Strong Families, Strong Daughters Blog

Why Logic and Rhetoric Are Important Skills for a Young Woman

Elizabeth Black

Have you ever wondered what the term “Logic and Rhetoric” really means, or why a school would bother to teach it?

The liberal arts are a treasure trove of truth, knowledge, and beauty. But you need the keys to access that treasure—and those keys are logic and rhetoric. They may sound like fancy, old-fashioned words, but they simply mean the ability to think rationally and express oneself with clarity and persuasiveness. Logic and rhetoric are the tools that help form the basis of a young woman’s education. They equip her to dive deep into learning, make discoveries, and share those discoveries with others in a way that will make sense to and move them.
The Greeks and Romans understood the importance of logic and rhetoric very well. Thinkers such as Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian developed and perfected a classical method of persuasive writing and speaking that is still incredibly powerful to this day. Our forebears’ ability to take knowledge, deeply understand it, and properly use and convey that knowledge allowed for learning across disciplines and created an atmosphere of intellectual exchange.
The mind is moved by reason, the emotions by beauty, and the will by a desire for what is good. In the tradition of the great thinkers of the West, students who study logic and rhetoric learn how to speak and write persuasively on all three levels. They do this by practicing three essential things: invention (coming up with ideas), arrangement (ordering ideas in a logical manner), and elocution (expressing your ideas well). Each piece of writing involves these three elements, and they are important for helping a student develop her ideas logically and communicate them with precision and appeal. By devoting time to each step, the student learns how to move from big picture ideas to the concrete steps that will help her articulate these ideas.
One of the best ways to help students develop their rational and persuasive skills is to study excellent speeches and imitate elements in them. Students can see examples of structure, amplification, and clarity in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address," uses circumstances to powerful rhetorical effect. They can parse John F. Kennedy's use of ethos and pathos in his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. Learning the basics of logic and rhetoric gives students the foundation they will need to process, analyze, and write about increasingly complex information and ideas as they move through high school and beyond.
The skills that logic and rhetoric cultivate in young women carry over into other parts of their education. They are able to make strong arguments backed by textual evidence in literature class. They can respectfully and clearly debate a controversial topic in history class. They learn to pick out and be on guard against faulty reasoning in whatever subject they happen to be studying, whether it’s the humanities or the sciences. Moreover, they discover that thinking logically and speaking and writing persuasively carries over into family life, time with friends, and studies and career beyond high school. By studying logic and rhetoric, students are able to bring the goodness, truth and beauty that they encounter to the world around them.

Ms. Black is the Dean of Faculty & Curriculum at Oakcrest. She received a B.A. in Classics and Early Christian Studies from Christendom College. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Liturgy from the Liturgical Institute. With ten years of teaching experience, seven of which have been at Oakcrest, Ms. Black brings abundant practical knowledge of teaching young people, especially girls, to her new role of mentoring the faculty and developing the curriculum. Working closely with our Master Teachers, her chief responsibility is to help the teachers in their mission to educate our students with professional excellence according to our mission. Her vision of education comes from her strong background in the liberal arts and her commitment to educating the whole person. Ms. Black is trained in the Ward Method and began teaching at Oakcrest in 2012.