Unlike other classes at Hillsdale College, the new Classical Logic and Rhetoric course doesn’t have a home academic department.
Although the speech major’s new name is rhetoric and public address, the new core curriculum class is under COR 150 in the course catalog. That is because logic and rhetoric are at the basis of a liberal arts education and provide tools for later evaluating more specific subjects, said Kirstin Kiledal, professor of rhetoric and public address, who helped design the course with Associate Professor of Education Daniel Coupland.
“We wanted it to be owned, not by a department, but by the faculty,” Kiledal said.
After a college committee commissioned to evaluate the core curriculum found a need for more instruction in logic and rhetoric around seven years ago, it charged Kiledal with writing a piece on how the college can implement them.
“One of the holes they discovered was in the tools students need to study well before they can study in depth one of the higher liberal arts,” Kiledal said.
Provost David Whalen said adding logic and rhetoric to the core curriculum is an attempt to recover a part of higher education that has been lost in recent history.
“They were the absolutely essential elements of the soil out of which all intellectual development in the West occurred up to 100, 150 years ago, and when we turned away from them, we basically uprooted ourselves from the soil from which we were natively born,” Whalen said.
Assistant Professor of Education Jeffrey Lehman said the addition of the course aims to provide Hillsdale students with a more complete education.
“The liberal arts are ways by which students can make a good beginning in an education for freedom and self-rule,” Lehman said. “Since logic and rhetoric are foundational arts, this course will help students get the most out of their studies at Hillsdale, regardless of what majors or minors they pursue.”
Whalen said these arts provide scholars with the tools needed to make progress in their narrower fields of study.
“It enables and endows any discipline to do what it needs to do with greater precision and effectiveness,” Whalen said. “What discipline doesn’t think? What discipline doesn’t use reason?”
Since Classical Logic and Rhetoric lacks an academic department, professors from all disciplines will teach it. In fact, 22 instructors from across campus are taking a class learning how to teach the “guinea pig world of logic and rhetoric” this semester, Kiledal said.
Professor of Biology Frank Steiner is one. He said as an instructor, he would take a scientific approach to the materials.
“I was intrigued because logic is really the science of knowing,” Steiner said.
The course originally comes from a class in the education department approved three years ago by faculty and is a requirement for classical education minors. Revamped, it now covers a larger array of ideas geared toward freshmen and sophomores rather than juniors and seniors, though the course remains a requirement for education minors.
The class consolidates primary texts, handouts, and exercises into four books, which mostly Lehman developed. There is a reader containing primary sources like those for the classes Western Heritage, American Heritage, and U.S. Constitution as well as a textbook containing explications and definitions, exercises, and supplementary resources for both logic and rhetoric.
Senior Jessica Stratil took Classical Logic and Rhetoric for her minor. She said it taught her how to read deeply and analyze writing. As an administrative assistant to Kiledal, she also helped with preparations for the new core course. She put her classical studies major to use as she looked through the original Greek and Roman texts in the reader and wrote some of the introductory paragraphs to these excerpts.
“All of my backgrounds in all of the classes I’ve taken here have really helped for this one core class,” Stratil said. “It’s really interesting to see how my majors and minors and the classes that exist in the core have come together in this one class.”
Students will read texts from Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian as well as more modern pieces dealing with the rhetoric of literature, science, economics, and more.
“It’s going to remind us we’re all rhetoricians, whether we’re scientists or mathematicians or teachers, that we all have to communicate, all have to persuade,” Kiledal said.
And students will put the canons of logic and rhetoric to use. They will present on something they found interesting or unique about a piece they read, Kiledal said.
Prior to the class of 2017 core curriculum, the Great Books courses were supposed to include instruction of rhetoric, Whalen said. Doubling up the subjects, however, proved impractical, he said.
Likewise, speech departments in higher education were once included in English departments until the 1950s and then moved to the theater department because of the focus on oratorical abilities. The adoption of the new core class, however, provides a good time for Hillsdale’s speech department to rebrand as rhetoric and public address and become an independent department, Kiledal said.
“We’re doing different things than theater,” Kiledal said. “We decided that with this class and the way resources were going to be directed that it was a healthy time at Hillsdale to make this change.”
That is also because at least nine classes in the rhetoric and public address department will need alterations, since students taking the new core curriculum will enter upper-level classes with foundational knowledge already.
“The class pushes you outside your comfort zone in terms of what it teaches you, not even what to think, but how to think,” Stratil said. “You learn how words are put together and that words really mean things and how to put all these words together to create a beautiful whole, the whole of language.”