If Martin Luther King had just thought about freedom, segregation may still continued be a reality. If Gandhi had held his tongue and just thought about a free India, perhaps the British would still be in control. Our thoughts only hold value once they are spoken aloud. And yet, for some odd reason, the society we live in does not seem to place much emphasis on such a fundamental skill, especially in the school curricula, where the practice of the craft is particularly essential. What accounts for this lack of prioritization?
This clear deficit can be attributed to the numerous claims that speaking classes are cruel to introverts, and that they force such students to partake in activities that could be humiliating or degrading. But that line of argument is no different from saying that we should stop vaccinating our kids because the shot is painful. We need to look at the bigger picture and question what is truly at stake. Although some of us fear the impending pain of an annual vaccination, we opt into these necessary evils because we understand how valuable they are, not only to ourselves, but also to the greater societal good. Likewise, public speaking classes nurture the confidence and competence of an individual, both of which are highly applicable in the communicative world we live in.
The world listens to those who are sure of themselves—or at least those who sound sure of themselves. Unfortunately, many students suffer from an inability to articulate themselves, whether during presentations or on a regular day-to-day basis. According to Breaking Down Barriers, an organization devoted to the promotion and training of public speaking, three out of every four students suffer from ‘speech anxiety,’ a general distaste for speaking in public or in front of unknown acquaintances. Fortunately, the solution to this problem is simple: that introverted individuals attempt speaking. As ironic as that may sound, this benefit can be achieved through mandated public speaking classes. Studies by Heidi Rose and Andrew Rancer, professors of communication at Emerson University, confirmed that enrolled students’ levels of public speaking anxiety decreased significantly over the course of the semester. In essence, the more one speaks, the more confident one can become.
Speaking classes also boost students’ future prospects and open up new opportunities. According to a study by a renowned sociologist named Andrew Zekeri, oral communication ranked first among the skills that college graduates found necessary in the realm of real-life business. If one wanted to be a scientist, he or she would have to know how to present findings to a scientific community. If one wanted to be a lawyer, one would need to present legal briefs. Every vocation in modern society requires varying degrees of public speaking and interaction—something society is obligated to prepare its future for.
If our thoughts are our ammunition, our voices are our guns. We are living in a world in which thinking is the only attribute that is prioritized. We are living in a world with infinite ammunition, but no guns. A gun without ammunition is powerless; but ammunition without a gun is no different. Ultimately, both pieces must co-exist to form an efficient tool that can transform society.