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Archive for January, 2012

Our previous generations of leaders were raised in an environment where elocution, the art of giving speeches, was an integral part of their education.   Abraham Lincoln was greatly influenced by the book Lessons in Elocution or a Selection of Pieces in Prose and Verse for the Improvement of Youth in Reading and Speaking by William Scott.   (see “The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words” by Ronald C. White)  Henry Ford was greatly influenced by the McGuffy Readers.   (See Wikipedia)   Both of these books  not only taught reading skills and classic literature but also imparted idealized middle class virtues to millions of schoolchildren.

McGuffey and Scott believed that students should read aloud in their classes.  Formal public speaking  in 19th-century America was a common requirement for students.

These books contain stories filled with virtue.  Folks just don’t write like this anymore.  Kings, queens, and military leaders are presented as great moral leaders (or failures).  Fables are a steady fare.

Virtue is missing in today’s society.   Perhaps reintroducing elocution into the modern curriculum would be a beginning.

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