Revolution Lullabye

February 4, 2013

Scholes, The Transition to College Reading

Scholes, Robert J. “The Transition to College Reading.” Pedagogy 2.2 (Spring 2002): 165-172. Print.

In this essay, which is a revised version of a talk Scholes delivered at the 2001 NCTE conference in Baltimore, Scholes argues that teachers of English need to spend more time teaching students how to read more critically, which he defines as two related activities: 1. being able to accurately focus on the words, the language of the text and 2. understanding the author as outside the reader (as an other.) (166)

Scholes argues that this reading problem he sees as an educator is symptomatic of a larger problem of American culture: the inability of people to imagine the other – being able to listen to a person’s arguments and reasons without instantly critiquing or dismissing that argument. He contends that rhetoric depends on hearing the other, and a society that can’t understand perspectives other than their own cannot function as a true democracy.

Scholes believes that incorporating more literary criticism in the literature/English curriculum will address this reading problem becuase he believes criticism can model to students how to read and write for differences, how to interpret the other.  Scholes also notes that the task of imagining the other is rooted in rhetorical education: he cites McGuffey’s Reader (5th ed 1879) as explaining the purpose of reading as hearing the “ideas and feelings of the writer” (qtd. 167).

Notable Notes

solution must start in secondary schools, in the curriculum

importance of asking students to read things that they might not agree with – practicing listening to the arguments and reasons of the writer, not themselves.

Quotable Quotes

“The reading problems of our students can themselves be read as a symptom of a larger cultural problem.  We are not good, as a culture, at imagining the other” (167).

“I want to say that a good person, in our time, needs to have the rhetorical capacity to imagine the other’s thought, feeling, and sentiments. That is, though not all rhetoricians are good people, all good citizens must be rhetoricians to the extent that they can imagine themselves in the place of another and understand views different from their own. It is our responsibility as English teachers to help our students develop this form of textual power, in which strength comes, paradoxically, from subordinating one’s own thoughts temporarily to the views and values of another person” (168).

“If rhetoric is a schooling in textual virtue as well as in textual power, as I believe it is, this virtue consists largely in our being able to assume another person’s point of view before criticizing it and resuming our own” (169).

“The basis of an education for citizens of a democracy lies in that apparently simple but actually difficult act of reading so as to grasp and evaluate the thoughts and feelings of that mysterious other person: the writer” (171).

Advertisements

January 8, 2013

Brent, Crossing Boundaries: Co-op Students Relearning to Write

Brent, Doug. “Crossing Boundaries: Co-op Students Relearning to Write.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 558-592. Print.

Brent, through a study of how six university students adapted to the new rhetorical challenges of a professional work environment, argues that it is the conglomerate experiences of their academic careers – not just the discrete bits of rhetorical knowledge they might learn in writing or communication classes – that prepare students to transfer academic rhetorical knowledge to solve professional rhetorical problems.

Brent followed six students from the University of Calvary who participated in four-month-long co-ops in a variety of professional careers.  He interviewed them about their work experiences and asked them to reflect on how their rhetorical education at the university helped them write in their new professional environments.  Although he noted that the students had widely differing experiences, he was able to glean several common threads from their experiences.  The most prominent, which the students cited often, was how their professional communication course helped them write clearly and concisely, which they perceived as a valuable skill in the workplace.  Other common themes Brent noticed was how they all had to do some sort of research, adapt their writing to different audiences, read critically, and multitask.  Brent argues that these general rhetorical skills are not just taught in writing courses – students develop them holistically across their academic experiences – but, Brent also contends, writing teachers have a particular place in this larger experience, because they are in a position to help students think consciously about the skills and knowledge they bring to bear to different rhetorical situations.

Brent reviews the literature of transfer, showing the limitations of emprical studies that seem to suggest that the transfer of rhetorical skills and knowledge from the academic enviroment to the workplace happens infrequently or not at all.  Brent contends that what we should value is not the transfer of discrete skills – like how to write a proposal or another particular genre – but instead, we as educators should be concerned with developing flexible schemas and habits of mind that allow students to transform their rhetorical knowledge to meet new situations.

Notable Notes

the research in professional environments is not as slow or meticulous as the research students are expected to do in academia: in fact, “the professional research process as described by the students sounds suspiciously like the process of desparate last-minute searching that is often cited as the one really used by many students, as apposted to the more meticulous process that mirrors what scholars do and teachers espouse” (587).

the six students were not selected because their jobs were writing-specific; writing is required in most all work environments.

what students took away from their professional writing/communication courses: 1. writing concisely; 2. sense of how professional documents are formatted/organized for some sort of hierarchy; 3. “highly general strategies for managing new task environments” (586).

helpful review of studies of learning transfer in writing studies and cognition

rhetorical performance/competence (560).

his definition of rhetorical education is limited to postsecondary rhetorical education and extracurricular experiences that might contribute to it (559-560).

Carl Bereiter: the transfer of dispositions or “habits of mind” (563).

when students are confronted with new genres/rhetorical situations, they often turn to Google (a strategy also used by professionals.) – a common “survival skill” (571)

Quotable Quotes

“If our goal in teaching writing (particularly but not exclusively professional writing) is to facilitate learning transformation rather than learning transfer, the implications for both research and pedagogy are enormous. One: although we may scale back any hope of teaching nuggets of rhetorical knowledge that can be unproblematically applied to new situations, we need not despair of being able to teacher more general rhetorical knowledge that can help our students perform rhetorcially outside our classrooms. Two: we need more research to refine our understanding of what knowledge is most amenable to transformation, and how we might help students acquire it” (565).

“They demonstrated good rhetorical survival instincts that had been developed in order to survive varied academic writing tasks, but that appeared to carry over as a means of dealing with new workplace genres” (586).

“Put more simply, it appears that the academic discourse environment as a whole, not just isolated courses on writing, had helped them learn how to learn” (588).

“While the case studies I have presented don’t settle any details of exactly what a rhetorical education might look like, the study does suggest that an understanding of how to extract genre features from models, how to analyze an audience, and how to use genre knowledge to interpret information will help students develop rhetorical knowledge that they can transform when thrown in the deep end of new rhetorical environments. In addition, if we can help them become more conscious about what to observe and what questions to ask in new rhetorical environments, we will have gone a long way toward helping them transform, if not simply transfer, this knowledge” (590).

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 25, 2011

Lettner-Rust, Making Rhetoric Visible

Lettner-Rust, Heather  “Making rhetoric visible: Re-visioning a capstone civic writing seminar.”   Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society 1.1 (2010).

Lettner-Rust explains the philosophical foundations of an upper-division capstone course on civic writing at her institution, a course that asks students to address, through writing, speaking, and research, a public issue of civic importance. Using Isocrates’ explanation of the goal of education – to create the “active-citizen-orator,” Lettner-Rust argues that the goal of rhetorical education at the university, especially at the upper-division level, is to push students to use their knowledge in cross-disciplinary ways (like the cross-disciplinary public sphere), using open-ended inventive heuristics rather than rules.

A course that emphasizes rhetoric is key at the end  of a students’ education.

Notes and Quotes

in line with calls for “rhetoric across the curriculum”

colleagues across campus are confused about the purpose of the course

“instead of the writing curriculum being a service course to the academy, rhetoric should function as an integral part of the knowledge-making paradigm throughout the academy.”

“The product of the course is a rhetorical education, a process that allows students to enact rhetorical principles.”

learn rhetorical principles – kairos is a key one

students are asked to evaluate their purpose, audience, context; choose appropriate rhetorical devices to meet those needs; analyze and evaluate the effectivenss of their rhetoric and of others’

Hauser, Teaching Rhetoric

Hauser, Gerald A. “Teaching Rhetoric: Or Why Rhetoric Isn’t Just Another Kind of Philosophy or Literary Criticism.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 34.3 (Summer 2004): 39-53

The Association for Rhetoric Societies’ 2003 conference in Evanston led to an alliance among rhetoric scholars to promote the centrality of rhetorical education in civic education. This article lists the five areas where Rhetoric Studies needs sustainable structures in order to reinvigorate rhetoric into the curriculum.

The scholars underscored that rhetoric is inherently tied to teaching: there is no rhetoric without teaching. What has happened in the modern academy, one that values theory and knowledge over praxis, is a divorce of rhetoric from the public and civic sphere, which rhetoric depends on. Hauser and those at the conference call for rhetoric to be reunited to the concerns of the public civic sphere, of preparing citizens and leaders. The Association for Rhetoric Scholars, through Hauser’s article, argues for a manifesto about rhetorical education that can be adopted by institutions, a forum to share rhetorical pedagogy material between scholars, and a way for individual institutions to circumvent the balkanization that happens with rhetorical pedagogy, coordinating it into one collective pursuit.

Notes and Quotes

“Free societies require rhetorically competent citizens. Without rhetorical competence, citizens are disabled in the public arenas of citizen exchange—the marketplace, the representative assembly, the court, and public institutions— and democracy turns into a ruse disguising the reality of oligarchic power.” (52)

Rhetoric has always been a central part in educating future leaders and citizens. Rhetoric is practical, is human, is considered with the right time and right place (kairos.) It seeks to give students a way to pursue and articulate knowedge, not a set content.

Rhetoric is about seeking truth and excellence (aerte), questioning, reflection, learning about values and beliefs, and moving to action. Very similar to Ignatian pedagogy

“Rhetoric is a practical discipline; it has a strong tradition that merges theory and praxis in the concrete conditions of performance, especially as these are realized in democratic societies.” (42)

Students need rhetoric – need to learn how to present their ideas, understand their audience, evaluate their sources and claims, negotiate between different perspectives, see the connection between ethics and action. Rhetoric is needed in a democratic society (so a small elite does not take over power.)

Ideas for the assessment of a first-year writing and speaking course: students develop analytical skills, performance skills (written and spoken), invention skills, an awareness of language, civic skills, consequences of rhetoric

call for K-12 and university educators to come together in the Association for Rhetoric Scholars to talk about rhetorical education, collaborate, work together

June 16, 2009

Enoch, Refiguring Rhetorical Education

Enoch, Jessica. Refiguring Rhetorical Education: Women Teaching African American, Native American, and Chicano/a Students, 1865-1911. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2008.

Enoch offers an alternative understanding to what rhetorical education is and is for through her analysis of the pedagogical and rhetorical practices of white and minority women teachers teaching marginalized American students from 1865-1911. Her case studies include Lydia Maria Child, who wrote The Freedman’s Book, a post-Civil War textbook for freed slaves, a book that offered freed slaves multiple perspectives and rhetorical models from black and white authors; Zitkala-Sa, a Sioux teacher who wrote autobiographical essays in the Atlantic Monthly that questioned the aims of Indian education; and Jovita Idar, Marta Pena, and Leonor Villegas de Magnon, three Chicana teachers in Laredo, Texas, who wrote articles in the Spanish-language newspaper La Cronica that argued for bicultural rhetorical education that places Anglican and Mexican heritages in conversation with each other, into a new kind of cultural citizenship. Enoch’s purpose is to complicate the field’s understandings of what rhetorical education meant in the late 19th-early 20th century (the field relies on accounts of what was happening in American universities) and where that education was taking place. Enoch elevates the female teacher from a passive transmitter of the dominant culture to a potential advocate, shaping pedagogies and rhetorical strategies to better teach and empower her students. Enoch also points out that rhetorical education does not have to be about full participation and engagement in the dominant political and cultural sphere: rather, it can be quieter and more personal, forming communal and civic identites and teaching rhetorical strategies that marginalized members of society can use to begin to disrupt the dominant hegemonic space.

Quotable Quotes

Enoch invites other scholars at the end of the book to find other historical and contemporary sites of rhetorical education by asking questions like “How have people learned to participate in civic, communal, and cultural discussions? How have teachers and students responded to models and skills for participation designated for them? How have they invented different strategies for participation? WHat did these strategies (dis)enable?” (173).

“A rhetorical education aimed at change and disruption rather than acceptance and submission” (32) – Lydia Maria Child’s work

rhetorical education = “any educational program that develops in students a communal and civic identity and articulates for them the rhetorical strategies, language practices, and bodily and social behaviors that make possible their participation in communal and civic affairs” (7-8)

Notable Notes

calls for first-year, rhet/comp to go back to rhetorical education principles – a rhetorical education that is always cultural and political, situated, personal and cultural as well as civic and public, a range of behaviors, skills, and practices

draws on rhet/comp scholarship in African-American, Native America, Chicano/a rhetorical practices and pedagogies; critical pedagogy; history of composition and rhetoric

June 6, 2009

Kaufer and Butler, Rhetoric and the Arts of Design

Kaufer, David S. and Brian S. Butler. Rhetoric and the Arts of Design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996.

Instead of trying to squeeze itself in the confines of an analytical discipline, rhetoric should deliberately define itself as a design art, belonging to the family of production-driven design arts including architecture, engineering, programming, and graphics. Kaufer and Butler’s book traces two streams of inquiry: first, their claim that written argument – words in themselves – are original design and second, their explanation of their theory and argument of rhetoric as design. All design knowledge from the family of design arts has three characteristics: it is modular, it is cohesive (can relate in a working whole), and is problem-focused. They use the Lincoln/Douglas debates as their extended example to expalin the parts of their Architecture of Rhetorical Design. At the end of the book, they argue for the tight connection between criticism and production as the foundation for rhetorical design theory, a rhetorical education that includes multimedia and multigenre writing and production, and finally, challenge the reader to create a simpler architecture for rhetoric as a design art.

Quotable Quotes

“The powerful rhetors of today and tomorrow know words, but they also know film, photography, typography, music, sound, animation, and video production” (297).

Rhetoricians “design the social world around them and bring it to the here and now” – they are the architects of the social world, draw on Burke. It’s not all about persuasion

“A design art is a production process that involves the interdependent development of goals and a material artifact, relying on knowledge about the nature of the artifact to be produced” ( 32).

“Rhetoric is based on a flexibility in the representation of complex social situations, a flexibility required if the individuals in the situation are ever to accomplish practical goals” (23).

Definitions of rhetoric: “the control of events for an audience” and “the strategic organization and communication of a speaker’s version of events within a situation in order to affect the here and now of audience decision making” (12).

“By insisting that rhetoric be treated as design, we are also insisting that the appropriate way to approach rhetoric is to seek the minimal and general in an art of overwhelming complexity” (11)

Notable Notes

good rhetoric is both predictable and adaptive

production without criticism is “hollow and uninformed,” the opposite is “armchair and wishful” (298).

rhetorical design includes

  • plans – how the speaker builds and understands his world, predictiveness
  • tactics – how the speaker will deal with disruptions of their vision, anticipate different perspectives, responsiveness
  • events – moment-by-moment interaction with the audience, language performatives (anecdotes, wit, irnoy, sayings, regionalizing, promises, threats), identifying with the audience – humanness

Knowledge and Goals → Rhetoric Strategies and Rhetorical Design Space (Plans, Tactics, Events) → Presentation Actions (graphic on page 72).

their book focuses just on words – to see how just words can do on their own as design

productive, not practical, art

Blog at WordPress.com.