Revolution Lullabye

May 26, 2011

Fleming, Becoming Rhetorical

Fleming, David.   “Becoming rhetorical: An education in the topics.”   In Bahri, Deepika; Joseph Petraglia (Eds.), The realms of rhetoric: Inquiries into the prospects for rhetoric education. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2003.

Fleming shows, through an investigation of the topics (topoi), how there is true rhetorical knowledge and how that knowledge can push students to develop in discursive ability. He calls for scholars and teachers of rhetoric to turn back to the heart of rhetoric, which depends upon a multiyear curriculum where students have the opportunity to develop, naturally and deeply, as rhetoricians influenced by ethics and virtue towards civic, responsible ends. He warns against rudimentary definitions of rhetoric  – “checklists” of terms and ideas divorced from a larger ethical base – and also all-encompassing theories of rhetoric that, in their largeness, make rhetoric also meaningless. The goal of rhetoric, Fleming argues, is not so much to transmit a certain kind of knowledge but to develop a certain kind of person, an ethical, productive, civically-minded, knowledgable leader. That development depends on practice, imitation, exercises, and repetition.

Topics depend on understanding the commonplaces of a particular culture – what that culture values, what opinions are generally accepted, the “endoxa”  of a community, what allows people to meet together on the same ground.

Rhetorical education, Fleming argues, can’t hope that students will absorb a rhetorical sensibility through mere exposure to many different disciplines and ways of knowing, the foundation of liberal arts education. Rather, rhetorical education needs to help students develop a rhetorical self-consciousness, flexible but still concrete in vocabulary and purpose, “an art that, once learned, confers on students a genuine practical and ethical ability” (105).

Fleming, with this goal in mind, proposes a richer, teachable theory of the topics that includes five broad categories of rhetorical knowledge: 1. circumstantial knowledge; 2. verbal formulae, 3. common sense; 4. models of textual development; and 5. logical norms.

Notes and Quotes

“The topics we organize this way shuold be infinitely malleable, capable of being adapted and used in multiple ways in different situations. What I am after, in other words, is a theory that can accomodate diverse kinds of resources, one that is focused on situated practice in particular communities, and one that sees the words and things of those communities as practically plastic in the hands of its speakers, hearers, writers, and readers” (104).

rhetoric can’t be taught in one course – it needs to be infused into an entire curriculum

“Where classical rhetoric took a remarkably precise language and dedicated it to an ambitious political-ethical project, the new rhetoric takes a highly elastic vocabulary and puts it to rather trivial ends” (93).

topics: “an ancient set of pedagogical resources designed to help speakers and writers invent arguments for public debate” (94): “My appraoch will be to see the topics as a species of political knowledge that, through theory and practice, can be made part of the student’s very character” (94)

“Rhetoric is at once overburdened and underburdeded with content” (94) – the challenge is to find a place between particularilty and generality (95)

the topics are commonplaces – places to go to discover arguments, a set of heuristics to help invention

connection between Toulmin’s warrants and Aristotle’s topics.

modern rhetorical theory has taken out the content and context of the original topics in order to create a more universal form of rhetoric.

Problem: “A theory of argument situated at the intersection of politics [specificity] and logic [generality] will always elude us; the best we can do is choose one path or the other and stick to it, hoping that our students, at least, will learn to merge the two in their practical lives” (103)

need something more substantial than the rhetorical triangle

Fleming’s theory of topics:

  • circumstantial knowledge – context, history, people, places, familiarity
  • verbal formulae – discursive resources and languages of the community, through wide reading and listening
  • common sense – values, truths, preferences that exist in that community
  • modes of textual development – the structures of everyday arguments in the community, patterns, modes, things that direct and shape thought in that community
  • logical norms – the norms that authorize arguments, warrants, inference

The problem of the paper cycle in typical freshman composition classes: (110)

  1. they are too long for close work but too short to do real work: “they are neither the kind of discursive chunk that constitutes an utterance, a move in written or spoken discourse, nor the kind of project that results from weeks, months, or even years of active engagement with real intellectual or practical problems.
  2. they aren’t sequenced developmentally, to build off each other
  3. students work on them too slowly, tediously drafting over and over again

Draws on the ideas of the New London Group: inquiry into a specific text or situation, recursive thinking and writing. Gives example of Brown vs Board of Education  sourcebook

May 24, 2011

Mancini, Ignatian Pedagogy in a Diverse University

Mancini, Matthew. “Ignatian Pedagogy in a Diverse University.” The Notebook 13.1 (September 2010) http://www.slu.edu/centers/cte/notebook_ol/13_1/mancini.html.

Mancini addresses the challenge of pursuing a faith-centered Ignatian pedagogy at an institution of higher education, but he warns against “watering down” the pedagogy promoted in the Ratio, arguing that a weakened version of Ignatian pedagogy does not achieve the goals of the pedagogy. He argues that two elements in the Ratio – respecting the digntiy of the individual student by crafting a “developmentally graded” curriculum (with clear objectives) and repetition – can and should be infused in both the college’s whole curriculum (long-range) and in individual courses. This helps build logical, sequential courses that move together (a cohesive inquiry) rather than a course that just goes through a string of “topics.”

Notes and Quotes

Published through Saint Louis University. Special issue on Ignatian Pedagogy.

The challenge: Ignatian pedagogy is “intimately bound to the theological and ethical principles of the Exercises” but modern American universities are, and want to be, diverse places that welcome students, faculty, and staff from all (or no) faith traditions.

February 13, 2009

Hansen, Consuming Composition

Hansen, Kristine. “Consuming Composition: Understanding and Changing the Marketplace of College Writing.” In Market Matters: Applied Rhetoric Studies and Free Market Competition. Ed. Locke Carter. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005. 243-269.

The public school system and higher education need to establish K-U partnerships and state curriculum boards that will allow them a space in which to develop and share goals, values, and curricula, enabling them to together reframe education in terms of outcomes rather than as a commodity. Hansen shows the need for such collaboration by illustrating how the lack of communication between secondary schools and colleges (highlighting writing curricula and expectations) leads to the rise of for-profit corporations offering college credit for courses that aren’t equivalent, intellectually and developmentally, to college courses. She targets AP classes and dual enrollment classes, arguing that their popularity stems from a new consumer perspective on education: students and parents see them as economical and efficient, the chance to get three college credits for under $80. The belief that it is possible to buy an education, that courses offered at an online-only institution like University of Phoenix or by under-trained AP high school teachers offer the same educational value to students as a college course, is false and disadvantages students. Compositionists need to work to establish these K-U partnerships if they hope to compete against the attractive, if low-quality, opportunities being endorsed at the high school level.

Quotable Quotes

“With more diverse offerings and better articulated purposes and outcomes for writing instruction, it would be easy to persuade (or require) students to get more education in writing at college regardless of the kind of instruction they had in high school or how good it was” (267).

“[Parents and students] take the credit hours the student has earned as a token of preparation, rather than asking for other evidence of the students’ readiness to write successfully in college” (259).

“When the private good of selective higher education bumps up against the quasi-public good of nearly universal secondary education, the latter is seen as outdated, inefficient, and weak” (255).

“Universities are construed as sites of production, professors as laborers, courses as products, and students as consumers of those products” (246).

“Education is increasingly viewed as tantamount to a product to be purchased, rather than as a long-term process that promotes the development of individuals’ intellectual, social, and personal abilities, preparing them for the demands of participation in a democratic society” (243).

Consumer culture: it is possible to buy an education – not go through a “laborious process of maturing and developing under the guidance of mentors” (248).

Notable Notes

public good v. private good

the actual economic value (not even counting educational value) of selective higher education institutions is much, much higher than less selective higher education institutions (more scholarships, resources, etc.) High school merit is crucial for success in higher education in this way

capitalist economic marketplace goals and pressures have been folded into education

commodification, consumer culture

the junior year of high school is the last one that counts for college entrance; the senior year is largely wasted – final stage of secondary school is mismanaged and allows for AP and dual enrollment programs to enter the high schools, offering credit hours to be used to exchange.

issues with AP and dual enrollment: teacher training, inconsistent curriculum, supervision, no screening of students, some students taking it for high school credit and some for college, the money made in the system

need to understand developmental needs of students K-U – create appropriate outcomes for writing at all levels. Expand writing courses at the higher education level.

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