The goal of this class is to teach students to be effective observers of political communicators in the public sphere. By analyzing the relationship between political actors, communication channels, and the public, students will gain an understanding of the ways in which dominant ideologies shape communication strategies, and an understanding of the ways in which communication strategies shape public opinion.
From Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats to Ronald Reagan’s reputation as the “great communicator” to Barack Obama’s soaring oratory to Donald Trump’s Twitter use, styles of presidential communication have varied over time.
But what is similar across all presidents and politicians is their ability to create persuasive messages that resonate with large segments of the population.
Whatever your opinion about Donald Trump, he is highly effective at doing this. The question is why, and how does he do it? How do politicians connect with an audience and why does a message resonate with one audience but fall flat with another? What makes something persuasive?
In this class, we will analyze the rhetorical strategies used by politicians. Specifically focusing on the 2020 United States presidential election. Learners will be introduced to Aristotle’s detailed system for understanding both what is persuasive and how to create persuasive messages and will use it to analyze politicians– the words they use, their body language, their power-plays, their command of the media, and the political communication strategies that would be most effective against them. We’ll even break-down Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial to learn how it could (and most likely will) be used strategically by Trump to his advantage– and how his opponents will use it against him.
This course aims to increase students’ ability to:
1. Develop a working definition and vocabulary for political communication;
2. Use Aristotle’s definition of persuasion to understand the persuasive elements of a social media posting;
3. Discuss in detail and with nuance the political communication strategies used by politicians;
4. Identify and use rhetorical devices to condense and reshape a message for the multiple mediums utilized in modern political communication;
5. Analyze, evaluate and compare political actions for their persuasiveness and function in the
context of a campaign’s evolution; and
6. Confidently and competently work as a communications specialist in a political campaign
OUR APPROACH TO SOCIAL SCIENCES
Polyhistoria classes emphasize critical thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. We believe that students learn social sciences best by doing what professional social scientists do.
(Read more about our approach to history.)
This course is designed to increase effective observation and critical thinking skills and to encourage learner interaction. We encourage rigorous (but not ad hominem) discourse, questioning textbooks and teachers alike, and tirelessly trying to improve what we do. We believe in creating a truly welcoming space, where learners can come together with understanding, dignity, and compassion, and where diverse backgrounds and life experiences are embraced.
Learning is not a spectator sport. Interaction and intellectual exchanges involving all students and the instructor enrich learning for all. Studying history involves an accumulation of knowledge about the past. But it also requires that we communicate that knowledge to others. You must be ready to share your views in class. A worthwhile course depends upon active participation by all students in class discussions.
The goal here is to advance an intelligent conversation from which we all learn. The most obvious way to do that is to say smart things and say them clearly. But that is not the only meaningful way to participate. Asking a question, connecting something already on the table to another thing, clarifying something that someone else has said, and offering evidence from the text under discussion are also all valuable. Bonus points are awarded for contributions that draw on what others have said. Other things to keep in mind: aim for clarity, keep in mind the value of an amicable classroom environment, and try not to monopolize the conversation.
1) Students’ cameras and microphones must be turned on during the class.
2) This class requires the continuous use of logical thinking & hypothetical reasoning skills to critically and creatively analyze the topics covered in the class. These cognitive functions are generally not sufficiently developed until a student is 13+ years old. Students must have the ability to think critically and logically to analyze the topics covered in the class.
1 hour per week in class, and an estimated .5 – 1 hour per week outside of class.
Meets once a week for 8 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 13-17