Revolution Lullabye

May 25, 2011

Toner, Good Teaching and Good Writing

Toner, Lisa  “Good teaching and good writing: Practices in public life and rhetorical ethics.”  In Galin, Jeffrey R.; Carol Peterson Johnson; J. Paul Haviland (Eds.), Teaching/writing in the late age of print; Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2003. 253-263.

Toner argues that students should write about decisions and policies in their local or campus community, as it gives them a position of authority and, if done over a series of smaller assignments, prods students to explore the viewpoints of a variety of stakeholders. By the end of the course, after exploring the issue, students have a deeper, more broad rhetorical authority from which to talk from. The course reflects real practices of research and inquiry and guides students through the process of learning to speak for themselves and for others fairly and ethically – to see legitimacy in critique.

Notes and Quotes

Respecting the dignity of the student, critical thinking: “A good writing teacher respects and facilitates students’ struggles of constructing voice in a constrained agency and helps students avoid the paralysis that comes with recognizing the legitmacy of others’ critique” (253)

Repetition: “Students’ openness to others’ views evolves through writing several assignments, not just through a single research paper or persuasive essay” (253).

Sequence of assignments: 1. identify issue, context, and justify research for it; 2. specualate economic/political/legal/ethical/personal interests of the stakeholders; 3. results of a survey of opinions of a relevant group; 4. write letters to a campus decision maker

At Wheeling Jesuit University

Content in a composition course: “What students and others write for the course is concrete information they take with them at the end of the semester…Writing teachers can create and maximize pedagogical opportunities when both the subject written about and the writing subject concide.” (262)

“Such moments [hypocritical moments – when writers see contradictions in themselves and their beliefs] put a writer at the interface between a self-centered rhetorical ethic and other-oriented public life that begs taking responsibility for one’s assumptions, exclusions, and relatedness to various communities” (262).

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