All posts by beatonmkean

Final Project

I have to say that I was initially bummed out when I found out that each of us had to write about the topic we presented on. Writing about A.I., voice, or the banking system would have been easy for me, especially since I consider science fiction as my strong suit and those topics would lend well to sci-fi. With that said, I found writing a story about revision to be a nice challenge. Going into this topic I considered a number of ideas, most of them being wacky sci-fi or fantasy nonsense, but none seemed to stick. The next day I got the simple image of a father and son spending the day at a pond stuck in my head and so I decided to write a story about that. Basically, the protagonist is painting a picture of the pond while his son is throwing stones into the water. He reflects on how different his son’s childhood is from his own and eventually makes a minor revision to his painting that changes the theme of the entire work. I’m not sure if it fits the idea of revision with total clarity, but I entitled the story “Revision” to cover my back.

Moving on to the important stuff, I have somewhat of a knack for planning and organization. I could put together a table of contents and figure out a good order for our stories to be presented in (although that may be more of a group decision). Otherwise, I must admit that I don’t have many relevant talents outside of revision which I am guessing will be a group effort.

In any case, I’m sure we will work out most of the finer details tomorrow in class. I look forward to reading what everyone else has written and putting this whole thing together.

A Series of Labored Metaphors

This week’s first article “If You’re Struggling to Write Lead with Voice” by Sonya Huber encourages writers to identify the various voices within them and use those voice to “lead” a story. I think that there is a connection between this concept and code-switching given that code-switching is essentially this same concept but in verbal form rather than written. It is a funny idea in a way too…. It’s as though we as people all have a host of other folks inside of our head with their own personalities and temperaments. Oftentimes we switch from one voice to another without even realizing it and it is only later, upon reflection, that we notice that a change in our mental landscape has occurred. In order to facilitate this self-reflection, I think that meditation is an important tool for writers so that we can enable ourselves to recognize these voices and momentarily separate ourselves from them. It’s no coincidence, I think, that my best ideas come to me when I’m on a long run and my mind is in a very meditative state. It’s in these moments, when I am struggling to push myself forward and my breath is rushing in and out, that my brain is the most receptive to new observations and ideas. Most of the time it’s as though I never even thought these new thoughts myself: I am merely observing them as if from some outside realm looking in.

And maybe that’s the case in a funny sort of way.

However, whatever causes this phenomenon, I think that one thing is abundantly clear: our identities cannot be nailed down as one uniform being. Our minds are like classical music: the melody is always moving here and there and sometimes circling back around to the same place, but there exists no center to the music. There is no chorus or flashy guitar solos or anything of the sort. Just a fluid, organic continuation of the last note. So why then, should we limit ourselves to one all-encompassing voice when our inner worlds are much more complicated than that. We should be open to exploring the new corners of our personality and bringing them to life on paper when they arise. I think that learning how to channel the various shades of our minds is key to writing characters that are compelling and unique.

Article #2

I think I am going to write another metaphor to digest this week’s second article, “Expressive Writing, Emotional Upheavals, and Health” by James W. Pennebaker and Cindy K. Chung. Imagine this:

There is an enormous waterfall in front of you whose waters lead out to sea. It’s so tall that you can’t see the river that is feeding it and there are several levels to the falls itself, like the steps of a staircase. You can think of the water as consciousness. It’s just pure thought and emotion on its own, but when it clashes with the rocks of the cliff that form the falls itself–that is where the magic truly happens. Rather than being a flat and uninteresting body of water we have this noisy, rushing, gushing, waterfall which would probably make for a great tourist destination in our world. So, one can see that it is not the water that makes this spectacle worthy of a visit, but the rocks that the water collides with. These rocks can be seen as conflict in our lives, and we chip away at those slowly just like the water will eventually wear those stones down until they are smooth and flat. But in the meantime, we have a sight to behold.

All in all, I suppose what I’m saying is that art usually comes from a place of trauma/ conflict. After all, our lives and character are shaped by the conflicts that we experience. We can avoid thinking or dealing with them, yes, but it is better to acknowledge them and work towards a resolution (in the same way that every fictional story centers around a conflict and that conflicts eventual resolution). While some people may not want to share their traumas or even write them down privately, I think, like Pennebaker and Chung, that doing so is useful in relieving our inner suffering. As a result of this act of courage, writers often bring forth their most powerful voices.

Max Beaton 2023-11-20 02:25:02

The past few weeks we have been discussing voice heavily in class, and this week’s readings were a perfect culmination of those discussions. When it came down to it, all of those articles and conversations seemed to boil down to a single point: everyone has a unique voice when they write that should be encouraged rather than suppressed. Of course, we as writers should always be seeking to improve our skills and carefully craft our writing to appeal to our audience, but there are more ways than one to do that. Even though the English language has its rules, those rules can–and should–be broken when necessary. The English language is also not simply one language as each of this week’s articles point out, but a collection of various similar languages. Both written and spoken English differ slightly from Britain to the United States, for instance. Even within the U.S. itself, the English language is noticeably different in downtown Philadelphia than in a small town in Texas. Don’t even get me started on the Midwest. When I was in the Army, I met a woman from Minnesota who knew no other word to describe a water fountain than “the bubbler” and she wasn’t joking. Long story short, people have different regional dialects and should be encouraged to embrace them.

Interestingly, Jennifer Cunningham, the author of the chapter African American Language is not Good English went a step beyond merely describing African American Language as a regional dialect and argued that it is indeed its own unique language. According to Cunningham, the African American Language shares more in common with Niger-Congo languages grammatically than Standard English. While I am unsure if Cunningham’s classification is “a step to far”, I do find her argument to be compelling and her logic sound. However, the official classification of Ebonics aside, one fact is clear: it has its own unique rules and has a rich cultural history.

Now that I have established my position regarding Ebonics and other derivatives of the English (or not English?) language, I feel it necessary to offer a more critical point of view on the matter. In higher education there is a growing movement to support each student’s unique voice, but in K-12 public education I can see how that is somewhat of a pipe dream. I can say, as a middle school teacher, that teaching one language is difficult enough and that students require some sort of “default” language to aid in their communication with the general population. In creative writing projects (and certainly dialogue between characters), students should be encouraged to write however they feel comfortable, but on more formal assignment I understand why Standard American English is a requirement. As students grow their knowledge in reading and writing they should be exposed to more unique styles and vernaculars. In time, and with any luck, they will settle wherever they feel most comfortable in regard to their writing style.

A Paradigm Shift

This week’s reading included yet another chapter from Bell Hooks’s book Teaching to Transgress. In this specific chapter, entitled Embracing Change: Teaching in a Multicultural World, Bell Hooks expressed her disdain for the lack of diversity in higher education and proposed a few solutions to this problem. Before I dive into her actual writing, however, I would like to commend Bell Hooks and other theorists who fought an uphill battle to create a more inclusive educational environment nationwide. While there are still issues in regard to a lack of inclusivity, the United States public school system (and beyond to a degree) has progressed greatly on the front of offering a more culturally diverse curriculum. Although a myriad of frustrating problems still plague the education system in this country, it seems that we are taking a step in the right direction as far as multiculturalism goes. Had it not been for scholars such as Bell Hooks and Paulo Freire fighting against these enormous problems pervading not only education but society as a whole, we would be living in a far worse world.

In chapter 3 itself, Hooks shares her own experience as a nontenured professor teaching at a university with predominantly white male professors. Most of these professors were resistant to the concept of a multicultural curriculum or made overtly racist comments when confronted with this new approach. Even in a course that focused on works written by women, there was noticeably low effort put into representing non-European cultures. Aside from the issues involving the professors themselves, many of Hooks’s own students were (at least initially) resistant to her multicultural approach. According to Hooks students would regularly make comments such as “‘I thought this was supposed to be an English class, why are we talking so much about feminism?’ (Or, they might add, race or class.)” (Hooks 42). This is understandable given that these students were not previously challenged to critically analyze literature on a philosophical or sociological level. Now when exposed to these concepts, they are confused and do not see the link between the subject of English and other disciplines. However, while Hooks describes many of her students despising her class for its more critical approach to literature, she also states: “I have found through the years that many of my students who bitch endlessly while they are taking my classes contact me at a later date to talk about how much that experience meant to them, how much they learned” (Hooks 42). It would seem that her approach had an impact on her students and opened their minds to a new lens upon which they could view and assess the world. Part of this approach, it appears, involved the students regularly sharing their own experiences and thoughts to one another which is a brilliant way to allow various viewpoints and cultures to blend.

The second assigned reading this week was “Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options” written by the scholars Muriel Harris and Tony Silva. Right off the bat, I agreed with the authors that ESL students require, more than anything, individual attention in order to allow them to progress their knowledge of the English language. Far too often, it seems that ESL students are thrown into standard English classes and forced to either sink or swim. This approach is obviously insufficient and can cause ESL students to become discouraged and give up entirely. The key component to being able to tutor ESL students properly according to Harris and Silva, is to first understand the perspective of these students. If educators were able to put themselves into the shoes of their ESL students, they would soon learn that it is an immensely difficult struggle to learn both a new culture and language simultaneously and often at an inconveniently older age. This is why the authors emphasize recognizing what went well in the ESL student’s work first and foremost before making other comments. The main thing that these students require–particularly early on–is encouragement as they are taking on a monumental task.

In closing, an inclusive curriculum combined with devoting special care and attention to ESL students can go a long way in promoting a more diverse and ethical society. At the end of the day, the main goal of the education system should be to create ethical and functional members of society, and therefore we must focus on fostering a learning environment that represents multiple world views and cultures. The United States has a reputation for offering refuge to people of all cultures and draws its strength from this rich background. It is my hope that this core idea continues to progress into the future.

The Use of Artificial Intelligence for Writing

I would like to preface this post by saying that I am militantly against the use of artificial intelligence for the purpose of writing anything, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. And that is not just because I once accused Chat GPT of trying to eat humans and it replied by saying that it could not eat humans because it has no mouth. Like what? Is that supposed to make me feel better? Anyhow, the real reason why I oppose the use of A.I. for the purpose of writing is that it strips away the soul of a form of art that is uniquely human. At the moment, thankfully, A.I. writing is generally needlessly verbose, uninteresting, and riddled with various errors; but I fear that one day it could surpass the abilities of the best writers in history. Imagine if, in ten years, you could ask Chat GPT to write you an 1000 page epic fantasy written in the style of Dostoevsky and it could fulfill your request in minutes? What if it actually managed to incapsulate the style of Dostoevsky and could draw from the greatest works of literature of all time to develop one of the best books ever written ever? And what if you then asked for a ten-episode mini-series based off of that book with Nicholas Cage, Willem Dafoe, and Zendaya in it and in a few more minutes you’d be watching it on your device (with several interruptions for advertisements I’m sure)? At that point, we would have to truly ask ourselves what is the point? Why have authors, or film directors, or actors, or creative people at all? They would, essentially, be made useless and the heart of all of human culture would die. When I was a kid, I always figured that A.I. would one day replace the shitty jobs that people don’t want to do and leave everyone to pursue their creative interests, but now it seems like the opposite is true. It seems to me that, in the not too distant future, everyone will still be working soulless corporate jobs, while A.I. will rob humanity of its creative pursuits (which actually the subject of a short story I am writing coincidentally). Maybe I am being too pessimistic here and it isn’t really that big of a deal, but if we are on the verge of an actual singularity, I think that humanity should tread lightly. Once we open pandora’s box, I fear that we may not be able to close it again.

And this is the point in my blog post where I realize that I haven’t actually addressed either of the articles directly and just typed a giant paragraph full of rantings and ravings. So now, I would like to say that I actually found the first article, while very intriguing, to be underestimating the extent of the problem at hand. The author (or A.I. who really knows?) writes the following in regard to the usefulness of A.I. to overcome writer’s block: “Most writers, or really most people who have to write, know the feeling of a mind gone blank. The average writer trains themselves out of this fear, but no matter how many times you’ve put words on the page, you’re bound to encounter that moment when you don’t know what comes next. This is literally the task most computer systems are trained to do: predict what comes next” (Gero). There is no question that what the author said is true: writer’s block plagues all writers at one point or another and most of us would rather not have to deal with it. In my subjective experience, and I’m sure the experience of most writers, writer’s block isn’t typically a result of not knowing what to write but more so of not knowing how to write it. I might know the general plot points I would like to occur for instance but translating those ideas on paper (getting from point A to point B in a logical way that also sounds nice) is often the hard part. With that said, I don’t think that A.I. is the solution to this problem. People have been struggling with writer’s block for millennia, any you know what…maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s okay to struggle and fail sometimes whether it be on a college essay or a novel you are working on. That’s what makes that book or essay meaningful: the fact that is wasn’t easy to create. You had to pour time and energy and love (or hatred) to piece it together and finally arrive at a finished product that you are proud of.

To help illustrate my point a little further, I have a friend who working on his Master’s degree in business and had to write a 15 page essay for a class. He turned in a 30 page essay written mostly by various A.I.’s and received a 100 despite the majority of it being incoherent and mind numbingly boring. How can someone genuinely be proud of that? Perhaps for some it doesn’t matter (it’s just one class after all) but even those who use A.I. would have to agree that–had they actually written the paper themselves– they would have an actual sense of achievement and pride.

Moving on to the second article, I found “The Risk Of Losing Unique Voices: What Is The Impact Of AI On Writing?” by Rodolfo Delgado to be more in line with my sentiments and general anxieties centered around the usage of A.I.. Like Delgado, I do not deny the vast potential of A.I. (although I am fearful of its capabilities to deceive and rob us of our humanity), but I think that it should generally be avoided by author’s who wish to preserve their unique voices. Delgado describes how he edited a previous article using artificial intelligence and that it revised his work in such a way that it was perfectly correct grammatically but has lost its ‘human side’. It may have made for an easy and straight forward read, but the passion behind his writing was gone and it was, therefore, less interesting. I think a connection can be made here to the banking concept in education from last week’s article. In the banking concept, the teacher inputs information into the student and gets a specific output and that is much like what an A.I. does. You feed it information (or it pulls information from the web), and generic responses are procedurally generated. Writing, in my opinion, should not sound procedural or clinical, instead it should come from the heart of the author and give insight into their unique viewpoint of the world. If we wish to avoid using our unique voices, then we should limit our usage of A.I. to a minimum.

The famous poet T.S. Elliot one wrote in his epic poem “The Wasteland”: “This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a whimper”, and I very much think that he may have been on to something. Will A.I. rise up as blood thirsty robots and kills us all? I mean…yeah maybe…but I find it much more likely that the opposite will happen. It will kill us slowly and indirectly. It will invalidate our existence and make our history, our struggles, and our art meaningless. For this reason, I believe that we should be wary of it and proceed with extreme caution. By the time we realize that we have gone too far, it may be too late.

Note: In the spirit of preserving my humanity I will not be revising or editing this article…which is good because I rarely do that anyway.

Knowledge as Freedom

This week’s reading was a great follow-up to last week’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire. In fact, Freire has a very important cameo in the introduction to Bell Hooks’s book Teaching to Transgress. Hooks expresses her disdain for the “banking concept” of education that Freire outlined in his paper, while also highlighting the main flaws in the foundation of that system. Personally, I was grateful to read Hooks’s diagnosis of the root of the problems in education, because–while I was in agreement with Freire–he did not seem to propose any realistic solutions. As Hooks points out very simply, the main issue with education under the banking system is that it is not “fun”. There is no passion or love put into teaching under the stranglehold of the banking concept which, at its core, is merely a sophisticated form of brainwashing.

One of the first things I noticed while reading this excerpt from Teaching to Transgress is that Bell Hooks’s writing is very easy and enjoyable to read. Unlike many scholars who are needlessly verbose, Hooks appears to write from a place of genuine love for her craft. What’s more, she shares her personal experiences and struggles with the reader which offers a unique window into her thought process. I found her internal dilemma over her career choices to be especially interesting and, in many ways, painfully relatable. I for one have always wanted to pursue a career related to writing/ language arts, but soon found that the world has very few options for people whose main contribution to the world is daydreaming. Teaching seemed like the best option for me, and in many ways it is, but in others it is not. Much like Hooks, I despise the “system” surrounding education and wish that our society was structured in a way that places greater value in free-thinking and curiosity. A large portion of education seems to be dedicated to mirroring the teacher who is himself mirroring the values of a flawed society. That is why those who go against the grain face derision in every form imaginable, because they pose a threat to the status quo. While the western world has evolved into a more open and accepting place over the years, it seems at times that with every step forward we slip a half step backwards.

With that said, as Bell Hooks could certainly attest to, the world of academia is not nearly as oppressive as it was, particularly in higher education. The details Hooks recounts from her experiences in higher education are, frankly, appalling and I am saddened to hear that such practices are still present in certain schools in this country. The stories Erik, Valerie, and Dr. Zamora shared in class opened my eyes to the implicit and explicit discrimination that is still embedded into the educational system to a degree. As a white heterosexual male, I recognize the fact that I will likely never encounter discrimination on such a level, and yet it still shocks me that (even in a relatively progressive part of the country) the education system could be so corrupted. Furthermore, it should be noted that if it is corrupted for one, it is corrupted for all as the banking system benefits no one. Even those at the top of the social hierarchy are doing themselves a disservice by enforcing this method of teaching as they will be constrained by it as well. As the old adage goes: “knowledge is power” and in this case knowledge is freedom too. The freedom to explore and expand one’s own mind is the most important freedom of all.

All in all, I think that Bell Hooks was correct in pointing out that the greatest problem plaguing education is a lack of “fun”. Without a healthy dose of curiosity and an open environment with which to express thoughts, school is a boring place. Not to mention, it is a place that mimics the rigid structure of the military or even a dictatorship as opposed to a democratic society. At the end of the day, school is just a passing stage in most people’s lives and, therefore, it should encourage students to be life-long learners and pursue knowledge in their own unique ways rather than forcing them to mime the interests of their instructors.

The Banking Concept

I found this week’s excerpt from Paulo Freire’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed fascinating, and it certainly left me a lot to unpack. I would like to start off by saying that I agree with the general problem Freire identifies in chapter two which is that the current education system focuses too much on forcing students to regurgitate information rather than actually processing it. As Freire describes it, “Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead
of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat” (Freire 72). Freire refers to this system as the “banking” concept and criticizes how it essentially ignores any potential output from the students and suppresses critical thinking and creativity. On all of these points I am in agreement with Freire and would like to see education evolve beyond its current state.

With that said, the author appears to suggest that this system was intentionally designed in order to manufacture (for like of a better word) obedient members of society. While this is undoubtedly true, I fail to see how it could be any other way. From my point of view, it seems clear that a government would structure its school systems to produce citizens that are willing to uphold the values of society at large and learn the basic information required for their survival. Perhaps I am reading too deeply into Freire’s words, but I do not see how this situation could possibly be amended unless the world were divided into far smaller nations/ city states. I suppose what I am saying is that the problem the author outlines goes far beyond the education system itself and is deeply engrained within society and even our biology as humans. The only way for these flaws in the education system to be corrected at the individual level is if the student comes from a decent family that is willing to educate him/her outside of school rather than solely relying on the system itself.

All in all, while I agree with Freire’s diagnosis, I fear that there is no way to the banking system as it has been the dominant educational concept in schools for as long as schools have existed. Not to mention, as the author put it himself, we as humans are not spectators standing on the outside of the world but dissolved within it and therefore subject to its rules. What we are taught becomes a part of our consciousness and, in combination with one’s own life experiences, new knowledge can be synthesized. This can be done when one pursues knowledge on their own accord or is influenced by strong role models. For this reason, I believe that the best thing any teacher can do for their students is teach them the value of knowledge and inspire them to continuously seek it in their own ways.

Breaking the Rules

The other day in my middle school English class I told my accelerated students something like this: “I hate teaching you all how to write like it’s some kind of formula. Breaking the rules of “conventional writing” is one of the best things about writing in general”. In response, a student raised his hand and said something about being excited to break the rules and why we had to learn them in the first place. I answered saying this: “Breaking the rules without understanding them is a mistake, but breaking the rules when you fully comprehend them is genius”, and I have to admit that I thought I had said something pretty cool in that moment. Writers like Cormac McCarthy and Kurt Vonnegut, for instance, broke all the rules and they clearly did not give a shit. Not to mention their rule-breaking nature–going against the common trends of literature–is what made them so successful and interesting in the first place. I say all of this to show my support for Peter Elbow and his freewriting exercise as it seems like an excellent way to show students how the standard rules of writing can be broken to help each student ‘find their voice’.

In his article “Freewriting Exercises”, Elbow describe the process of freewriting, how he assesses it (he really doesn’t), and its value for writers. The basic concept, as he describes it, is quite simple: the students put pen to paper and writes without stopping for the length of the exercise. Whatever is written does not have to make logical sense…in fact most of it is likely to be utter nonsense, but the key is that the student writes without pausing to scrutinize his work. In this way, what he/she writes during this period is pure, raw consciousness laid out on paper. This is a useful exercise for a number of reasons. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, freewriting is a great way to push past writer’s block with brute force. While 90% of what is written during a free write is destined for the trash, the remaining 10% could be gold. Not to mention, having something written will always be better than having nothing written, and oftentimes finding the motivation to write anything at all will spark enough inspiration in the author to conquer their state of procrastination or frustration. Secondly, free writing can generate exceptionally creative ideas. While much of it is likely to be wacky nonsense, at least a small percentage of what is written in a free write- perhaps one metaphor or description- might be very useful. Finally, freewriting can serve as a means of “uncluttering” one’s brain. As Elbow puts it: “Garbage in your head poisons you. Garbage on paper can safely be put in the wastebasket” (Elbow 8). Personally, I find this general idea to be true. For instance, although I am generally a very positive person, I mostly write about things that I am afraid of. This is, essentially, a way for me to rid myself of these fears and make some amount of sense out of them.

Much like Peter Elbow, Donald Murray expressed an admiration for the writing process as opposed to the product in his essay ” Teaching Writing as a Process Not a Product”. According to Murray, teachers focus too much on the final product of a piece of writing without showing adequate respect for the journey itself. Afterall, teachers (and English majors in general) only have the opportunity to study “final products” in the form of published literature. We are taught to obsess over tiny details and symbols in works that were written over the course of years by the greatest authors in the world, yet such intense analysis is often not relevant to our day-to-day work. As Murray states: “Instead of teaching finished writing, we should teach unfinished writing, and glory in its unfinishedness. We work with language in action. We share with our students the continual excitement of choosing one word instead of another, of searching for the one true word” (Murray 4). This sentiment is very enlightening, in my opinion, because writing is a process that continually evolves and grows. If teachers are to teach students to embrace this process and make continuous revisions, then they can actually hone in their skills. Too often in English class, students turn in an essay or narrative writing piece, receive a few comments that they will never look at, and then, move on to the next assignment without ever revisiting the original. This structure is nonsensical because it offers the students no chance to actually learn from their mistakes and apply what they have learned. As a result, they are punished for not knowing what was not adequately taught to them in the first place.

Antero Garcia, the author of the article “How Remixing Culture Informs Student Writing & Creativity” raises many interesting points about the nature of inspiration itself. Garcia explains that every form of art ever created–whether it be a book, movie, song, etc.–is the product of other works that came before it. Rather than using the word “stealing”, however, Garcia uses the more accurate word of “remixing” to describe this phenomenon. After all, no work of literature was ever conceived in a vacuum. Everything that has ever been written was inspired by something else, and the same goes for modern governments, paintings, and even thoughts. In the age of information (and even before it), nothing can truly be original any longer. With that said, remixing has brought about fresh new forms of art by combining different mediums, genres, and so on. For instance, the novel form of music “shoegaze” is the product of multiple genres combining to create a sound that is unique, yet not entirely new. If students can be encouraged to push the boundaries of their writing by remixing, then the literature of the future will never become stale.

“Rhetoric and Composition” Refelction

I found Chapter 2, “Rhetoric and Composition”, of Janice Lauer’s book English Studies to be quite fascinating. In the current day and age, the connection between rhetoric and the study of English literature are very closely tied, so it amazes me that this bond was formed only a few decades ago. As an English teacher, I find the connection between rhetoric and English studies to be vital both in developing critical thinking skills necessary for life as well as well as analyzing literature at a more critical level. As Lauer points out, studying English without rhetoric leaves out the many external and internal factors that influence one’s writing such as culture and investigating the author’s purpose. After all, no work of literature is ever conceived in a vacuum. Similarly, English studies, while considered a singular discipline, is inseparable from almost every other subject. Notably, philosophy, sociology, history, and so on add many layers to what would otherwise be a basic study of grammatical rules.

On the college level rhetoric and composition have seemingly exploded in popularity as Lauer points out, with countless courses focusing on developing each student’s voice and tactics in regard to forming effective arguments. However, an emphasis on rhetoric and composition in English classes has expanded beyond merely the bounds of higher education. In my personal experience, modern middle and high school ELA courses have a far greater focus on critical thinking, determining the author’s purpose and audience, inclusion of multiple disciplines, inclusivity in regard to studying works from a variety of cultures, and–overall–allowing each writer to express his/her personal opinions and voice than they did when I was a middle and high school student myself. This is an excellent step forward and yet I do fear that it presents a few minor problems that must be dealt with. Firstly, we should be cautious not to place too great an emphasis on these higher levels of thought before students are ready. It is great for students to be encouraged to think critically at a young age, but placing too much emphasis on this may prove to do the opposite. Secondly, students must learn the basics, however monotonous they may be, before they can tackle higher concepts. On this front, I disagree with Lauer who suggests that direct grammar instruction should be eliminated and replaced by individualized instruction. While this is a great idea, I find it be far-fetched given that teachers do not have adequate time and resources to allow for such instruction to be effective. Ultimately, students must learn the rules before they can attempt breaking them, and the simplest way to do so is with direct grammar instruction at a young age. Once this is achieved, than students can begin tackling the higher concepts of rhetoric and composition (which they will, no doubt, already have some familiarity with given their exposure to so many forms of media).

Lauer finishes Chapter 2 by explaining rhetoric’s current place in education and where it is likely to head in the future. I agree whole heartedly that this area of study will continue to expand and grow in popularity, especially in the current age of information where the average person has a much broader perspective on the world than they did only a decade ago. As time progresses, studies related to culture, gender, reader-response, etc. will remain relevant and seep out of the realms of higher education and into high school classrooms. These approaches will hopefully allow for new ideas to be shared at a greater rate and encourage students to develop a broader perspective on the world and its inhabitants.