Introduction

Module Eight: Course Capstone and Final Examination

Module Introduction

Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.

~ John Milton, Areopagitica

John Milton’s oft-cited sentiment in this module’s epigraph speaks to the evolutionary heart of learning, communicating, and acquiring knowledge. The enigmatic Greek philosopher Socrates believed so strongly that “knowledge” was a fluid concept (and therefore inclined to change with time and experience) that he wrote nothing in his journey toward becoming the founding father of philosophical studies.

The notion that important values (both individual and collective), beliefs, attitudes, and concepts require careful scrutiny is the guiding principle of rhetorical studies. A rich abundance of theories on the subjects of establishing sound proof or advancing persuasive arguments abound in this area of study, and this course merely scratches the surface of what is possible through studying modern rhetoric and practicing research composition.

And yet, even in an introductory course such as this one, we have encountered a variety of important concepts, theories, and arguments that will assist you in the remainder of your studies and in your life outside of higher education. A small sampling of our work includes exposure to:

  • The rhetorical theories of Stephen Toulmin, Carl Rogers, and Aristotle.
  • A number of important concepts and strategies for critical reading and thinking.
  • A discussion of the fluid nature of authority in digital news stories.
  • A variety of important concepts and strategies for assessing visual arguments, speeches, and written arguments.
  • The basics of logic (induction and deduction) and the logical fallacies.
  • Some important composition theory on the useful manipulation of language, including approaches to using concrete and abstract writing and the various forms of definition.
  • The fundamentals of drafting a comprehensive research plan.
  • The basics of the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) approach to citing and documenting resources.
  • The rhetorical importance of creating engaging introductions and definitive conclusions in research composition.
  • The importance of understanding context in the rhetorical situation.
  • A series of reflective strategies for evaluating the work you have completed.

In this final module, you must apply your understanding of some of these concepts to a series of questions by writing about a written argument and a speech.

As members of various communities, we are often called upon to consider and act upon important, collectively negotiated issues. These negotiations are happening all around us at all times. Most of these debates—such as those surrounding where to have dinner or how to fairly divide the household chores—have minor consequences. Some of these debates, however, materially influence the critical issues of our time. They impact our treatment of the environment, our understanding of our species, and our approach to moving forward into the future.

Research informs us. It helps us grow intellectually and it gives us a practical foundation for grounding our claims.

Rhetoric shapes us. It shows us how to use communication to create influence and provides us with a mechanism for participating in our culture.

Taken together, these practices are important elements of the bedrock of what it means to be an informed citizen and a thoughtful scholar. (1)

Objectives

Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Analyze the rhetorical features of President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (January 20, 1961) in a short, timed essay.
  • Analyze the rhetorical features of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in a short, timed essay. (1)

Readings & Resources