Fitting Words is an outstanding rhetoric curriculum. Brian Daigle of Sequitur Academy, have given it high and well-deserved praise already (Brian: “Not only should this curriculum become the standard rhetoric curriculum in our Christian schools, it should become standard reading for all upper-level faculty, applying what is said here in every course…”) so mine is not necessary. I agree with Brian.
Fitting Words is comprised of a textbook, a student workbook, an exam packet, and an answer key for the workbook and exams. The textbook comprises 30 lessons which follow the classical five canons of rhetoric. The text introduces, explains, builds on, reviews, and assigns practices for every important point raised. It regularly references the classical authors (Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, the Ad Herennium, etc.) often quoting them extensively as part of the assignment, but uses them in a clearly understood Christian context. In other words, it’s well anchored in the Old Western Tradition as the subject ought to be. Each lesson has interesting sidebar quotes, key concepts listed, and practical speech assignments, a Thinking Deeper section for further discussion, Further Reading for greater background or fuller context in the original sources, and a source section if there are footnotes in the chapter (there usually are). The workbook has very full exercises that require the student not only to recall but to develop, synthesize, and elaborate.
Since this subject (like all arts) requires theory, imitation, and practice, his curriculum provides the opportunity for all three: the textbook develops theory, the assignments in it and in the workbook provide application of theory and examples to imitate, and there are clear principles to help the student practice on his or her own, and clear guidelines for the teacher (or homsechooling parent) attempting to help the student move beyond the theory and imitation. The answer key is easy for a teacher to use and very clear, the exams are carefully constructed, and the whole package works together seamlessly, and has clearly been well thought through. A nice touch on top of all is that it has provided in the answer key two separate schedules for using this curriculum; one for a one-year course of 33 weeks with four classes per week (in my opinion the better approach), and one for a two-year course with fewer classes per week.
I am particularly annoyed when rhetoric texts slight or don’t take seriously the Memory canon of classical rhetoric, but it has not made this mistake–Fitting Words has given memory its due, explaining its role in rhetoric and even giving a very clear, delightfully amusing, and immensely helpful example of how he himself might memorize Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech, using the loci method that most people slight.
I mentioned early that homeschoolers can use this too. The supplementary materials (workbook, exam packet, answer keys to everything) will enable a parent with no experience in rhetoric to teach this well, but the real key for homeschoolers will be the videos that go along with the text and workbook.
I am most impressed with the clear, concise, and logical way in which the curriculum presents, explains, and reinforces as it leads the student through the study of the art of rhetoric in his curriculum. Everything else supports that primary virtue. As I said at the beginning, I agree with Brian Daigle’s assessment: not only is this an outstanding rhetoric curriculum for high school level students, but if we really believe that rhetoric is an art for all of our communication and is, therefore, the capstone of the Trivium, then high school faculty should be required to study this course as well and to apply the principles laid out so well here in all their own teaching, in order to reinforce what we say we believe.
– Wesley J. Callihan, November 2016, author of Old Western Culture and founder of Schola Classical Tutorials.