Among the outcomes of Covid-19 are the closings of thousands of schools, resulting in students, at an optimum age for learning and interacting with peers, to be secluded at home. Those who are facing universal remote learning may have to encounter hours of virtual school apart from the comforting, familiar environment of bustling students and helpful teachers, but there can be surprising reliefs from the monotony of online classes. A pleasant surprise was awarded to students at Northview High School in Johns Creek, Georgia, when Jay Heinrichs, author of Thank You for Arguing, visited students virtually.
Thank You for Arguing is a book explaining the art of persuasion that can be assessed through Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson. Heinrich’s descriptions of a wide range of rhetorical strategies are presented in a witty, interesting manner so that students in AP Language who read the book were absorbed into the world of rhetoric. Northview High students had the chance to email any questions about the book to their teachers, who then sent them to Jay Heinrich. Students asked a variety of questions; from those asking how he wrote the book to ones about how students can use rhetoric and language in their own lives.
Several of the tactics Heinrich explained were that during an argument in which people need to convince others, they must maintain a smile to appear agreeable, nod their heads, slowly steer the direction of the conversation to the main purpose, and always keep the goal of persuasion in mind so that people don’t lose sight of the purpose of the debate. He also shared with students the idea that they should develop their own personal writing voices, but be able to master a variety of different voices, depending on what the situation calls for.
Ko-Eun Lee, A junior at Northview High School who attended this meeting, addressed the positive benefits she received from this valuable opportunity, stating that the meeting was “a once in a lifetime chance” for her “to meet a famous author and learn about rhetoric on a deeper level.” She further supported her claim, saying that the virtual meeting with Jay Heinrichs helped her “feel more engaged” in AP Lang and feel excitement for having her personal questions addressed by a writer. Theresa Chen, a junior at Northview High School, also pitched in and claimed that the meeting with Heinrichs “helped with rhetoric because he helped us rank the skills in his book and told us which ones he found most useful.”
Apart from the monotonous daily life of virtual school, students at Northview High School experienced a supportive encounter with Jay Heinrichs, who livened their spirits by encouraging them to freely ask questions of their needs. Through this meeting, Heinrichs motivated students to write and speak more effectively using the skills of rhetoric that can be helpful in persuasion and the expression of ideas.