Times Literary Supplement Article on Rhetoric Promotes The College at Southeastern (Sort of)

We’ve been saying it for years. The College at Southeastern (C@SE) offers a rigorous education unrivalled by most colleges. But now Stanley Wells has said it also, in a recent article in The Times Literary Supplement entitled, “Apple Clause,” (March 16, 2012, p. 12). In the article, Wells reviews several recent books on rhetoric and (albeit unintentionally) gives three cheers for the type of education offered by C@SE.

Wells reviews Sam Leith’s new book, You Talkin’ to Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama (Profile, 2011), which bemoans the loss of classical education in general and of rhetoric in particular. “For hundreds of years,” Leith remarks, “rhetoric was at the centre of Western education, but it has now all but vanished as a subject of study-divvied up like post-war Berlin between linguistics, psychology and literary criticism. Even in universities it is seen as a quaint and rather prissy minority interest.” As Leith sees it, rhetoric was cast by the wayside in the middle of the nineteenth century as a by-product of the Classics being abandoned as the foundation for undergraduate core curriculum.

Leith argues that this loss has paid negative dividends for our public discourse, as our politicians will struggle in their ability to lead the country the way Churchill did for Great Britian and the way Lincoln did for the USA. Regarding Churchill, for example, Leith writes, “He spent hour after hour working on drafts of his speeches – indeed, he devoted fully six weeks to preparing his first major speech in the Commons.” Regarding Lincoln, he notes that the former President adapted the techniques of classical rhetoric to the vernacular of the American masses.

I think Leith is right, and am grateful to Wells for making us aware of You Talkin’ to Me? For those of our readers who are interested in why rhetoric (properly conceived) is an indispensable tool for life in this world, I offer Dorothy Sayer’s “The Lost Tools of Learning.” In this essay, Sayers argues that the great defect in 20th century education was that teachers conveyed information without teaching students the art of thinking and learning.

In Sayers’ opinion (and I agree), the Medieval “Trivium” (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) fosters in students the arts of thinking and learning. “The whole of the Trivium,” Sayers writes, “was, in fact, intended to teach the pupil the proper use of the tools of learning, before he began to apply them to ‘subjects’ at all. First, he learned a language; not just how to order a meal in a foreign language, but the structure of a language, and hence of language itself-what it was, how it was put together, and how it worked. Secondly, he learned how to use language; how to define his terms and make accurate statements; how to construct an argument and how to detect fallacies in argument. Dialectic, that is to say, embraced Logic and Disputation. Thirdly, he learned to express himself in language-how to say what he had to say elegantly and persuasively.”

For this reason, C@SE incorporates all three aspects of the Trivium into its core curriculum, and does so by (1) requiring a foreign language for all students, (2) making “critical thinking and communication” a core competency which should be fostered in every classroom, (3) marking out several writing-intensive courses in which the student must demonstrate critical thinking through writing, and (4) facilitating a Writing Center, which helps our students develop in logic, disputation, and rhetoric. Further, C@SE offers a Humanities major, in which students take courses devoted to logic and rhetoric.

All of that to say two things: (1) the world that God created has language woven deeply into its fabric. We want to use language well to God’s glory, (2) if you are looking for a college that will help you, or somebody you love, to develop in those skills, C@SE is the place to enroll.

An Invitation to Study English and Humanities at the College at Southeastern

The College at Southeastern offers a robust core curriculum which includes courses in English and the Humanities. One unique aspect of the college is its four required seminars in the History of Ideas. These seminars are capped at 15 students, and consist of reading 8-10 great books per semester, and writing 10 short papers and 2 long papers per semester. The authors covered include philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, etc.), theologians (Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, etc.), historians (Herodotus, Thucydides), and the great literary figures (Homer, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc.). As the students read these books, they learn to read for deep comprehension, and to respond to the ideas in those books Christianly and critically.

In addition to the History of Ideas seminars, Southeastern offers a further fine array of courses in the Humanities and English. The student wanting to study literature has the opportunity to take courses such in World Literature, British Literature, and American Literature. The student wanting to study the humanities in more depth may take further seminars in Theology & Culture, Philosophy & Science, History & Politics, for example. These courses and others are taught by a fine faculty, including:

John Burkett (Ph.D. candidate, Texas Christian University) is Instructor of Rhetoric and Composition and Director of the Writing Center at Southeastern. He is the author of The Rhetoric of St. Augustine of Hippo: De Doctrina Christiana and the Search for a Distinctly Christian Rhetoric (Baylor University Press); further, his dissertation critically examines Aristotle’s rhetoric. Dr. Burkett is the quintessential scholar, known both for lofty thoughts and detailed careful scholarship.

Jamie Dew (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ph.D. candidate, University of Birmingham) is Assistant Professor of History of Ideas and Philosophy and is the author of Science and Theology: An Assessment of Alister McGrath’s Critical Realist Perspective (Wipf & Stock), co-editor with Norman Geisler and Chad Meister of God and Evil (forthcoming, IVP), and co-author with Mark Foreman of How do We Know? (forthcoming, IVP). His specialties lie in philosophy of religion, the history of philosophy, and epistemology. He is currently working on a second Ph.D. (in religious epistemology) at the University of Birmingham, England. Jamie is also a senior pastor and the father of two sets of twins.

Steve Ladd (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy. Dr. Ladd’s expertise lies in the realms of logic, rhetoric, and metaphysics. He is a student favorite in our college’s History of Ideas seminars.

Ivan Spencer (Ph.D., University of Texas at Arlington) is Associate Professor of History and Philosophy and author of The Christology of Liberation Theology. His areas of specialization include the history of ideas, liberation theology, and classic literature. Dr. Spencer is a student favorite in the college’s History of Ideas seminars, and is known for roasting, grinding, and brewing his own coffee beans.

Michael Travers (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Professor of English and Senior Fellow, L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and is the author of The Devotional Experience in the Poetry of John Milton (Edwin Mellen), Encountering God in the Psalms (Kregel), and co-author with Richard D. Patterson of Face to Face With God: Human Images of God in the Bible (Biblical Studies Press), and has published articles in Bibliotheca Sacra, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker), Journal of Evangelical Theological Society, and Westminster Theological Journal. Dr. Travers is known as a master teacher, a mentor to young faculty, and a fine writer.

Further, through these faculty members, Southeastern offers the following curricula in English and Humanities:

The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and English double major promotes an understanding of literature, trains students to think critically and write effectively, and encourages them to reflect on the central issues of the human condition-all from a Christian perspective. Core curriculum classes in composition emphasize the skills of effective research and writing. English major classes present literature from within a Christian worldview. Students will be equipped to understand culture and to communicate the gospel to others clearly and effectively.

The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Humanities double major introduces students to the influential ideas of Western civilization. Students read great works of literature, history, philosophy, theology, and political theory and interact with them from a Christian perspective. Additional courses in philosophy, literature, and history prepare students for graduate work in seminary, classical studies, literature, history, law, or any other field in the liberal arts. Students may also choose to major in Christian Studies and minor in English or Humanities.

We invite you to study with our English and Humanities faculty in the B. A. programs of Southeastern. For more info visit our website (http://www.sebts.edu/college/) and check out the Admissions and Academics links.