When Socrates Meets Confucius
—An Open Course for Everyone
Since Socrates and Confucius were engaged in teaching all their lives, they had no published works or national research projects, unlike our professors here today. Therefore, they may not know much about each other’s work, and when they finally meet each other face to face today, they must have a lot to talk about.
What I would like to do when they meet is to work as their secretary. I will record all their words and put them online so that everyone can benefit from their insights and learn from these two masters. Believe me, this will be the most popular online Open Course.
Both of them will teach us to think for ourselves. Confucius said, “Confused are those who do learning without thinking.” Socrates said, “I cannot teach anyone anything, I can only make them think.” On this Open Course, we will freely discuss with these two great teachers and learn their ways of critically examining every statement.
As time goes on, we may also learn how to collect their shortcomings and mistakes. For instance, both of them seem to be rather elitist. In their world, only the rich and privileged could receive education. Socrates said, “Ideals belong to a world of ideas only a wise man can understand.” Confucius said, “All men are educable except for women and mean persons.” As a university student in the 21st century and a woman myself, I disagree. Socrates and Confucius are dear to me, but dearer still is truth. I would show them how millions are studying online or in school, and politely point out that their ideas of rounding up some people as uneducable are now dated. Today, all of us are educable and are being educated. All of us are wise, and can understand any idea if we try. These changes were unthinkable in their times.
What’s more, these changes are still continuing. If Socrates and Confucius meet again ten years from now, they will see many more people than they see today, men and women, young and old, learning in universities and beyond. At that time, I will also be an educator, and I will proudly tell them that I have had a small part in such great changes. Like them, I see education as crucial, but unlike them, I support education for all. Thank you!
This young lady attracts my attention right from the start. She has great control of the stage. With a strong sense of humor, she is a very pleasant and passionate speaker, with outstanding pronunciation and intonation, clear enunciation, proper rhythm, comfortable pace, and well-measured stresses as well as rightly timed pauses.
Of course, a good speaker gains the audience’s attention with his or her wonderful delivery, but the best speakers are always those who would win the audience’s hearts with ideas. When it comes to persuasive speeches, the top winners are always those who combine “high credibility, sound reasoning, strong evidence and touching emotions”, to quote from Professor Stephen Lucas. This speaker stands out from the crowd with her effective methods of persuasion.
What is appealing about this speech, first and foremost, is her clear message, that is, by learning from an online open course taught by Confucius and Socrates, she sees both strengths and weaknesses in the two masters’ insights into education. Today’s world witnesses and will continue to witness unthinkable changes in the field of education. As she concludes, “like them, I see education as crucial, but unlike them, I support education for all.”This is an inspiring idea, reflecting the speaker’s broad view of the world and of the future, and her commendable critical thinking ability.
Secondly, the speaker keeps the audience’s attention with her natural flow of thoughts and the logical organization of ideas. In the introduction, she successfully grabs our attention with her joke, and naturally leads us to her central idea closely related to the real world. In the body, by comparing the two sages’ ideas and her perception of the status quo, she addresses one of the top concerns of the modern society, thus intriguing the audience’s identification and agreement. The conclusion not only precisely summarizes her viewpoints, but goes beyond the current scenario, unveiling in front of us a beautiful and approachable blueprint in which she herself plays an active part.
Thirdly, the speaker uses polished language, proper rhetorical devices, and engages touching emotions. Parallelism and contrast (e.g. “like them, I see education as crucial, but unlike them, I support education for all”) are employed; well-known phrases are quoted from master speakers like Aristotle (…dear to me, but dearer still is truth) and Barack Obama (men and women, young and old…); true emotions are involved (e.g. the initial excitement, the following disappointment, along with the final joyfulness), and are contagious to the audience. All these add to her credibility as a skilled public speaker.
The integration of all the skills makes it a delightful speech brimming with momentum. Nevertheless, the speaker could have made the speech more inspirational by adding a couple of examples or statistics or testimony especially when she tries to “show them” how “all of us are educable and are being educated”. And, instead of leaning on the podium too hard with both hands, she could have unwound herself a bit and made her communication with the audience more interactive and conversational.