Modern Day Sophists

During class, Dr. McCamley sparked a discussion about whether or not there are modern day sophists present today. The general consensus in the room seemed to be that there are indeed sophists today with answers including professions such teachers and lawyers. These answers really resonated with me and I couldn’t agree more as a future educator that those who do their job (and do their job well) can indeed be looked at as a sophist. After all, in accordance with their book, the sophists not only taught students how to use rhetoric to their advantage but they also taught “virtue, excellence, and a capacity for success” (33). For me, this especially resonated with me when thinking about my time at UD and what I have learned in the English Education program. After all, regardless of how cliché’ this sounds, my ultimate goal for my students is to succeed and to become independent thinkers. In English, this usually means being able to read a text, identify an argument, and support this claim with reasons and evidence from the text. This is similar to the “dialectic” method that is discussed on page 34, in which the student must make a claim or “endoxa” and from there take a position arguing one side over the other and be prepared to squash any rebuttals or opposing views that are thrown their way. However, another comment made in class that makes me rethink their effectiveness as sophists is the one about teachers teaching by the book or to the test. As a future educator, this is one of my biggest concerns because I feel that teaching students to a test is extremely similar to just making them memorize a textbook. All it really boils down to is rote memorization and not a whole lot of higher level thinking on their part. I don’t know if this is really preparing them to be “a natural leader” as much as it making them excellent at regurgitating information without ever actually learning anything of substance or being able to formulate their opinions. This is why I think it is important to make the curriculum as relatable as possible to our students and their own lives so that they are given the opportunity to really delve into their own experiences and expand upon their prior knowledge when making an argument. I want their own opinions on the matter to shine through and not just the opinions of other more experienced or scholarly individuals. I think sophists today should be guiding forces that give you the tools that help you formulate your own thoughts and give you your own a voice.

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