Rhetorical effectiveness is integral to the classically influenced curriculum at Mount Royal Academy. Essay assignments create prime opportunities for students to exercise command of the subject. Presented here are two examples par excellence.
Whether Surrogate Motherhood is Good
One of the greatest theological minds humanity has ever seen is that of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He is the author of many profound works, but he is most famous for the Summa theologiae. This immense and innovative opus became one of the main foundations for Catholic moral teaching. In his Summa, Aquinas presents his readers with numerous moral questions and a thorough, analytical process to determine the truth. Although, in its magnitude, the Summa clarifies most moral questions, one might wonder what Aquinas’ thoughts would be on a contemporary moral issue, such as whether surrogate motherhood is good. Would the perspicacious Aquinas deem this issue to be morally permissible, or would he find the idea appalling and unnatural?
Before attempting to think as Aquinas would on a modern issue, it is important for one to understand some of the ideas in Aquinas’ moral philosophy. For one thing, Aquinas thought that nature is a state of being and that being is good; therefore, anything that is contrary to nature is not good. Secondly, Aquinas believed that one of the best qualities of human nature is reason, for man uses reason to decide a course of action. He also identified that sin disorders reason; therefore, if one’s reason is disordered, his actions are, consequently, disordered. Lastly, Aquinas realized that man is limited to what God makes possible because “between God and man there is the greatest inequality.” Therefore, man cannot go beyond what God has ordained he can do without committing the sin of presumption. These ideas in Aquinas’ moral philosophy can be used when discerning whether Aquinas would see surrogacy as good.
Before giving his own answer to a controversial issue, such as surrogate motherhood, Aquinas presents his readers with a series of “objections”: answers that may be given to this question by others. For example, an objection could be that it would seem that surrogacy is good because it allows a couple who, for whatever reason, are unable to have children, to finally complete their family. Further, Aquinas might give the objection that surrogacy is beneficial to the surrogate mother because not only is she paid for her services, but also she sometimes becomes close to the family. Lastly, Aquinas might present the objection that surrogacy is good because it is a thriving enterprise in countries such as Thailand and India that employs countless women who would otherwise be unable to support themselves. Therefore, it could be argued that surrogacy is good.
On the contrary, it is written (CCC 2376): “Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' ‘right to become a father and a mother only through each other.’ ” Taking the information acquired from such an authority, Aquinas would then formulate his own response to the presented question. Using the three aforementioned ideas in Aquinas’ moral philosophy, one could discover the conclusion that Aquinas would likely come to. Firstly, recall that Aquinas holds reason to be among the best qualities of human nature. In fact, he once wrote “Whatever is contrary to the order of reason is, properly speaking, contrary to the nature of man.” Indeed, surrogacy is unnatural inasmuch as the child is created outside of the natural way; surrogate motherhood entails going well beyond the limits ordained by God, which Aquinas identified to be sinful. Lastly, as Aquinas also believed, anything that is unnatural is contrary to the good. Therefore, Aquinas would determine that surrogacy is not good.
Aquinas’ process for answering questions, however, does not end with his own response. Rather, Aquinas gives a direct response to the objections in order to clarify any other questions his reader might have. As a reply to the first objection, Aquinas would think that because surrogate motherhood entails a couple willingly allowing another to enter into their marriage for the sake of creating children, it is essentially adultery, or, as is the modern term, an “open marriage.” This cannot be good, for, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies, it is a betrayal of the promise of fidelity that the couple swore to each other and, therefore, it does more harm than good. In response to the second objection, Aquinas would point out that, in reality, after having her body used to grow and nurture another’s child, and then paid as though it were merely an expensive service, the surrogate mother is usually forgotten, never again to see the child she cared for as her own for nine months. In reply to the final objection, Aquinas would say that while surrogacy is indeed a common practice in such countries, it is mainly beneficial to the organization that employs surrogate mothers rather than to the women themselves. Therefore, as Aquinas would clarify, such arguments fail to validate surrogacy.
The writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas are some of the greatest moral works humanity has ever seen. His Summa theologiae provides a basis to determine the truth behind many moral questions. However, as many modern issues are very different for those of Aquinas’ time, one might wonder if the thought process of Aquinas so masterfully displayed in the Summa could possibly be applied to a more contemporary moral problem, such as whether surrogate motherhood is good. Using some of the ideas in Aquinas’ moral philosophy, one could very well determine that surrogacy is not good; indeed, surrogacy involves going far beyond the limits set by God in order to create life, a process that is so unnatural and contradictory to nature that it cannot possibly be good. Truly, Aquinas would be appalled by the practice of surrogate motherhood. Yet, it is a very real and, in some countries, prevalent aspect of society. If one of the greatest theological minds would be horrified at the prospect of surrogacy, while such a matter barely registers in the modern mind, what does that say for humanity as it is today?
-Bernadette Klucinec, 11th Grade Morality Class
The Manipulations of Animal Farm
In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the tactics used to manipulate and brainwash the victims are clearly demonstrated by Squealer and Napoleon. These principal conspirators strategically use historical revisionism, false statistics, meticulous language and repetition of slogans to gradually deceive the naive animals, enslaving them in illusions of prosperity and freedom. As Squealer says, “Tactics, comrades, tactics!”
The first example of manipulative language takes place in Chapter III when Squealer is sent to explain the hoarding of the milk and apples. His excuse for taking these things is simple: that they need them to stay healthy, and if they fail in their “brainwork” Jones would come back. “Surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?” pleads Squealer. Also, in Chapter VI, Napoleon creates a new policy allowing trade with neighboring farms. All the animals remember, or think they remember, passing laws forbidding any dealings with humans, trade, or money, but Squealer assures them it is probably a dream, and nothing of the kind exists in writing.
Throughout Chapters V-VIII Napoleon and Squealer imperceptibly modify history pertaining to Snowball. They begin by saying that Snowball is a criminal, a dangerous character and bad influence, and next they are accusing him of destroying the windmill. Anyone with common sense would realize that a little pig is incapable of such a feat and blame the destruction on the storm which took place the previous night. After this, Squealer and Napoleon are allegating Snowball as the culprit to all mishaps, claiming that he is in league with Frederick of Pinchfield Farm, and consequently is acting as his guide. Subsequently the declaration is made that Snowball actually fought against the animals in the Battle of the Cowshed and was in fact Jones’ spy even before the Rebellion was thought of.
Squealer and Napoleon complacently use false statistics to put the animals under illusions of prosperity. Every Sunday morning Squealer reads long lists of figures that apparently prove that the production of every class of foodstuff has increased by such and such a percent. The majority of animals do not remember what the rations were like in Jones’ time, and none understand the figures, so even though they are more than often starving, they believe what he says. Furthermore, Minimus composes a ridiculous and altogether untrue song which lavishly flatters the wisdom, love, and good heart of “Comrade Napoleon”. Its essence expresses the mindset of the animals and maintains their loyalty to Napoleon, who usually receives the credit for every successful achievement and stroke of good fortune.
Repetition of slogans is another one of the tactics pigs use. Clover often cautions Boxer not to exhaust himself, but he will not listen. “His two slogans, ‘I will work harder’ and ‘Napoleon is always right’ seem to him a sufficient answer to all problems.” Even when the information spread by Squealer is questionable, if it originated from Napoleon, Boxer promptly believes it. In the end, these two slogans are the death of him. Moreover, whenever an argument made by Squealer seems unsubstantiated, he hastily ends it by threatening, “Surely you do not want Jones back?” Conjointly, the sheep cyclically chant, “Four legs good, two legs bad” which puts an end to nearly every discussion. It could seem that this happens coincidentally, but it is not unlikely that the pigs use it to their advantage. Additionally, when the pigs begin walking on their hind legs and carrying whips in Chapter X, the sheep are instead taught to chant, “four legs good, two legs better.”
Modifying past events, presenting fake calculations, speaking with deceptive language and promoting hypnotic repetition of slogans are the controlling strategies the pigs use to brainwash and manipulate the citizens of animal farm. Keeping the populace under the illusion of freedom and prosperity enables the dictators to gradually seize control, and by the time the commandments are replaced, the animals accept the idea of their inferiority unreservedly.
Elizabeth Orlowski, 9th Grade, American and British Classics I