Wanted: Black Students in Public Speaking Classes

By Moffitt, Kimberly R. | Black Issues in Higher Education, September 5, 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Wanted: Black Students in Public Speaking Classes

Moffitt, Kimberly R., Black Issues in Higher Education

As each semester begins I anxiously

await to see the ethnic

composition of my public

speaking classes. And each

semester I find myself lecturing

to a class that is more than 80 percent

white and 20 percent people of color.

Rarely does the latter percentage represent

Black and African-American students.

So we must ask the question -- Why? Do

these students not see the importance of

such a class? Are they intimidated or uncomfortable taking

part in this class?

Unfortunately, we may not want to hear

the answers to those questions. Even though

research has shown that developed

communication skills are important for all

students, still the interest is not apparent. Part

of this lack of interest has to do with the fear

of public speaking. However, considering that

public speaking is ranked in the top five of

societal fears, we can conclude that it is an

issue for everyone and not just Black students.

But it is important to focus attention

specifically on the African-American student

and public speaking.

One argument suggests that students feel

as though there is no need for such a class. No

one needs to teach them how to talk or speak.

So what purpose does this class serve? That is

the same reasoning given by many students at

historically Black colleges who feel it is not

necessary to take Black Studies courses

because they are Black and already submerged

in the culture. They are wrong. There is a

need for all students to take a communication

skills course. Just like any other subject

matter, there is a process in achieving and

delivering a successful speech. A public

speaking course teaches the skills of organizing

ideas and being able to articulate them in a

variety of settings. Without some experience

or prior knowledge, it is difficult to actually

succeed at doing so.

The most upsetting aspect of this issue is

that African-American students feel

intimidated and sometimes uncomfortable

participating in a public speaking class. Many

students assume they have to assimilate into

what is deemed "correct" or "proper" language

and speaking styles. This is where

communication professors can teach their

students that it is not necessarily incorrect to

use slang terms or phrases while delivering a

speech. However, students must remember the

setting in which they are speaking and make

sure the audience is appreciative and

knowledgeable of those words. If not, the

message is not conveyed in the manner which

the speaker had hoped.

So students do not need to assimilate.

They are simply learning to be "bilingual," in a

sense: knowing the occasions and

environments to speak or use certain language.

But again, this is true for all students.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Wanted: Black Students in Public Speaking Classes


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?