easy to be content with "leavening the lump," with mere increase in the accurate use of shall and will and with good sentence structure, nor even with the few skilled writers who are the result of our training. One and all we must have felt that the majority of these youths who study with us the principles of literary style as applied in essay writing or in fiction have nothing to say. With nothing to say they mistake the sign for the content, and become enthusiastic and often skillful phrase-makers. It is all ludicrously exemplified in the tale of a contestant for oratorical honors engaged in composing his magnum opus. From time to time he rushed into a room near his crying: "Say, I've got a new sentence, and it's a dandy, if only I can manage to work it in!" Yet, though I have known a youth who had studied the rudiments of rhetoric to write wretchedly when forced, with no taste for literary composition, to narrate and describe, I have rarely found him writing wholly ill on a thesis subject from a course in history, economics or philosophy on which he had thought with pleasure, because it really interested him. There lies the clue: the fact is, much of our teaching in the higher courses in composition has been and always must be fitted to and beneficial to only the few with inborn literary desire or capacity. Between these and the great mass of undergraduates, for all of whom training in the rudiments of rhetoric is necessary, are a large number of youths not likely to be either scientific or literary men, but who in one way or another will probably be often called on to address their fellows. To these should be given at least the principles which will keep them from a pained sense of inadequate results after earnest labor.
For purposes of such instruction, I believe there is no bet
ter definition of style than Cardinal Newman's, "style is a thinking out into language." That puts the emphasis where it belongs, and where the undergraduate usually fails to put it, on the man behind the writing, and particularly on the content of his mind on the subject he treats. Create in your students an interest in thinking on subjects which come daily in their way, not in this case for purposes of literary description or narration, for essay writing, but that they may realize the chaotic condition of their own minds on current college topics, and grow increasingly unwilling to repeat parrot-like what they have heard others say or to make snap judgments. It is not really true that our students "have nothing to say; the trouble is that we have been trying to make of the most alert only literary men when they are intended for men of affairs, and that the rank and file in these days of manifold aids to thinking such as periodicals, compendia of all kinds, and tutors, have grown lazy and know nothing of the pleasure that lies in swift, accurate thinking. It is just here that study of the forms of address is helpful, for by practice in the public letter, the editorial for a college paper, the after-dinner speech on some college occasion, you may lead your nonliterary student to the discovery, to him startling and delightful, that he has only to formulate carefully what is floating in his mind to have something worth saying to his mates. But if it is worth saying, it is worth saying well. That means, however, not merely expressing it so that any literary critic who may read his words will declare it correctly and gracefully phrased, but what we teachers of composition too often forget, the greater part of persuasion, the adjustment of the material to the probable moods, opinions, prejudices and principles of its audience. Wake the imagination of your students by training them to write not for themselves only or for the critical instructor, but for definitely described audiences to which they must adapt the presentation of their
subjects. I have found students who have had not only a Freshman course in English but even a second year of work wholly unable to carry out satisfactorily the second of the following exercises. Exercise 1. In a letter to some member of your family, explain your reasons for preferring to room in or out of the college yard, as the case may be with you. This was well done. Exercise 2. Write to some friend of yours, in the summer vacation, urging him to room with you during the coming year. Think over his characteristics before you write and try in your letter so to present your plan as to make it as attractive to him as possible. This was a complete failure: most students merely stated why they like their rooms, hardly one looked at the plan through the eyes of his friend. Yet in that simple effort at persuasion lies the whole secret of persuasive public address. Granted an interest in thinking and in presenting ideas to other people, and you will not have to urge on a student the importance of a rich, varied, and responsive vocabulary or the value of all that courses in purely literary composition can teach him. When thought presses for utterance there needs no other spur to acquirement of the best means of expression.
Now, if all this be admitted, the first difficulty is that even students who have been roused to an interest in thinking for themselves and who have had a course in the elements of rhetoric, do not think clearly, strongly, and in orderly fashion. They may be able to write reports investigating subjects which have but one side or to treat topics in which the preponderance of the evidence is heavily one way, but te steer their course steadily, fair-mindedly, weighing accurately the pros and cons, from the superficial, popular understanding of a college question to its real meaning — that is utterly beyond their present powers. After some years of experimentation, I am convinced that students learn most