Rhetoric is more than just winning arguments or persuading opponents. It is the act of bringing two minds into harmony; it is the act of harmonizing a community. Rhetoric and its canons, Invention, Arrangement, Elocution, Memory, and Delivery, are themselves designed to harmonize. They are, moreover, designed to honor the humanity of our audience, our community, our conversation partner. Recovering the humanity of rhetoric means seeing and teaching the canons in such a way as to promote the humanity of the other. These tools, already designed to honor the humanity of the other, get abused when rhetoric is reduced to winning an argument or mere persuasion. Let us recover the humanity of rhetoric; let us teach our students to honor those who disagree with them.
Ma Bianco is the Director of The Lost Tools of Writing for the CiRCE Institute, where he also serves as a mentor in the CiRCE apprenticeship program. A homeschooling father of three, he graduated his oldest two sons, the eldest of which is a ending St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. His second child is a ending Belmont Abbey College in Charlo e, NC, and his youngest (and only daughter) is a high school junior. He is married to his altogether lovely, high school sweetheart, Patty. He is the author of Letters to My Sons: A Humane Vision for Human Relationships.