Neither Friedman’s word “reflects” nor Orwell’s phrase “makes it easier” go far enough. The right verb is “produces.” Clear writing produces clearer thoughts. Sloppy writing produces sloppier thoughts. This is a natural consequence of the fact that anything stored in connections between neurons is part of a biochemical and electrical dynamic feedback loop. When we access one of these loops, we change it and connect it to other loops. To use an analogy from computer science, accessing neurons is never just a read. It is always a read and a rewrite.
My relationship with the Philippine Department of Education’s (DepdEd) Alternative Learning System is one of ignorance, humiliation and inspiration.
As a young economist joining DepEd back in 2002, I was full of ideas on how to improve the country’s education system. I was coming in as a junior staff for a World Bank-funded project focusing on elementary education in poor provinces.
At around the same time, I had been hearing about this ALS program, which was providing basic education to out of school youth and adults, but I really paid no mind to it. All I knew about it was that it was largely non-formal, that it was conducted periodically through modules and that it was too small to make any significant statistical impact on globally-accepted education performance indicators.
Now and then we discuss specific communication techniques on People, Spaces, Deliberation that are essential to bringing about change, and in particular, governance reform. CommGAP also produced a series of technical briefs that demonstrate the theoretical underpinnings of communication concepts and tools, including topics such as change management, negotiation, and persuasion. It was therefore a great pleasure when a newly published book entitled Political Writing by Adam Garfinkle was brought to our attention. As Garfinkle points out, political writing is about persuasion. It’s about persuading ideas and policies.
Garfinkle is the founding editor of The American Interest and a former speech writer for two U.S. Secretaries of State, namely, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. His latest book, Political Writing, is based on a course he taught to interns working in politics in Washington, DC. It’s a short and practical how-to guide that introduces the essential skills and rules in how to become a better writer and it covers different forms of political writing, including: the essay; the review; the op-ed; speech-writing, letters, toasts and ceremonials; memoranda; commission reports; and blogs. In addition to rules, each chapter also includes recommended reading and exercises. The book also covers the fundamentals of rhetoric and polemic, and gives us a history lesson of persuasion and language, dating back to the Greek agora. It ends with a philosophy of editing.