My sixth graders are going to try their hand at writing medieval-style dialogues tonight, on the subject of the Investiture Controversy and whether Pope Gregory VII did the right thing or the wrong thing in pardoning King Henry IV of Germany… yes, I know he was really the Holy Roman Emperor, and not king; that there was no Germany, and that there was a lot more going on than this video makes clear — I hate my textbook sometimes.
The point, though, is that writing dialogues is a great way to build and develop your persuasive skills. Even if you start out writing a dialogue from one point of view, sometimes you find that Simplicio (the Dumb One) convinces you far more effectively than Sagrado’s argument, and that you didn’t really understand the material as well as you thought you did. Or, you find that you don’t believe that Sagrado would have such an easy time with convincing Simplicio.
Dialogues are deceptive in that way. Even though Sagrado always wins the argument in the published dialogues, it turns out that it’s not so easy to convince anyone to believe what you say.
Sometime this week, I’ll introduce the sixth graders to the concept of the “straw man argument”, and we’ll see if they step up their game in the dialogues we write later this week.