There are certain classes we all took in high school and college that we never would have taken if it were up to us. Many of us struggled through math or science or history or English, but in the long run we've understood why those classes were important, and we've integrated the knowledge and skills into our daily lives and work.
I was reading about a school board budget debate recently and the chairperson of the school board said this:
"I'm not sure we need drama, debate and public speaking."
These were all courses with low enrollment, so the school board was recommending cutting them.
First of all, I'm impressed that this school even offers public speaking. Most students don't get this opportunity until college, if at all.
However, I can understand why the public speaking classes have low enrollment. People are scared of public speaking! Teens are especially insecure in front of their peers and the thought of standing in front of the room and giving a speech is not at all appealing.
And most young people are not looking ahead to how their classes will help them in the future. They're just trying to do whatever they have to do to graduate. If public speaking isn't mandatory, most kids are not going to seek out this class.
If I had my way, public speaking would be mandatory in schools. Because just about every single thing we have to do in our lives involves public speaking. Most people will participate in a job interview (or 50). Most of us will have to speak up in a meeting at some point (or hundreds). Most of us will have to convince, persuade or influence another person one day.
Public speaking is as universally necessary a skill as knowing how to read or multiply. Yet in many cases, public speaking training is seen as a luxury, a frivolous extra.
I suppose most teachers could find a way to include public speaking instruction as part of their classes. And that would be ideal, incorporating it into many different aspects of education in the same way we face public speaking in many aspects of our lives.
Then again, those teachers would all have to know how to teach public speaking, wouldn't they? And from personal experience and long-term memory of monotonous, droning teachers, that's quite a stretch.
If schools started teaching public speaking in the elementary years, we might actually catch kids before they develop self-consciousness and fear of speaking in front of a group.
What do you think about including public speaking in schools? What would be the best way to incorporate it so every student has a chance to learn?
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