Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thinking About Teaching Public Speaking and Current Events

There was a momentous speech today in Egypt. President Barack Obama of the United States of America spoke with/maybe to Muslims all over the world as he took a first step in changing the frame that binds so many of us to yesterday's ideas.

What might this have to do with Term V (night class) public speaking? After all, there is certainly no disagreement in the class that President Obama is a master of the speech platform. Going out on a limb, I would guess that there is not disagreement among class members that when President Obama speaks, the world listens. So what more is there to cover when thinking about the basic principles of public speaking for an introductory college class? And, indeed, if you emphasize this type of talk in class how do you divorce if from the politics of the situation?
Mental Discussion about this quandary
1) In answer to the last it would not make sense to discuss this speech outside its context, which is power politics. 2) The major idea in thinking about this speech as part of an introductory class on public speaking is using it as a clear example of the power of oratory to change the world. 3) A major lens through which public speaking is focused in this class and in the text that is used for this class, THE ART OF PUBLIC SPEAKING, is the importance of knowing and speaking with your audience. Could we find a better example of knowing and speaking with your audience than this Presidential speech, given today, June 4, 2009, in Egypt? My thinking is that maybe in class tonight we will see if this speech resonates with students as an example of Knowing your audience.
Hypothesis -- Students in the Coker Com 101 class will be able to deconstruct the Obama Egypt speech and discuss if the President showed the clear knowledge of his audience and if his words resonated with the audience; even if they did not agree with some of what he had to say.
Small Problem
One small problem with this approach tonight is that it is not on the agenda. We are supposed to be working primarily on effective Speech Introductions, visuals to support a speech and the major functions of an effective speech conclusion.

I think I am going to alter the agenda a bit to see if this can be one of those learning moments. Since I start every speech class with the saying: "I think you think you heard what I said, but I am not sure that you realize, that what you heard is not what I meant," the reaction to the Obama talk -- from all audiences -- should provide lots of 'fodder for discussion.'

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