“How can I more precisely express truth and beauty in my writing?” asked the young traveler, sitting by the rocky entrance of a cave, high on the east side of Mount Athos (prosopopoeia).
Is it ethical to use a man’s emotions to persuade him?
In the electric atmosphere of today’s propagandistic politics, that question is charged. By and large, even teenagers expect that the vast majority of the campaigning, advertising, and peer-pressuring they will encounter is based solely on emotion; this is the definition of propaganda, of persuasion that is untrustworthy and manipulative. The haunting assumption that the persuasion directed at them respects neither people nor truth is one reason for teenage cynicism’s ubiquity.
I teach rhetoric to 11th graders, and it has become apparent that some of my students believe that we should not spend so much time studying rhetorical devices and tropes. Either it’s a waste of time or, worse, it’s a form of manipulation and deceit. I'm not surprised that some students don’t get jazzed about exploring the beauty and depth of language, much less how to give a persuasive speech in front of one’s peers.