The Path to Public Service at SEAS
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The Department of English shys away from Public Speaking much as it would from a mad dog, locking up the rude intruder in an academic cellar along with a bone or two. Since to the scholars of literature oral English is not quite respectable and nowheres near par with the other sides of the language, the arrangements for courses in speaking are farcical, tending to discourage the students. The three half courses, for only one of which is credit given, are the minimum the Department thinks it can establish without starting an open revolt. Professor Packard has built the nucleus of an adequate series of courses, and what is now needed is official sympathy and recognition by University Hall of the potentialities of the subject.
Being the only course which rates full credit, English F packs in for one half year all the men trying to learn to speak. It is usually the beginning and cud of their training, for they cannot waste creditless half years in English E and H. Two impromptu talks and three exercises in delivery are the content, along with five major speeches sandwiched between lectures on subjects like persuasion and commanding attention. The semester is capped, mirabile dictu, by a written examination. Thus in effect the sole course, English F tries to accomplish too much, skimming lightly over each topic and leaving the majority of students barely grounded in fundamentals by the end.
The first move towards reform must be a change in the attitude of the Department to the skeleton in its closet. The qualities of poise and self-possession, of persuasion and logic and clear, quick thinking come from practice in public speaking, and in the long run the student will probably find them of more value than the history of the novel. English F should be bolstered by two regular half courses, one open to Freshmen in the primary tricks of speaking, and one to teach the advance principles. There is an ancient bogey that such courses would be "snaps", arising from the department's distrust of its own ability to enforce strict standards. It would not stand in the way of a reasonable, sensible arrangement towards producing men who,
"With fire in each eye and papers in each hand
Rave, recite, and madden round the land."
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