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Required Reading - 3 Websites that Prove Why You Need a College Public Speaking Course

Updated on December 23, 2014

Why Am I Taking this Dumb Class?

It is difficult to underestimate the value of a Public Speaking class in relationship to the broader topic of higher education. Whether you realize it or not, courses in formal communication derive from the legacy of the liberal arts and its significance in society's comprehensive development.

Millenia before the printing press, liber (“free”) artes referred to the education that distinguished freemen from servants and slaves. It is no accident that liberal arts re-emerged during the early medieval period when universities became one of the central powers in western civilization. For many, freedom and knowledge became inseparable from one another. The ability to communicate, with poise, clarity and skill insures that free people remain so; that, in an age where both freedom of expression and suppression of free expression remain chronic fixtures of public debate, one will not be enslaved. Below are just a few websites that reinforce this sentiment.

The Flight From Conversation

According to psychologist and M.I.T. professor Sherry Turkle, a reliance on technology has begun to atrophy human interaction: " ... we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.." The article articulates the ways that individuals have begun to exchange digital mediums for interpersonal contact. Most can attest (perhaps with severe reluctance) to Turkle's proposition: have you ever sent a text to someone in the same room? Stopped a face-to-face conversation to continue a dialogue via cell device? Turkle observes this has rendered many individuals more self-interested, less self-secure and fostered an abiding miasma she dubs "being alone together."

Public Speaking courses compel students to place others first through exercises like demographic analysis and composing behavioral objectives. Emphasis is given to goals completed in the act of live interaction rather than those moderated via social media.The foundational conceit of many communication based classes asserts the development of public exchange naturally prospers the individual capacity to share ideas, express emotions and convey meaning in more healthful, encouraging ways.

The Lost Art of Democratic Debate (Michael Sandel)

The Lost Art of Democratic Debate

Even partisan pundits lament the devolving quality of live debate in contemporary culture. From the onset of his presentation, Harvard Philosophy professor Michael Sandel attempts to elevate the ongoing discussion regarding public discourse by invoking Aristotle's definition of justice. This feat is accomplished by juxtaposing the value of "fairness" with a recent Supreme Court ruling regarding P.G.A. policy. Without spoiling the mercurial turns the presentation undertakes, the sum of Sandel's analysis can be articulated in the following quote:

There is a tendency to think that if we engage too directly with moral questions in politics, that's a recipe for disagreement, and for that matter, a recipe for intolerance and coercion ... a better way to mutual respect is to engage directly with the moral convictions citizens bring to public life, rather than to require that people leave their deepest moral convictions outside politics before they enter. That, it seems to me, is a way to begin to restore the art of democratic argument.

Here, Sandel shares the need for less facile conditions in restoring democratic debate. The premium placed on value-based debate comprises a hallmark of persuasion as studied in many Public Speaking courses. Generating consensus rather than rancor and confrontation best embody the ideals of freely exchanging ideas.

The Value of Soft Skills in a Hard World

So far, we've examined loftier ideals for taking a Public Speaking class - democratic debate, recapturing intimacy. This is not to suggest there exist no mercenary reasons for honing your formal presentation skills. In the above article, business consultant David Ryback stresses the need for acquiring and refining what he identifies as "soft skills." These include interpersonal connection, adapting to audience needs and tolerance for alternative viewpoints. Ryback asserts that while the technological landscape of business practices undergo chronic change, the "human factor" of contemporary of commercial networking remains a stalwart, necessary function of effective leadership.

As previously stated, the legacy of Public Speaking derives from millenia old curriculum. Far from a "soft skill," the study of human interaction and formal presentation signify one of the more durable topics in human history. Learning even plenary skills in this subject can offer tangible rewards to otherwise skeptical students.

Speak Up!

Know any other online resources for substantiating the need for formal public speaking training? I look forward to your comments and thank you in advance for any kind words. Check out my other Hub Pages for additional suggestions for navigating college assignments by working smart instead of merely working hard.


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