Of the courses we wish we had taken in high school and didn’t, speech ranks high on the list. We took typing and are glad of it. While all the Underwoods and Smith-Coronas have long been relegated to the antique stores and grandparents’ attics, many of us spend hours in front of keyboards daily, and those lessons in touch typing continue to serve us well.
We think it difficult to overstate the value of being able to express oneself in words, be they written or spoken.
Though we may have once possessed a rudimentary understanding of quadratic equations and known the signing date of the Magna Carta, those bits of knowledge are, for most of us, long gone and rarely needed in the day-to-day. (When they are, we go to our keyboards to refresh our memory.) By contrast, the ability to speak and write well is a skill we use every day.
Listening to public officials recently, who like us, did not choose the public speaking elective in high school, reminded us of the importance of oratorical skills. We were happy to learn the subject is still being taught in the Columbus city schools, if only one class of it — that’s about 25 kids a semester.
Speech is offered in Lowndes County high schools — it’s called creative writing and public speaking. Lowndes County Assistant Superintendent Edna McGill said the new Common Core standards being implemented this fall in grades 3 through 8 include a speaking and listening unit for all students.
Getting up in front of a group is not an easy thing to do at any age. For most of us, public speaking ranks near the top on our list of fears.
For those of us long out of school, who want to improve our speaking skills, there is Toastmasters. According to the organization’s website, Columbus has three clubs and Starkville two and meetings are open to all. We’ve found Toastmaster groups friendly and nurturing.
While it is difficult to overstate the value of speaking less and listening more, there comes a time when circumstances demand we speak out. When that time comes, it’s good to be able to do so eloquently and with confidence.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.