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It's all Greek to me!

Updated on April 12, 2010
There is nothing that separates a professor and his student except more years of study.
There is nothing that separates a professor and his student except more years of study.

This term I was cleared to teach a college level course in Rhetoric. Upon receiving the textbooks, I was astonished this was a freshman level course offering. Three texts were required by the "power's that be" for my students (and I) to learn. One was an "Introduction to Rhetoric", and the other Plato's arguments and "Rhetoric" by Aristotle.

I have several Masters degrees, but when I wanted to get a Masters in philosophy about ten years ago, the college I worked at refused to allow me into the program. I find this happens quite often when there are elitists making the decisions. I have utilized many philosophical arguments in my literature classes, Kant being one of my favorites. I also studied the history of Western Civilization, which spent a great deal of time on the Greek master rhetoricians, but nothing prepared me to teach this course to those at the Freshman undergraduate level.

A dear friend of mine who is also a colleague told me once that he could teach anything if he had the materials to review prior to the course. I always felt the same way. There are no strategic teaching methods taught at the graduate level to learn how to become a good teacher. You either connect with the material and the students, or you are ineffective, boring and just plain horrible at teaching. There are many tenured professors who meet that criteria. I refuse to be mediocre, so I continue to learn year after year, and take challenges in my course teachings.

The first night of the class we talked briefly about modern rhetoric, and I showed the immensely pathos filled speech of Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture". Randy was one of the most effective professors in the field. His style of delivery, while he was on the brink of death was upbeat, yet haunting. He remains a role model, as does Morrie Schwartz, the professor of Sociology who died from Lou Gehrig's disease and is chronicled in "Tuesday's with Morrie".

I spend a great deal of time trying to connect the material I teach with modern day analogies and conversational examples. I know I am only as effective as possible on that day, with that class. Some things work time and again, and others bomb depending on the presentation. In each subsequent teaching of the material, I learn more than the students do. And I like it that way. To make something fresh out of material taught over and again, one must be aware of the things they do not know, or new resources that may look at something in a new way.

Last week, it was difficult to get the students jazzed up about Socrates and Gorgias having an argument about the very idea of rhetoric. The Sophists felt good argument was more important than truth. Plato and by default: Socrates felt differently. He did not see rhetoric as an "art". Tonight we will discuss how Aristotle felt about this idea. Each time we delve more and more deeply into the rhetorical questions of the past and present time. And each class gives me more of a feeling of cohesion and confidence, while remaining humble.

Life offers us what we need to know. Just because it was all "Greek" to me, (pun intended) does not mean it does not bring more information to the way we can argue, the way we can think critically, and the way we can learn how to argue effectively. The worst thing we face in this world is the idea our way is the only way to see something. Through introspection and communication we can grow by discussing our truth and the way we see things, while being open to new challenges that are presented to us that we never expected!


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    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      Thanks Da Greek! Wow...this is fascinating stuff.

    • profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago

      Second speech


      It is Zeus' anathema on our epoch for the dynamism of our economies and the heresy of our economic methods and policies that we should agonise between the Scylla of numismatic plethora and the Charybdis of economic anaemia.

      It is not my idiosyncrasy to be ironic or sarcastic but my diagnosis would be that politicians are rather cryptoplethorists. Although they emphatically stigmatize numismatic plethora, energize it through their tactics and practices.

      Our policies have to be based more on economic and less on political criteria.

      Our gnomon has to be a metron between political, strategic and philanthropic scopes. Political magic has always been antieconomic.

      In an epoch characterised by monopolies, oligopolies, menopsonies, monopolistic antagonism and polymorphous inelasticities, our policies have to be more orthological. But this should not be metamorphosed into plethorophobia which is endemic among academic economists.

      Numismatic symmetry should not antagonize economic acme.

      A greater harmonization between the practices of the economic and numismatic archons is basic.

      Parallel to this, we have to synchronize and harmonize more and more our economic and numismatic policies panethnically.

      These scopes are more practical now, when the prognostics of the political and economic barometer are halcyonic.

      The history of our didymous organisations in this sphere has been didactic and their gnostic practices will always be a tonic to the polyonymous and idiomorphous ethnical economics. The genesis of the programmed organisations will dynamize these policies. I sympathise, therefore, with the aposties and the hierarchy of our organisations in their zeal to programme orthodox economic and numismatic policies, although I have some logomachy with them.

      I apologize for having tyrannized you with my hellenic phraseology.

      In my epilogue, I emphasize my eulogy to the philoxenous autochthons of this cosmopolitan metropolis and my encomium to you, Kyrie, and the stenographers.''

      Mr Xenophon Zolotas

    • profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago

      Aley, I found that speech in English Greek, by a Greek:

      ``I always wished to address this Assembly in Greek, but I realized that it would have been indeed Greek to all present in this room. I found out, however, that I could make my address in Greek which would still be English to everybody. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I shall do it now, using with the exception of articles and prepositions only Greek words.''

      Mr Xenophon Zolotas

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      I am sure I'll be finding ways to lament and to share the good things as well over time. There really are more of the good than the bad...I find teaching a passionate undertaking, particularly since I waited so long in life to be able to do it!



    • HubCrafter profile image

      HubCrafter 7 years ago from Arizona

      Hi Aley:

      I had the most marvelous Rhetotic teacher in college. His classes were funny and challenging and downright fun!

      His examples were so creative. He'd use advertising copy, snippets from famous authors and even the college president's Letter to Parents (telling them how things at the school were incredible and, by the way, tuitions going up again). All were compared on the same day!

      The entire class was by invitation only. So I send my condolences to the "undead" members of your class. lol.

      The greatest gift of this intensive, two-year study in rhetoric? It gradually created a framework for finding your own point of view. It was like seeing behind the curtain as the Wizard of Oz shouted and pulled his levers. We all learned to see past the belching smoke and hear more plainly the human cries of I, me, mine...

      I found a mirror also and began to understand my own selfish version of "truth" was less palatable a medicine than (gasp) others might accept. My own credentials of Master of Medicine began to wither. (Though I still seem to find myself practicing without a license. Like now, for instance, lol.)

      I hope you'll share more about the classroom and your students. It's a deightful subject full of humor, passion and lots of intrigue, I'm sure.


    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      Thank you so much Lorlie! I love the whole idea of "flaneuring" or strolling the hubs that take us from one link to another and we can find things we relate to...

      Will be checking out your posts now too...!


    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      It's amazing to find a wonderful hubber from a comment left by another-unknown-hubber. Aley, I found this article by looking at De Greek's hubtivity. Thing is, I am married to a Greek and majored in Sociology with a minor in Philosophy. This was many years ago, I might add!

      Anyway, this hub was a delight to read; it takes me back to some of my incredible professors I was graced to have back in the 70's and 80's.

      I commend you for being a teacher with such passion!

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      thanks to both! It is also more of a play on words since the Greeks are to whom I am teaching!

      De Greek..would still like to read that article if you find it!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 7 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Regardless, the expression "it's all greek to me", is meant more as a rhetorical statement. Similar to when someone says they have "no idea". Of course they have some ideas. Rhetoric. Sometimes an argument is just an argument!

      Great hub. Thanks for writing, and good luck with your class.


    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      Some years ago, a Greek university professor was invited to make a speech to a group of intellectuals including other university professors at a university in the USA. To demonstrate a point 90% of his speech was comprised of Greek words as currently used in the English language. I have read this speech and it is perfectly comprehensible to anyone with a good education, or an excellent knowledge of the English language!...:-)

      Regrettably I did not keep a copy, but I shall endeavour to find one. In consequence, the expression “it is all Greek to me”, is not quite correctly applied :-)