11. If you were debating the question, “This [your own school] Should Establish a School Lunch-Room,” would you take as one of the issues, “All students could obtain a warm meal at noon.” Why, or why not?
HOW TO PROVE THE ISSUES
I. What “proof” is.
II. A consideration of how “proof” of anything is accomplished.
III. An infallible test of what the audience will believe.
IV. The material of proof-evidence.
V. Evidence and proof compared.
Having determined what the issues are, and having shown the audience why the establishment of these issues should logically win belief in your proposition, all that remains is to prove the issues.
Now it is clear that neither the audience nor the judges can be led to agree with us and to accept our issues as proved, by our telling them that we should like to have them believe in the soundness of our views. Neither can we succeed in convincing them by telling them that they ought to believe as we wish. The modern audience is not to be cajoled or browbeaten into belief. How, then, are we to persuade our hearers to accept our assertions as true? The only method is to give them what they demand—reasons. We must tell why every statement is true. This process of telling why the issues are true so effectively that the audience and judges believe them to be true is called the proof.
Naturally, the reasons that we give in support of the issues will be no better than the issues themselves, unless we know what reasons the audience will believe. And how are we to know what reasons the audience will believe? We can best answer that question by determining why we ourselves believe those things which we accept. Why do we believe anything? We believe that water is wet; the sky, blue; fire, hot; and sugar, sweet, because in our experience we have always found them so. These things we believe because we have experienced them ourselves. There are other things that we believe in a similar way. We believe that not every newspaper report is reliable. We believe that a statement in the Outlook, the Review of Reviews, or the World’s Work is likely to be more trustworthy than a yellow headline in the Morning Bugle. Our own experience, plus what we have heard of the experience of others, has led us to this belief. But there are still other things that we believe although we have not experienced them at all. We believe that Columbus visited America in 1492, that Grant was a great general, that Washington was our first president. Directly, these things have never been experienced by us, but indirectly they have. Others, within whose experience these things have fallen, have led us to accept them so thoroughly that they have become our experience second hand.