Tweak of the Day: Star Wars and Rhetoric

Since beginning my adventure teaching public speaking, I’ve gone through many iterations of approaches and attempts to get my students to engage with what can be somewhat dry material, Aristotelian rhetoric. We only devote 12 hours of class time to this topic, as my class is only one month long, so I feel it is important to pack as much of rhetoric as I can. A critical mind considers multiple perspectives, appeals to an audience’s shared values and beliefs, and presents information in a logical, rational way. I firmly believe rhetoric is a conduit to developing the critical mind. But, I find that many of my students don’t respond to the traditional way of presenting rhetoric–no old dudes in togas.

My sneaky way of softening them up for my Star Trek metaphor for a strong persuasive message is Star Wars. The characters are familiar, the ideas simple in a resonant way, and adaptable. Having purpose is like mastering the force. A value claim tests the balance between the light and dark sides of the force. Vader’s plea to Luke functions as an example of failed manipulation (Luke is able to see the greater logic in the end–yes, you are my father and yes, the force is strong with me, but that doesn’t release me of my responsibilities to my friends).

Gems like this are only the beginning. Check out a "stormtroopers" search on Compfight.

So, when I struck upon this brilliant infusion of sci fi into what could be the most boring lecture ever, I had the challenge of finding images. Of course, I turned to my favorite site, Compfight, a Flickr search engine, and then I struck gold. There were several talented users whose passion for photography included an extensive gallery of Star Wars images. Here is the final set of lecture notes from Slideshare. Thanks especially to JD Hancock, Stefan, and leg0fenris!

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