A welcome argument

All high school students should take a class in public speaking.

I've long thought that, but last week, the notion was reinforced as I watched my son stand up in front of 100-plus students at his school and begin to speak. His topic was music's influence on behavior; the occasion, his ninth-grade speech, a requirement at his school.

In part, I was intrigued to see him standing there in jacket and tie, rather than his customary shorts and sandals. His stentorian tones traveled as easily through the auditorium as they had through our house. And if his hands shook, I couldn't see it. He was taking this very seriously.

So was I. There was the inevitable musing on whether I could have done the same at his age (unlikely). Having heard him practice at dinner, in the shower, and while taking out the garbage, I knew where he was mentally counting between words to give their delivery greater gravitas. And, of course, I was curious to hear the final word on the impact, per Matt, of the less-than-soothing tones that often emanate from his room. In the end, his argument and delivery were thoughtful enough to get me off his back - except about volume - for a while.

And to make me wonder why all schools don't require this intro to learning the power of the well-spoken word. Kids can view it as learning how to budge adults on issues that once were nonnegotiable. Teachers should like its interdisciplinary elements - thinking critically, writing, memorizing, speaking. It's a skill most people will draw on in their lives, after all, be it at work or in a volunteer group. Getting an early start can turn an oft-dreaded prospect into a positive experience.

E-mail newcomba@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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