(COVINGTON, La.) — Speech III: Political Persuasion, a new elective, was added for juniors and seniors at St. Paul’s this year, taught by Honors U.S History teacher Kim Gardner.
“When I taught AP U.S History last year,” Gardner said, “I found that when students were arguing points or debating, that’s when they were the most interested in the material.”
Students in Speech III discuss and view speeches from U.S History, as well as argue points. The students also write papers on their stance on issues as well as present speeches to the class.
“There were times (last year) where students would voice their opinions, but they couldn’t really back it up,” Gardner said. “So that’s when I said, ‘We need a class in persuasion and speech, and something that would help students be able to write and speak more effectively.’”
Speech III has held numerous large group debates so far this year. The class has debated the points against and for cheating, as well as if letter grades are necessary in the current grading system, as well as debating the Colin Kaepernick controversy.
“My favorite moment during a debate was when our class was having an off-the-cuff debate about the Kaepernick controversy,” senior William Murphy said. “I gave a very logical response that was pertinent and effective in persuasion. I realized the power of concise and easy-to-understand arguments that appeal more to the general audience.”
During debates, the students are divided into agree/disagree groups and are able to debate against their peers with their evidence. Students are expected to research and make sure their points have reliable evidence. Politics also play an extensive part in the class.
“I like the group activities,” senior Jared Saltaformaggio said. “We’re basically given free reign on what to do.”
Recently, students in the class were separated into six groups of four and had to create an attack advertisement or support advertisement for a presidential candidate. The students had to complete research on their topic and present it in a skit in front of the class. These exercises are designed to help students feel more comfortable speaking and presenting in front of their peers and improve their confidence.
“I’ve learned that speech really is an art,” Murphy said. “The content, the way you say it, your breath, your eye contact, your hand gestures, (and) your high/low emphasis all play a significant role in a master speech. Speech III has really instilled these ideas and made me a better speaker, which is evident in my past speeches.”
Just this year, the students have had to memorize points, complete research, write a letter to a presidential candidate sharing their thoughts on what they could improve on, and also present a speech in front of the class and members of the administration.