By Brian G. Daigle
“What is one question from the introduction you should be able to answer if you see it on your exam?” I ask.
“Um,” the student begins.
“No Um,” I say. “Next student.”
A hand rises.
“Um,” the second student begins.
“Ums and likes belong at home. Bring them here and I’ll make them roam,” I say.
The class giggles.
I move on until we get to cleaner waters, where um cannot be found.
This scene happens approximately ten times per class period, in any one of my 7th-12th grade classes at Sequitur Classical Academy. And the same is true in colleges and universities. My response is the same every time. Our students enter upon the rhetoric stage one sentence at a time, and they will mature on that stage one sentence at a time. Even in college - especially when the students in our college classrooms did not take a formal course in classical rhetoric or were not steeped in the Latin tradition or were not set in the midst of poets, novelists, and scholars who had a high view and practice of language - it is incumbent upon us to continue the maturation of what we in classical Christian education call the "rhetoric stage." In making it part of the classroom habit to catch and do away with my students’ rhetorical splinters - and that includes my own rhetorical splinters, the “um” and the “like” and the “ya know” - I have noticed five good habits are being formed in them: