A Rhetoric of Love is a series of two rhetoric courses for Christian students that is based upon both classical rhetoric and the Bible. Recognizing that rhetorical skills can be used for both good and evil purposes, these courses teach students to use their powers of persuasion in writing and speech to show love for others.
The course for A Rhetoric of Love: Volume One consists of a textbook and a teacher’s edition. The student textbook was written by Douglas M. Jones, and the teacher’s edition was written by Michael G. Eatmon. The publisher, Veritas Press, also offers the Volume One course live, online, with two class meetings per week. A Rhetoric of Love: Volume Two has a student book written by Michael A. Collender and a live, online course. Online courses run a full school year, beginning in the fall of each year. A teacher's edition for Volume Two should be available by the end of 2021.
My review focuses on the printed books for A Rhetoric of Love: Volume One. I didn’t review the online courses since the live, online courses can vary greatly from session to session. However, since these courses work best when used in some sort of group class, you might want to consider the online course option. Volume Two guides students through both written and oral presentations of a Senior Thesis, and participation in a class where they can get assistance for that project and an audience is essential.
Lessons in A Rhetoric of Love: Volume One assume that students are familiar with the logical fallacies taught in either the Veritas Press Logic 1 course or its equivalent, and Veritas Press recommends that students for Volume One be at least 14 years of age.
The student textbook has 32 chapters, each of which should take about a week to complete. Author Douglas Jones weaves together lessons from classical rhetoric, biblical principles, and modern-day applications of both. Each chapter begins with a brief paragraph that lets the student know the goal of the chapter. The chapters are skillfully written to engage student interest by making connections to things that are familiar, curious, interesting, or vitally important. The textbook itself is an example of skillful rhetoric.
At the end of each chapter are three sets of exercises: comprehension, discussion, and presentation. Students should read the chapter and answer the comprehension questions in writing before the first class session for that chapter. Their answers are to be discussed during class sessions. The second exercise set, discussion, also requires written answers as well as discussion, and these exercises often allow students to choose resources, topics, or other discussion material that will result in much more individualized responses. For instance, page 155 has this discussion exercise: “Choose a topic from a debate site. Use three different character roles to write three short summaries of its pros and cons [from each character's point of view].”
The third exercise set, presentation, gives students opportunities to use different presentation styles. For instance, students can choose one of three exercises on page 156: give a short talk about an award-winning essay, watch a TED talk then give a short presentation on the same content while imitating the speaker’s style, or create a slide show presentation.
The teacher’s edition has lesson plans, suggested schedules for classes that meet either two or five days per week, material for the teacher’s presentation of each lesson (including interaction and discussion), suggested answers for exercises, and mid-term and final exams with their answer keys. The teacher’s presentation material is a major enhancement to the course. The teaching material often includes URLs for videos to watch and discuss, and articles to read and discuss. As an aside, a lot of work must have been invested in finding the URLs for the many videos and articles included in the lesson plans. These resources are powerful, thought-provoking, hilarious, or otherwise very engaging. They contribute a lot to the course.
It is possible to use the student textbook without a group class, skipping the lesson presentation material in the teacher’s edition. The parent or teacher still needs to refer to the teacher’s edition as an answer key and guide for giving assignments. However, I highly recommend that A Rhetoric of Love be used in a group class setting primarily because the teacher presentation material so strongly enhances the lessons. In addition, a group class provides more input and feedback as students discuss the course material, go over their answers to the exercises, and make presentations.
The teacher’s edition was written for use by teachers who have never taught rhetoric before. While the lessons are easy to follow, they do require that the teacher read the lesson in the student textbook as well as the information in the teacher’s edition, then also preview videos or articles to be used. This is a lot of work to do for a teacher working with only one student—another reason why the course makes the most sense for a group class. While you can enroll students in Veritas Press’s online courses, you can also present your own group class. The teacher's edition makes that easy to do.
The lesson material and exercises that are in the student textbook are not repeated in the teacher’s edition. Consequently, the teacher needs access to a student textbook in addition to the teacher’s edition. I think sharing the textbook with a student is unlikely to work well; the teacher should have his or her own copy of the textbook.
The teacher’s edition explains that we can learn much from the Greeks and Romans “about sound reasoning, orderly thinking, and clear communication,” but they don’t teach us much “about how to love an opponent” (p.1). A Rhetoric of Love continually challenges students to consider how love is best served by our rhetoric, whether written or spoken. The text ends with the biblical reminder that we should be swift to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19) and that sometimes silence is the most powerful form of rhetoric.