Thursday, January 14, 2010

Big week! Big ideas!

In some ways, the second week of class is the most important of the semester. If you missed a class this week, I suggest that you read this blog entry carefully and then read Essays 2-5 in your course packet. These are key concepts. They provide a solid foundation for effective speaking. If you still have questions after reading, please be sure to ask me.

Ethos - This term was coined by Aristotle, referring to the impression made by the speaker on her/his listeners. Listeners are more likely to listen and consider ideas if they feel they can 1) believe the speaker (credibility) and 2) like the speaker (charisma, attraction). See Chapter 3 in the text for more detail.

Values - Our values are the characteristics of people and conditions in the world that we prize or hold dear. We value them. They represent the way things should be. They are ideals. These values are not precise but we generally recognize them and share them. Values are either in-born or learned very early and are highly resistant to change. Furthermore, and this is important, values seem to be universal (or nearly so). Though there are some individual differences, most people have similar values. Such values include: love, work, compassion, achievement, fairness, honesty, loyalty, sacrifice, and so forth. There are many. Scroll down in the blog archive to posts in September 2009 to find more examples, or go to page 45 in your course packet.

Beliefs - Our beliefs represent the way things really are, as we see them. Our beliefs cause one value to ascend (become more important) and other values to recede (become less important). Values are hard to change but beliefs can often be changed by providing credible information.

Attitudes - An attitude is an inclination to act based on values and beliefs. Attitudes can change rapidly, and sometimes unpredictably.

Example of value, belief, and attitude: We value fairness. People should be treated fairly. We believe that some people are not treated fairly. For example, we are told that our prisons hold a disproportionate number of minorities. Therefore, our attitude is to work for more fair treatment of minorities. If we discovered that the information about the proportion of minorities in prisons was incorrect, it might change our belief and our consequent attitude.

Ideas - An idea is a statement that meets the following conditions:
1) The statement relates two values (compares, contrasts, or equates them).
2) The statement applies to most or all people.
3) The statement invites discussion, debate, or other consideration.
Ideas help us to clarify our values by deciding which value will ascend and which will recede in importance.

Example of an idea: Shakespeare wrote: "All that glitters is not gold." With a little effort you can see that his statement meets the three conditions for being an idea.
1) It relates two values. The two values are appearances and authenticity. We value a pleasing appearance. But we demand that things really be as they seem, authentic.
2) The statement applies to most or all people (students, teachers, actors, politicians, law enforcement officers, plumbers, med-tecs, etc.)
3) The statement could be debated. If something looks really good, who's to say that it isn't? Maybe good looks are enough. People in the cosmetic surgery industry claim that looking good will make you a better person.

Clearly, what Shakespeare intended to say was, "Authenticity is more important than mere appearance." He just said it more colorfully. His idea help us clarify or prioritize two values and answers the question, "Is beauty only skin deep?"

Learning Activity

As you prepare your first speech, take a careful look at the idea you are presenting to see if it is really an idea. If it is an idea, it will meet the three conditions above. If it doesn't meet those conditions, revise it until it does. If you're not sure, email it to me and I'll try to help. Good luck.

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