In the recent article "Why do we have to take public oral communication anyway?” the debate over Public Oral Communication is framed as a divide between practically-minded students and theoretically-minded professors. While there's an argument to be had there, the article neglects the bigger issue — that Public Oral Communication is, simply put, a bad class.
Most of the student complaint about Public Oral Communication seem to come from the massive amounts of terminology that must be learned for the class. This isn't an issue of theory versus practicality — these terms are unnecessary and are added for no good reason. Take for example the final unit of the course. The content mostly focuses on symbols, connotations and ideologies, and could be explained very simply in those terms. However, Arthos invents the words “ideonode” and “ideoplex,” explains them in vague, pretentious language (an “ideoplex” is described as “A temporary association of heterogenous elements drawn together by desire or inclination” — if anyone can explain what that means, I'd love to know), and proceeds to run wild with his ill-defined terms and systems. This makes the material needlessly confusing and difficult for students, and removes speech theory from its real-world application. Rhetoric, explained in plain English, would likely be very useful — it is the unnecessary terminology that makes Public Oral Communication frustrating and inapplicable.
As was touched on in the article, Public Oral Communication contains a slew of assignments. There are endless mini-units to complete, lectures that drag on far longer than they should and a number of preliminary drafts for each speech. Again, this massive assignment load results from Arthos' unnecessary terminology and systems. The mini-units, for example, involve strange, unrelated quizzes that serve only to impress the meanings of these terms; those quizzes wouldn't be necessary if students didn't have to learn how to distinguish between an “ideoplex” and an “ideonode." This goes for the rest of the course — the assignment load could be reasonable and content-driven, if not for the insertion of so much unnecessary material.
Public Oral Communication is such a widely-loathed class not because it is theoretical, but because its content is needlessly confusing. Speech classes of all varieties, including rhetorically-focused ones, are incredibly valuable to students, and are a necessity in today's workforce. However, in filling the Public Oral Communication curriculum with unnecessary material, IU is squandering an opportunity to create a genuinely useful speech theory class — depriving students of an integral part of their education.
Robert Robinson, an IU student
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