Rhetoric School Overview
After having studied and mastered the disciplines of grammar and logic (or dialectic), students spend the last four years studying Rhetoric. Like Logic, Rhetoric is a “central” or “paradigmatic” discipline– students do study other traditional subjects (e.g., history, science, math, literature, foreign language) but do so from a Rhetorical perspective, applying the skills and insights of Rhetoric in their other classes.
It is this emphasis on Rhetoric that sets our high school apart from other programs. It is at this final stage of their secondary education that our students not only synthesize all that they have learned in their previous schooling, but they gain a nuanced and complicated understanding of the material that they are studying. Cultivating multiple literacies, not merely limited to the spoken and written word, allows our students to engage meaningfully with our ever-complicating world.
Rhetoric School Pedagogy
Most of us know that one can win an argument but still “lose the person.” Being logically correct does not necessarily mean we will be able to successfully persuade others to follow a course of action or adopt an idea. This is why it is necessary to train students not only in Logic, but also in Rhetoric, for Rhetoric is the art of persuasive speech and writing.
Through their study of Rhetoric, students learn how to speak and write with eloquence, imagination, beauty and persuasion. Lab reports, literature papers and essays all make use of Rhetorical skill. The Cambridge School students study Rhetoric by the principal means of theory, imitation and practice. They study the theory of Rhetoric from ancient teachers like Aristotle and modern scholars like Toulmin. By carefully studying the “masters” of oratory and writing, students learn how to imitate these masters, appropriating the techniques and devices they discover for their own use. Then they spend a good deal of time practicing what they learn by writing and delivering their own speeches and presentations, culminating in a capstone Senior Thesis course.
Rhetoric School Curriculum
While Rhetoric is a “paradigm” discipline in the the Rhetoric School, students will study the traditional subjects of history, science, math, literature, foreign language, music and art.
Rhetoric is More Than Merely Speaking Well
Rhetoric is a commonly misunderstood word, discipline, and educational stage. Even within the growing movement of Classical schools, Rhetoric is often presented as “the art of persuasion” or “speaking well”. While these definitions are not incorrect, they are certainly incomplete. To understand Rhetoric as mere persuasion is to do Rhetoric a great disservice. Rhetoric is a tool that gets us and our students closer to clarity, closer to understanding. Rhetoric creates the space for and the ability to navigate the world of ideas with nuance and virtue. The modern Rhetorician, Jack Selzer defines Rhetoric as “The study of language and how it’s used.” At Cambridge, students are introduced to many modes of communication and are encouraged to cultivate multiple literacies, reaching beyond the written and spoken word to visual, physical, and technological interfaces.
Upper School Preview
This is a great opportunity to see the fruits of the Grammar School and the slow, intentional cultivation of wisdom, virtue, and excellence.