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Is changing the rhetoric requirement a good idea?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | NOVEMBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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Requirement change ultimately hurts students

I was shocked to hear the UI is cutting its rhetoric requirement down to one semester. When I was a freshman, rhetoric was the UI’s crown jewel. Neither Iowa State nor Northern Iowa required such classes from their non-English or communications majors. Requiring every student to take rhetoric was the UI’s way of demonstrating to the world that all its graduates could express themselves through both oral and written communication, as well as understand the meaning in both forms.

Whittling down the requirement not only adversely affects a storied Iowa tradition, it performs a major disservice for UI students.

The requirement did have its problems. Because it does not belong to any particular department, rhetoric draws teachers from disciplines as varied as anthropology and physics. The lack of continuity can be very confusing to students.

Cutting back the rhetoric requirement won’t lesson that inconsistency, but it will impair a student’s ability to form a oral or written argument. Few classes other than rhetoric develop students’ communication skills.

Check help-wanted ads. Go to job posting sites. Read the listings. Excellent written and oral communication skills are common requirements for most — if not all — job listings. Employers need employees with strong oral and written skills, regardless of the profession. Cutting short the rhetoric requirement shortchanges students’ job prospects.

Instead of cutting the rhetoric requirements, the UI should tailor rhetoric courses around specific fields of study. The UI pulls TAs from different disciplines; they should teach from that discipline’s perspective. Anthropology students could take rhetoric from anthropology graduate students, for example. Each department could offer its own respective course.

The UI could shave money from the budget by making each class part of a different department. It may not save more money, but it would still be a significant investment in students’ futures.

— by Justin Sugg

Change will lead to more consistency

The UI’s current rhetoric requirement is not overwhelming, but life would be better without it.

I’d be the first to argue for the power of knowledge through good literature. I’d also be one to support the need for students to master public speaking. But despite my support for these, I think university officials were right to put the kibosh on two-semester rhetoric classes.

The lottery of rhetoric TAs consists of a mix of graduate students from a variety of departments. If the plan is implemented, the TA’s graduate school will be listed in the course description on ISIS, which will aid in students’ decisions. Officials say the change would also reduce the number of TAs needed, and the UI should save money wherever it can.

The lack of consistency in the current system is also reason for altering it. You could get slammed reading a stack of terrible books and bogged down writing speeches to present in front of your classmates — half of whom are texting, the other half sleeping. Or you could get lucky and be assigned to read one not-so-bad book that’s easy to discuss with a group of semi-interested classmates.

By cutting the class to one semester, administrators would have more consistency throughout rhetoric courses.

Beside clearing out the clutter, relieving students of the long requirement also opens up opportunities. Having the option to choose what class fills those extra hours would be favorable for students in many respects. They could take an extra course in their major, find a class to help them decide their major, or just take one of those classes that sounds interesting.

— by Chris Clark


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