Public speaking courses should be mandatory

Sarah DeMarino, Contributing Writers and Staff Writer

Some students duck and cover upon hearing the words “class presentation.” However, these students are forced to emerge from their hiding places after hours of research and preparation.

The day of the presentation, you might walk up to the front of the class, confident about what you prepared, and then suddenly it hits you: the clammy hands, shaky knees, and vibrating voice. You open your mouth and nothing, not a single sound, comes out.  Do you just throw in the towel and accept that you are terrible at public speaking?  No! Public speaking is unavoidable, and students need to develop this skill and build confidence that comes along with it at an early age.  It is an important communication skill that should be taught in school the same way we are taught to read and write.

Public speaking is an extremely important and useful skill to have, but most people are terrified of it.  It is natural to feel this way.  Nearly all performers or politicians have experienced stage fright at some point in their lives, even if public speaking is what they do for a living. The best way to get over the fear and to learn to manage your nerves is to practice, practice, practice.

“I think that it would be extremely productive to learn these skills by integrating them into our English classes,” said sophomore Brittany Taylor.  “The amount of use a student can get from even one class would be unbelievable!”

Some students argue that they do not want to be actors or politicians, so learning public speaking has no purpose. However, public speaking is extremely useful in everyday life.  All students will have college and job interviews at some point, and the ability to clearly articulate a point gives us the best chance of impressing a potential admissions representative or employer, and possibly giving us an advantage over the next person.  Additionally, when it comes to choosing a career, someone might not consider a particular field because it involves public speaking, and pass up what could have been a dream job.  Overcoming the fear of public speaking can change your life.

Once you possess the ability to confidently express yourself and your ideas to others, a world of possibilities will emerge.  Have you ever been to a party or social gathering and wanted to approach someone, but were too nervous to do so?  If these skills were learned and developed in school, not only would you have more confidence in approaching others, but you would also be able to suppress your nerves, relax, and enjoy life.    “I’m in radio broadcasting where we get a taste of public speaking, and I can really see a difference in my confidence,” said sophomore Ryan Tawil.

This is not to say that these classes should force students to give long presentations or monologues. A mandatory public speaking class or unit should make people feel more comfortable.

“Teachers would need to focus on creating a supportive environment for this class,” said sophomore Anna Cohen.  “I also think students who feel uncomfortable or are diagnosed with social anxiety should not be forced to speak but should have the chance to learn by observing and listening.”

This is not a completely impossible idea—schools like the Gilmour Academy in Ohio require high school students to achieve credits in speech classes.  Students also have the option to take competitive speech, competitive debate, and mock trial courses instead.  The Gilmour Academy establishes these courses for the same reasons that I think that public speaking courses should be mandatory.

Learning to express our ideas through speech will benefit us all in both work-related and social interactions.