Friday is for Rhetoric! When should I send a student to a “real” teacher? Parents often wonder at what level a child should start studying with a thoroughgoing expert. Churches and even schools will often create an impression that the good teachers are for the advanced students. The quality of teaching for beginning students is of little consequence. Quintilian speaks to the issue by observing that inexperienced students need expert teachers who care for them.
Quintilian, and J.S. Watson. Institutes of Oratory. Edited by Lee Honeycutt, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition. Book II, Chapter 1
Quintilian observes that children are sent for rhetoric instruction later than they should be. “Of this practice there are two causes: that the rhetoricians, especially our own, have relinquished a part of their duties and that the grammarians have appropriated what does not belong to them” (Quintilian II.1.1). The result is that students do not go to learn rhetoric until they are at least somewhat accomplished in rhetoric. On the other hand, Quintilian suggests that teachers of grammar should restrict themselves to the boundaries of their discipline, teaching to speak, read, and write correctly (Quintilian II.1.4). Rhetoricians then should welcome the duty of introductory studies in rhetoric rather than being focused entirely on more erudite opportunities for persuasion (Quintilian II.1.6). Furthermore, age is not an important factor in readiness so much as preparedness is. The rhetorician begins with praise and blame, very simple descriptions (Quintilian II.1.8). Sometimes, then, Quintilian observes that a student might be studying rhetoric before being completely finished with grammar (Quintilian II.1.12). This is not to be seen as confusing but enabling.