Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rachel Maddow urges students to master the art of argument in her first return to Stanford

Rachel Maddow urges students to master the art of argument in her first return to Stanford
Stanford News

Stanford alumna and MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow insists that an education in the humanities is a crucial asset in today's job market, illustrating with her own story how the ability to make good arguments and write well powered her career in advocacy, activism and the national media.

Asked by students what kind of major she looks for in a successful job candidate, Rachel Maddow, the popular television host and best-selling author, did not hesitate in her answer. "I look for people who have done mathematics. Philosophy. Languages.

"And really," she concluded, "History is kind of the king."

After earning her bachelor's degree from Stanford in public policy in 1994 and winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, Maddow spent the next decade raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and fighting for health reform in British and American prisons. She said to make an impact in the world and to change hearts and minds, she needed to know how to convince others and how "to make good arguments."

And that meant knowing how to write well. On Saturday, during an evening conversation with students and other Stanford affiliates, Maddow said that an education in a humanities subject was indispensable to her past and present success in advocacy and activism. The event was organized by Stanford's "Ethics in Society" program.

While a student at Stanford, Maddow took numerous classes in humanities subjects, including philosophy and history. It was at Stanford, she said, that she learned how to structure and present a persuasive argument.

In today's tough job market, she said, perfecting this skill is a must.

"Most people can't write," she said. "Only one in 50 resumes is somebody who can write."

Poor reasoning is not a winning argument, neither for employment nor, in fact, for anything in life. Learning how to write a resume that reasons its way from A to B to C to D is very important, she said. And this, she insisted, is the skill taught in the humanities.

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