Today, we went over two speeches in my public speaking class. The first was Albert Speer’s closing statement in the Nuremberg Tribunal (the full text of which I can’t find in one place on the internet, or I’d give you the link), and the second was Reagan’s Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate speech.
I was absolutely thrilled by how nicely these two speeches worked together. Delivered some 41 years apart, both works discussed many of the same ideas and concepts surrounding technology, warfare, and the oppression of people under political regimes. I was really excited about being able to use the two speeches together, and about comparing and contrasting the main points of the works while we analyzed the structure and mechanics of the speeches themselves.
My students, though? Most of them said they just didn’t get it.
I sent the class an email this morning, and I’m REALLY hoping to get some thoughtful responses from them. I would also really appreciate feedback from you, Dear Readers, upon whom I rely for a lot of perspective in my quest to become a better teacher.
I’d like for you to give me some of the feedback that we almost started to talk about in class today. Several of you made the comment that the speeches I’ve chosen for you to read haven’t really grabbed you; that you felt disconnected and apathetic about the material we’ve been working with; that you don’t “get it” or that you simply don’t care. What I’m interested in knowing is this; if the material I’m coming up with isn’t ringing your bells, what would? I need examples of speakers and speeches that you feel would better engage your attention and intellect; don’t just trash what I’ve brought in without offering me ideas on what you would consider to be better choices. What academically valuable works would you choose to read instead of the examples I’ve offered? In other words, don’t tell me that you’d rather watch Oscar acceptance speeches or ESPN commentary – give me something challenging and meaningful that would help you to understand the lessons of the class; and make sure it’s something that wouldn’t put my job in jeopardy if my boss decided to observe our class while we worked with your suggestions.
Honestly, I was really jazzed and excited about today’s speeches – I thought that the Speer and Reagan speeches dovetailed nicely with one another, and that we could use each one to better understand the other (in sort of a “bring out your dead!” kind of way). I was disappointed to see that many of you didn’t get that and, in an effort to improve my own teaching, I would really appreciate your thoughtful feedback on this.