A Rhetoric of Love is a rhetoric course for Christian students that is based upon both classical rhetoric and the Bible. Recognizing that rhetorical skills can be used for evil purposes as well as for good, this course teaches students to use their powers of persuasion to show love for others.
I reviewed the course for Volume One, which 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 course live, online, with class meetings for two sessions per week. Volume Two is available only as a live, online course, although I expect that printed books will be available eventually. Online courses run a full school year, beginning in the fall of each year. My review is for only the printed books for Volume One. I didn’t review the online courses since there are a number of different teachers presenting the online courses.
Veritas Press recommends that students for Volume One be at least 14 years of age and have taken either the Veritas Press Logic 1 course or its equivalent since lessons in A Rhetoric of Love assume that students are familiar with the logical fallacies taught in that course.
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 with biblical principles and modern-day applications. 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. Answers are to be discussed during class sessions. Discussion exercises require written answers as well as discussion, but these assignments 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.”
Presentation exercises give students opportunities for different styles of presentations. For example, three possible exercises on page 156 give students the options to 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, and create a slide show presentation. There are many assignments for both written and spoken applications of rhetorical skills.
The teacher’s edition has lesson plans with activities for five days per lesson, suggested schedules for classes that meet either two or five days per week, material for the teacher’s presentation of the lesson (including interaction and discussions), 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 strongly enhances the lessons. In addition, a group class provides more input as students discuss the course material and their answers to the exercises, as well as a broader audience when they make presentations.
The teacher’s edition does not have the lesson material and exercises that are in the student textbook. 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 lessons in the teacher’s edition were written for use by teachers who have never taught rhetoric before. While they 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. Veritas Press’s online course is one option, but others can also create their own group classes for this course.
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.” 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.