By Ray Salazar
My guiding principle when bringing controversy into the classroom is this: ground the conversation in a text.
With this approach, my Chicago Public Schools writing students focus on the ideas. The conversation doesn’t veer off into the abyss of hypotheticals, exaggerations, and explosive personal experiences that only reaffirm what we already believe.
As difficult as it was to listen to Trump’s Oval Office Address about the border wall, I listened to the real-world example of rhetorical principles my high-school junior and senior students study at Hancock College Prep on Chicago’s Southwest side.
What did they find?
Trump focused on evoking anxiety, heartache, horror, distress, exasperation. And my students disappointedly began to conclude that Trump achieved his rhetorical purpose:
To convince Americans that there is a crisis at the border and funding for a wall should be approved so the government shutdown can end.
“He makes this sound so simple,” Jose said. “Something that can be solved in one forty-five minute meeting.”
“He wants to make immigrants sound evil,” Ximena’s table told me.
Disheartened, they recognized that Trump succeeded.