Category Archives: Student Blogs

Teaching in a Multilingual World!

“In other words, the question is no longer limited to how to prepare students from around the world to write like traditional students from North America; it is time to start thinking more seriously about how to prepare monolingual students to write like the rest of the world.” -Paul Kei Matsuda (50)

When I first read the title of this article, I was intimidated. I have a strong passion for students who have an unfair disadvantage in the classroom from any circumstance. I was intimidated because I did not think I would be able to relate to anything that Paul Kei Matsuda, the author of this article “Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World: Second Language Writing in Composition Studies” (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B5–sMS-4u43fnFiOHBMVzJjSW1lLVJDN3V3YXVIcXZzNmstdUxNXzQ5eWl2SUlQVVo3NVE), would say. However, from the first page to the last, I was captivated, and my passion grew even more. The reading was packed with essential and knowledge that should be taught more to students but most importantly teachers. There is a growing population of second language speakers and writers in the U.S. Unfortunately, there are not enough classes being brought into the education system to help these second language writers grow to their full potential. This issue has been overlooked many times, and I can say personally because it has happened to me. Before I discuss that more in depth, there were two main points to the importance of this article that Matsuda brings up.

  1. “This chapter provides an overview of some of the historical developments related to the status of second language writing issues in composition studies while providing a sense of state of the art.” -Matsuda (37)
  2. “For the purpose of this chapter, I focus on writing in English as a second language in the context of North American higher education particularly in the disciplinary context of composition studies.” -Matsuda (37)

Matsuda also gives two reasons as to why there is a lack of attention to these language issues, and that would be the “disciplinary division of labor” and the “myth of linguistic homogeneity.” The last important point that he talks about is how globalization, (global integration of international trade, investments, information, technology, and cultures), is a critical factor that connects to teaching second language writing. Globalization could be used to teach writing in various fields such as professional or civic that expands beyond academic writing. That is important because second language writing can be taught passed the U.S. and should be international, which Matsuda discusses later in his article.

A new term that I learned from this article was “generation 1.5”, which is a term to describe people who came to the U.S. as children and adolescents. Generation 1.5 is the group that is more difficult to grasp learning English writing and the English language as a whole. I even learned that there was a debate over what is considered a second language and what is considered a difference in dialect. One of the varieties of English that were mentioned was African American Vernacular. I have never heard of that term until I entered Graduate School. That is when I realized that I grew up in a home where we spoke “African American Vernacular” but was never considered a second language speaker. However, my writing and bad grammar were always pointed out by my teachers and professors. An example of a second language speaker who speaks a form of English that even English speakers wouldn’t even understand would be from a television show, “A Different World.”

“A Different World” is a television show from the 80s and early 90s about college students who attend Hillman College, which is an HBCU (Historical Black College/University). One of the characters from the show, Lena James, speaks “African American Vernacular” and had trouble understanding “Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare in her First-Year English class. Until she realized, it was all about translation. In the clip above, she was able to take an English language and translate it into another form of English, one of which is her native language. This all ties into what Matsuda said about translation. He states, “The use of translation is also a possible resource for second language writers; although the effectiveness of translation as a writing strategy can vary depending on the writer’s second language proficiency level (Kobayashi and Rinnert), it can allow second language writers to tap into the knowledge base they have already developed in another language” (40).

Another main issue that second language writers have is that they have limited exposure to what is considered the correct use of the English language and formal written English, which means that it is harder for them to develop their writing proficiency in U.S. English compared to people who grew up learning the U.S. formal English. Although having these lack of resources is one of the cons that second language writers have, they also have a pro. “Others suggest that second language writers may have expanded their intellectual capacity as a result of the constant demand of working with a broader range of linguistic and discursive resources” (Matsuda, 40).

An interesting point that Matsuda brought up that I never thought about before is the level of difficulty bringing this issue to the classroom is because of the teachers. The teacher should have a balanced knowledge of English and second language writers, which many teachers don’t have. Besides globalization, internationalization is a crucial key factor in bringing this issue to our education system. Internationalization, however, requires the need to travel to other countries and then come back to the U.S. and share their research with their fellow scholars. I believe everyone should study abroad or travel if you are going to become a teacher, professor, or scholar. When I studied abroad when I came back to the U.S. my thinking and knowledge towards my education and other college students expanded.

Matsuda has a suggestion as to how to internationalize the field, “U.S. composition specialists need to learn more about sociolinguistic and institutional contexts of other countries. Before trying to reach out to others, however, U.S. composition studies many need to come to terms with the issues of globalization and multilingualism within its own institutional contexts” (Matsuda, 51). I hope that anyone who read this article was able to learn something new about second language writing and the effect it has on students and teachers.

 

Third Dimension of a Person

I do not remember the last time I had a chance to watch television. Being able to watch what you want and when you want online made the habit of watching television casually fade away. Although one can easily argue that watching stuff online is just as wasteful of time as watching television, I can at least find more meaningful things to watch online that otherwise would easily go unnoticed. The video The Danger of a Single Story that I had a chance to see in our class was another excellent example for that. It was a recording of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s TED speech. She argues about critical misunderstanding of other cultures and places that stem from single narrative. It was an intriguing and a thought-provoking video.

I attempted to reflect the message in the video by the response: “Similar to a work of art in a gallery, a human being is open to many different interpretations. These alternative interpretations form the three-dimensional being that we see. Hence, accepting a single interpretation would only serve to strip away that crucial third dimension.” People tend to observe others on the surface level. Given personal information and background of the person gets assorted with what they had heard about that person’s culture from other sources in the past. This is the point in which literary works become very important in shaping that perspective. Some literary works do not represent the culture with intricacy as they tend to focus on dramatic aspects or cultural contrasts. Many people may find themselves in position of neglect due to their desire of simplicity or lack of encouragement to discover more about others. In the video, Chimamanda Adichie encourages people to broaden the scope of stories that they consume in order to fully understand the notions of other people and perhaps appreciate a narrative by the person rather than an observer.

The danger of being only exposed to a single perspective on a particular culture or group of people is accepting the stereotype as the norm. Chimamanda Adichie makes the statement that “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” It is important to remember that exploring similarities among cultures, peoples, and places is as crucial as exploring the differences. Storytellers have the power and the option to motivate their readers to discover these alternative perspectives. I believe the key is examining what makes a story or a narration compelling to the reader based on empirical reasons rather than commercialized reasons. People in general may find it difficult to grasp the importance of rejecting the single story and break away from the limitations of simplicity but writers tend to find the opportunities in which they can explore these complexities as they are expected to be the puzzle-solvers of thoughts. Hence, the objective of writers should be crafting stories that explore many different aspects instead of assembling a product that repeats the same, single story.

My meta-goal for voice in writing…..

This week’s reading has been quite a feast and I am looking forward to our class discussion. In the spirit of Chimamanda Adichie’s TEDtalk and Peter Elbow’s idea of moving beyond compromise and embracing contradictions I am including a link to one of my favorite artist/linguists. Molly Bartholemew is an American Sign Language interpreter who captures the spirit of music and popular recording artists through visual storytelling and ASL.
Watch with the sound on and then turn the sound off.
Does she capture the voice of the artist?
What tools does she use?
Are there any metaphors that move beyond sound and hearing that might be useful in writing beyond “voice?”

Voice in Writing​

Last week while watching Chimamanda Adichie’s TEDtalk video about “The danger of a single story” I was able to relate to many of her experiences and agreed to the statements she made about the dangers of a single story.  Growing up in Haiti, my parents always enrolled in private schools, I enjoyed summers in resorts and lived a life unlike many others. In my younger childhood years, I was unaware of Haiti’s poverty and political destruction until I went to other places for holiday and other people would talk about terrible things happening in the country. My parents, for the most part, kept me sheltered from that reality because they planned to move out of the country in the future. After living in both Canada and the United States, I have a story about Haiti that many other people would not assume. I suppose people would expect a story of poverty, misfortune or any other stereotypes that connect when it comes to the country and living there.

Nevertheless, I, like Chimamanda have a voice in the story of Haiti that is unconventional and different from stories in the news, or books. If I were to write a truthful story about my childhood in Haiti it would sound natural to me, however, to be more persuasive for others I would probably write a different story about a reality that fits more into the stereotype of a Haitian childhood. This is a point Peter Elbow makes in his article Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries when he referenced philosopher, Aristotle. He states,

We can now see that a writer must disguise his art and give the impression of speaking naturally and not artificially. Naturalness is persuasive, artificiality is the contrary; for our hearers are prejudiced and think we have some design against them. (1404b)

The point of voice in writing is further elaborated in the text. Elbow discusses the difference between writing (text) and voice ( language). He discusses in great details about the way writers have an authentic voice and one that is tuned and polished in order to create writing styles that are appropriate in context ( i.e classroom, teacher expectations, etc.)

Another point Elbow referenced in his article is from associate professor Darsie Bowden who argues that,

…voice is alive in our classrooms. Students at all levels instinctively talk and think about voice, or their voice in their writing, and tend to believe they have a real or true self—despite the best efforts of some of their teachers (170).

It is in a classroom setting that many students, unfortunately, lose their voice because teachers tell them that they should write in ways that fit categories, and proper writing formats. Students are adversely affected in this way because they are no longer able to express themselves in writing and ultimately their true voice is silenced. They then go on to write stories or text that simply gets them a satisfactory grade.

ii. speak yourself

In this metaphorical world, then, even if we figure out the system, we are stuck. If we want to be heard we are limited to our single note. If we want to sing other notes, we will not be heard.
And yet, if we are brave and persistent enough to sing our note at length–to develop our capacity for resonance–gradually we will be able to ‘sing ourselves in’: to get resonance first into one or more frequencies and then more. Finally, we will be able to sing whatever note we want to sing, even to sing whatever note others want to hear, and to make every note resound with rich power.
Peter Elbow, Power 282
(qtd. in “Voices in Writing” 172)

Whaaaaaaat? I’m starting a blog post with a deep quote and not an awkward “oKAY KIDS WE’RE HERE LET’S GO” ? Unheard of. Unthinkable. Wild.

Maybe I’m learning. Maybe I’m still lowkey, wistfully emotional and riding the high of a double concert weekend. I gotta give my wallet a break, my god.

Anyway. Elbow. I’m really digging this article. Like, wow. I feel like I won’t be able to do it (nor anything else I’m planning on talking about) justice with my paltry commentary.  Here goes nothing, I suppose.

So, from the beginning, I could already see the whole either/or debate Elbow would later talk about throughout the paper. We have those who are all into students/writers having their own voice in writing and that voice is something that should be taught to try to achieve, then we have the skeptics who are like “y’all are just adapting to your audience so it’s not Really You but a You that’s been Socially Constructed to Fit Into A Mold.”

And like. I get it. I get what the skeptics are saying. Yes, people are so altered by society’s expectations of them that they almost don’t become people living for themselves anymore, but people living exclusively for others, even going as far as being a different person for each of those different people… so like, does a Real You even exist at that point?

Fun fact: I read a fanfiction that discussed that whole concept once. One of the best fics I’ve ever read.

Ten points if you could follow that long sentence. Because I’m afraid to reread it again. Regardless, Elbow has the right idea in disagreeing with the either/or debate, because things are never in black and white.

I feel like… we won’t be able to change the fact that we are socially constructed if we don’t try to alter society ourselves. If we don’t try for sincerity in writing and in general, we’ll never get it at all–if that makes sense. It’s completely true that we are changed by our places in society, but that’s a very dour and complacent state of mind to stay in. Real nihilistic, if you ask me. So… it’s fine to focus on your own voice in writing. It can really help with soul-searching and whatnot.

But along that same line, I’d say it’s not wrong to adapt the voice of your writing for your audience. For example, do you think I’m gonna write like this for a legitimate paper? With snark and thinly-veiled exhaustion and maybe one thought too many ?

Nah. I’ll reign it in. But does that mean my academic voice is any more or less Me? There surely is one real voice in me, but can’t it have more than one tone? Adaptability doesn’t always equate “artificiality,” which Elbow brings up a bit later in the article with an interesting quote:

“Naturalness is persuasive, artificiality is the contrary; for our hearers are prejudiced and think we have some design against them.” (169)

Lemme just @@@@ all those skeptics. Sure, there will be those writers that try to fool their readers into believing that they’re all-knowing, but it’s the writers who put their own selves into their writing that truly get (or should get) listened to.

Later on, Elbow talks about how there are those who believe that text gives no window to the actual self. Interesting. I’d say maybe not the whole self, because pshhh our whole selves aren’t even visible to us to begin with. But… given the right topic, you can have a person writing some pretty honest and soul-bearing stuff.

(I’m reminded of a blog post I did back in the day on fanfiction. That was a wild ride. I still shoot that link at people once in a while.)

Even more later on, Elbow brought up voice in different types of writing. I’m gonna go off about the voice in Internet language. I’m generally active in groupchats and on Twitter, and text-speech and internet lingo is a whole language on its own.

Elbow talks about how “handwriting is more personal and body-connected than typing, so handwritten words are often more experienced as more ‘voiced’ than typed or printed words. With the resources of word processing, people sometimes try to create or bring out a voice by using certain fonts” (176). That’s all well and good, but what about those platforms where you can’t utilize formatting options like fonts, bolding, italicizing, underlining, strikethroughs, etc.? Emoticons and emojis come to mind, but with text alone, more subtle trends come and go.

In fact! Who better to introduce those “Twitter Linguistics” than a student who studied them. A Twitter user conducted a survey (which I participated in) earlier in the year about different linguistic trends utilized online (particularly Twitter) such as “Keyboard Smashes,” “Excessively Long Ellipses,” “Non-Interrogative Question Marks,” etc.–most, if not all, of which I use on a daily basis. The user then posted later, saying that the paper was completed, so there you go! 

Now, all these little trends can help effectively convey one’s voice and attitude over cyberspace. I’ve been told that, in a messenger setting, I can easily be “heard” when I send messages. Whether it’s a rAISE IN VOICE or a……. confused…………. drawn-out….. pause, or??? ?? a disbelieving? ? ? series of not-questions? ????, little text quirks can bring a new context to a person’s voice in writing.

When appropriate, of course. You won’t see me going jfklsjfkldsjkl in an academic paper.

I think that’s all I’ll say for this reading! I can’t wait to go over it more in class. It was actually a really interesting read.

There’s just one more thing I want to touch on before I go.

Last week in class, we watched a TEDtalk about “The danger of a single story” by novelist Chimamanda Adichie:

Hers was an incredible story. I was only able to answer two of the three posed questions during our Twitter discussion:

Before I did, though, I mentioned how I was reminded of a speech I’d heard earlier in the day at the United Nations General Assembly by the leader of popular K-Pop group, BTS. Truthfully, I felt (and feel) a little silly bringing it up, but the message of the speech–about youth, self-empowerment, self-love, and finding your voice to “Speak Yourself” and tell your story–was too important to pass up.

Everyone has a story to tell, after all. One that should be told and should be listened to. It’s something I stand for.

So yeah, voice is important. Probably more important than any of us can comprehend on our own.

See y’all next week.

— C

 

Voice and Writing

“We may be constructed by culture, but if we learn to analyze carefully enough how this happens, then we can actually work toward a fairer world.” -Paul Smith and Randall Freisinger

“Voice” is a privilege to have where I come from. Having a voice at all, you were already on top of the world. As I read this article through the eyes as a growing student, I began to realize a lot of points made about voice that was never taught to me. Before I get into those points, this article also made me revisit the issues I had with my own voice and writing. Even as a young student, I knew I had something to say about different topics, world issues, or politics.

However, I always to write about what the teacher wanted me to write about in his or her voice. My writing voice was silenced, which meant my voice was silenced. I then began to sound robotic. I had no unique style and I knew there were twenty other papers that sounded exactly like mine. Peter Elbow who wrote this article, “Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries”, wrote about the importance of and how it constructs one’s self. “Among the latter group, some want to disguise what they feel are their ‘real selves’, some want to give voices to what they experience as multiple selves, and some don’t feel they have actual selves at all until they create them with language” (171). I related to this in the way I could not be myself when it came to my voice. This issue was carried with me until my undergraduate years of college.

One of the points I want to discuss is that voice in writing is not only important for the author but for the reader as well. “When readers hear a voice in a piece of writing, they are often more drawn to read it-and that audible voice often makes the words easier to understand” (Elbow, 176). I can’t think of a piece of literature or poetry that I have read where I was not drawn to the voice of the author or character. It is a critical aspect of writing that I think many scholars and educators have failed to realize. Personally, there is nothing wrong with having your own voice in an academic paper.

The second point that I found interesting was the technique of having students reading their work out loud more but for a specific reason. Of course, we were all taught to read our work aloud before handing it in. However, Elbow suggests that the student should read their work out loud because they are more likely to, “listen to their words and write sentences that are inviting and comfortable to speak, which, in turn, makes the sentences better for the readers reading in silence”. I thought that was so fascinating. When a student hears their voice in writing out loud, in their own voice, the reader will most likely be more attracted to and engaged in their writing.

The last point, which I had to agree and disagree with Elbow, was on page 183 when he discussed issues with voice writing in the classroom. He pointed out that voice in writing would make the students believe that writing in their own style and voice, then they will be good writers. Even though I agree with him to a certain degree, I would have to also disagree. If a student masters their writing in their own voice, that student will then become more comfortable with their writing. I believe because of that, the student will continue to grow in their writing and want to explore various voices because they are no longer confused about their own voice. I love to practice writing in “someone else’s voice” and not writing in my own voice. However, the only way I was able to be comfortable with writing in someone else’s voice, I had to be comfortable with my own. It took me years to undo what my teachers had taught me but I believe it made me a better writer.

*Overall, what I learned from this article is that there needs to be a balance between teaching critical thinking and writing in your own voice.*

Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries by Peter Elbow: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=eng_faculty_pubs

Response to Rhetoric and Composition, by Janice Lauer and Assimilation into Writing Masters

It is with great reluctance that I move forward into the digital age. Our Twitter scavenger hunt, digital syllabus and weekly blog posts are definitely outside of my comfort zone. The public nature of the internet is unsettling for me. I like the boundaries of a good old fashioned hard copy. Generally, I use my computer as a word processor, and to search the internet if and when I want for what I am interested in and that’s it. That being said, I have been enjoying the different people I have come into contact with as a result of Equity Unbound and that is helping me get my head around the idea of digital literacy. I remain open to the journey.
While I like the idea of open and equitable education, I also appreciate a sense privacy around my own process. I like a long slow progression of meandering drafts, and intense revision. I am particular with whom I share my work for editing and only then do I open it up to other people. I don’t like sharing things in a public forum and creating a digital footprint of undeveloped work. It feels incongruous with my draft and revision process and my own nature as a private person. I hope to be convinced otherwise.
I really enjoyed the reading: Rhetoric and Composition, by Janice Lauer, and have had several themes from it dancing around in my head all week. The first was the distinction of rhetorical scholarship and its history as separate from grammar and composition. According to Lauer, when tracing education back to the Greeks and Romans, students were educated in a curriculum that included grammar, philosophy and rhetoric. She states that by the twentieth century, rhetorical scholarship had almost disappeared and what remained was the teaching of composition. The result in the classroom was a focus centered primarily on grammar instruction and finished products. This point brought my attention to the significance of rhetoric as its own entity and how it impacts both writing and oratory abilities. I would also add that it alters the receptive abilities of the audience. The art of rhetoric brings breadth and depth to any communication; both giving and receiving. I went on to do further reading to increase my own understanding of rhetoric at the following website:
https://www.aresearchguide.com/rhetorical-situation.html

I am deeply interested in this idea of crafting an argument and what it means in the everyday act of communication in writing and as a human being. These are some of the things I learned about the importance of rhetoric: including informal reasoning powers as well as appealing to the ethos and the pathos. Ethos is a Greek word meaning character that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation or ideology. Interestingly, it is also the word the Greeks use to refer to the influence and power that music holds over emotions, behaviors and even morals. I was reminded that Aristotle uses ethos in his concept of the three artistic proofs or modes of persuasion and have made a note to get back to this point in my own studies. The other words I gathered in this exploration of rhetoric were Pathos: A Greek word meaning a quality that evokes pity or sadness. Logos: A statement or argument used to convince or persuade an audience by employing reason or logic. A good argument should be rooted in all three of these places.
Coming from a political science background this exploration really appealed to me, and simultaneously it is shocking that I did not have a better grasp of the pedagogical principles involved. I couldn’t help but wonder how this lack of education in rhetoric impacts the receptive skills of “the audience.” In my limited grasp of rhetoric, these days in politics it seems that the “audience” is vulnerable to easy manipulation by politicians who play on the anticipated one-dimensional reaction from the audience rooted solely in emotion and lacking the roots of ethos, pathos and especially logos. I appreciated on P128 of Lauer’s essay, the mention of theorists arguing against what they felt was excessive focus on individual inquiry. “Another nettling issue that continues to plague the field is the superficial or even missing attention to audience or readers in teaching composition.” The assumption that the teacher is the only audience.
As an adult student I long for a little bit of what Lauer refers to as “formalist pedagogy” and maintain the desire for spelling and grammar drills. I can’t help it. I am a product of my generation and cringe when I read incomplete sentences with spelling errors. I recognize the controversy around this topic and do not believe it is all there should be. The reading refers to this as “full-frontal teaching of grammar.” I agree with the idea that an individualized approach to teaching grammar is more effective. While I do not advocate the humiliation-based technique that was implemented in my own grade school curriculum, I do have a deep respect for form and structure as a foundation, and hope that this does not get lost.
I loved the message in Lauer’s summary and hold these thoughts to be truth’s:
1)The Commitment to develop all levels of literacy, without exclusion.
2)The potential central role of literacy in empowering people to shape contemporary world culture.
3)Education is power and articulation is its vehicle. Helping students to develop their powers of inquiry and communication in order to enrich and re-envision their everyday, civic, academic and workplace lives.

I look forward to investigating further many of the theorists and ideas that were touched upon, including: Walter Ong, Kenneth Burke, Alan Purves, Rohman and Wlecke, Walker Gibson, Slevin, Crowley and Freire.

Vocabulary list from this reading:

Ethymeme: a rhetorical syllogism (a three- part deductive argument) used in oratorical practice.
(Originally theorized by Aristotle) He described four different types of ethymemes.
Epistemology: The theory of knowledge, especially with regards to its methods. It is the investigation of what distinguished justified belief from opinion.
Heuristic: enabling a person to discover or learn something about themselves
Heteroglossia: the presence of two or more voices or expressed viewpoints in a text or other artistic work.
Kairos: the right or opportune moment for certain arguments
Semiotics: the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation
Semiotics and the communication triangle
Trivium: An introductory curriculum at a medieval university involving the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.

A Positive Start

Optimism is believed to be a key capable of unlocking the door to proper student autonomy by many people. It is something that I indeed subscribe to and by that optimism that I’d like to begin this very first blog post for my Writing Theory and Practice class. Although it is difficult to determine which side of the definition of optimism that I find myself in, whether the hopefulness for a successful outcome or the confidence in oneself for that outcome, I’d like to think that a positive outlook in general always leads to a positive future in some aspect. This may very well be the reason behind my positive experience in our first couple of weeks of the class.

Our first reading assignment for the term was an article called Rhetoric and Composition by Janice Lauer. It interestingly reminded me of many articles I was tasked with reading when I was an undergraduate. It felt nostalgic in an oddly satisfying way. Though it seemed a bit excessive in terms of academic display, it had so much to teach at the same time. I guess that is the satisfactory aspect of these type of articles which I remember fondly. I always struggled to read through them but in the end there were great things that I learned and recalled over the years. There are many details to consider when it comes to writing but specifically teaching how to write seems to lose its much deserved attention from my part. Articles, such as this, remind me of that important distinction and I’m quite confident that this was just a first of many to come throughout the semester.

The article often emphasized pedagogy of teaching persuasive writing and how encouragement of integrating personal elements into it was crucial for more effective results for not only the students but the readers as an audience as well. Looking back, the main focus in majority of writing assignments that I was involved in was always the application of composition structure along with usage of proper grammar. That methodical approach made me often question the lack of personality from the writer which could obviously create a distance or at least unwanted distraction by the reader. The article claims that students “overemphasize expository writing” and observe their teachers as “examiners rather than as audience” when they write essays. This is very true because that was the mind set I used to find myself in whenever I was tasked to write an persuasive or even an expository essay. The image of my professor going through my writing and finding my mistakes was ever-looming. I believe this unwarranted fear correlated with writing pedagogy often exercised in writing classes just as the article suggests. Quite often, key elements such as personality, philosophy, and rhetoric would be neglected in service of more formal style of writing catering to those who tends to grade an essay rather than receive it as a member of the audience. It is very important to remind ourselves and teach our students that “recognizing an example of good prose is not learning how to make the necessary effort to achieve it.”

The article asks the question of whether we should see ourselves as a writer or a rhetor when it comes to persuasive compositions. I had never considered the evident difference between the two. I guess a writer in a traditional sense would fall more likely into the category of people who tend to use the methodical approach to writing; such as the overall structure of how paragraphs are aligned and how the transitions are integrated into the essay. If that is the case, what would be the proper way of describing a rhetor? I would propose the same description as a public speaker except for the act being conducted in written form. Public speakers do not overly concern themselves with the structure of their particular speech because their main objective is always their audience, and more importantly winning the approval of that audience. They rely on receivers in social context and investigate compelling questions in rhetorical situations to persuade them just as the article suggests what rhetors tend to do. I should also see myself as a public speaker when I need to compose a persuasive essays in the future to study its efficiency personally and eventually pass that experience, should it prove productive as expected, to my students.

Another interesting aspect I‘d like to mention from the article is the notion of “students’ right to their own language”. This was a thought provoking assertion and I had never examined composition from that particular aspect. The students, as writers, had rights to integrate their own tone, style, and indeed the language. Overemphasis in formality often serve as restriction and obstacle in defining the character of the writer. Students need to be familiarized with “using dialects in which they find their own identity and style”. I believe the objective of any sort of writing should be self-discovery rather than making an impression on the reader. A sense of freedom is much needed to find a voice that can reach out to its audience. This freedom in writing, if given the time and space to flourish, could ignite much optimism that leads to positive outcomes without any doubts.

Overall, the article Rhetoric and Composition by Janice Lauer was a good read. There were many things to dissect from. I’m certainly looking forward to our next reading assignment.

i. the theory part of theory & practice, feat. Grad School

Well, goodness me. First blog post for Writing Theory. This deserves a party. Or it should, but I’m running on fumes from a concert I went to last night (all hail Sir Ed, lads) so we’re gonna settle for a less-than-exuberantly raised fist and a halfhearted huzzah. I hope you understand.

Regardless! I’m hyped! It’s already the third full week of grad school, and it only just feels like I’m settling in. Which is fine. It’s a change. New Laptop, New Phone, New Schedule, New Responsibilities… Doesn’t feel like too big of a change, though, since it’s the Same Campus, Same Professors, Same(ish) Job… So I almost feel an uneasy sense of … ease? It’s like… I’m chill and taking things in stride right now… but I’ve got a feeling that’s gonna come back to bite me at some point.

Yay!

Anyway, for the time being, I’m okay. No word on Christina of Three Weeks From Now, though.

Ominous looming foreboding-ness, aside. Let’s move on to last week’s class.

 

Last Week’s Class

We participated in a Twitter Scavenger Hunt that really functioned as Twitter 101. Served as a cool little ice breaker between us and the rest of the Equity Unbound crew, too.

It was fun–posting mystery pics and guessing others’. (Truth be told I feel a little bad mine was difficult to guess, and also because the lighting kinda threw people off.)

I’m better-versed on Twitter nowadays than I was back in my #NetNarr days, so the learning portion of it wasn’t particularly difficult. What was out of my comfort zone was actually participating in the conversations going on. I’m more of a lurker, I suppose? Sneak in a RT and a Like now and then, but I’m trying to get better at putting myself out there. So! This should help! Right?!

(God help me and my mute internet self.)

Alright, let’s move on to the reading we were assigned last class.

 

The Reading We Were Assigned Last Class

Here’s where the title of this post comes in, because wowie That’s a Lot of Theory. Janice Lauer’s “Rhetoric and Composition” was… daunting to get through. But I did it! Did I understand and comprehend all of it? Nah!

Real talk, it’s not that drastic. I was able to parse a good portion of the thing, relating to more than I thought I would. There were some really interesting bits in there, scattered among the walls of text that sounded a bit like a manual on theorizing quantum physics. I made notes, even! I know I won’t be able to get to everything I found interesting, but. … Yeah, there’s no “but,” just know I’m not gonna wax poetic on everything.

Overall, the text was a comprehensive history of the teaching of writing and writing theory, albeit in more… complex terms.

(Honestly, the term rhetoric always kind of eluded me. I didn’t take the Rhetoric class Writing majors were required to take in undergrad, so I’m still kinda like ?? ?? ? Curse of a Lit major, I guess. But! That will surely change this semester. Pretty sure I have no choice. And like, I have some knowledge of rhetoric considering I’ve helped many a freshman with Rhetorical Analysis papers in the writing center… Hmm.)

ANYWAY. There has been a lot of debate regarding what and how to teach students. From what I gathered, the reigning agreement among the more progressive sort of the academic elite was that teaching should be more individualized and considerate of students’ particular voices–utilizing journals, meditation, analogies, etc. to achieve some sort of self-actualization–something I can definitely get behind (Lauer 117). I’m all for showing personality through writing. It’s my jam.

I suppose the remaining arguments are the “ok how do we do that while keeping up the ability to actually Judge student writing on a standardized basis” ones. To which, I reply with a groan. Particularly @ standardized. It’s understandable how you need a basis to be able to build up, but it got to a point that the basis was all the students gained from the regimented teaching style (114). Professors were caught up teaching kids how to recognize good writing and not how to go about making their own. Like, okay, here’s how you build a boat. Know how to build a boat now? Great! Here’s a degree.

I’m not bitter. I promise. I say as I hide my literature degree behind my back.

(Am I saying that my literature degree doesn’t prepare students for the writing aspects of the senior courses? That the writing classes are optional for them and that I took as many as I was allowed, aka, like 2-3? Is that what I’m saying? Hmm? Am I calling for a union of the majors with just a difference in concentration between the two and a balance between writing and literature aspects of it? Hmm? Mayhaps I am. Also: see p.126–the section regarding part time instructors with no benefits. Hmm.)

Anyways, long story short, I agree that standardized grading is stupid (see p.119) and professors should consider their students, just like how students should consider their audiences when writing. BAM. 

That was going to be a segue but it’s cancelled because I want to talk about something else instead: how a lot of the points made around p.120-128 (and throughout the whole text, honestly) are pretty much ideals of the Writing Center, or allude to things and concepts I’ve learned while working there: Writer ownership, utilization of the writer’s own voice in writing (and how academia seeks to destroy it), writing in the disciplines and the differences therein, ESL and cross-cultural writing (a topic I just might want to focus a thesis on? Maybe?)…

I suppose there was a lot in this text that spoke to me… And I am hoping to focus specifically on several of the issues brought up throughout the semester. On a second look, though, it’s a good introduction to this class. I believe so, at least.

And so, I’ll leave you with one, final, small point, courtesy of p.128, where Lauer brings up scholars’ distaste for picking apart the “superficial” issues of a student’s work. We try to look at the High-Order Concerns (HOCs) over the Low-Order Concerns (LOCs), but I’m a stickler for grammar, so I tend to point out the LOCs like grammar and formatting even if a HOC is organization. In the end, though, I just preach consistency. For example, if you neglect the Oxford Comma, friend, you’d better neglect it all the way through–(Please don’t neglect the Oxford Comma, I beg you). Or, if you format dialogue a certain way, it’d better be the same throughout.

The same can go for a lot of aspects of writing, actually, and even in life, too. (Oops, she’s getting deep.) If you like to do a thing one way–organize, format, eat, sing, draw, write, etc.–as long as you’re not hurting anybody, stick to it. Don’t let academia (read: society) take away your voice, man. You wanna neglect that Oxford Comma, you neglect that Oxford Comma!

(I’m kidding, please don’t neglect the Oxford Comma.)

Alright, I’ve ranted enough this post.

See y’all next week!

— C

 

Response to Rhetoric and Composition, by Janice Lauer and Assimilation into Writing Masters

It is with great reluctance that I move forward into the digital age. Our Twitter scavenger hunt, digital syllabus and weekly blog posts are definitely outside of my comfort zone. The public nature of the internet is unsettling for me. I like the boundaries of a good old fashioned hard copy. Generally, I use my computer as a word processor, and to search the internet if and when I want for what I am interested in and that’s it. That being said, I have been enjoying the different people I have come into contact with as a result of Equity Unbound, and that is helping me get my head around the idea of digital literacy. I remain open to the journey.

While I like the idea of open and equitable education, I also appreciate a sense of privacy around my own process. I like a long slow progression of meandering drafts and intense revision. I am very particular with whom I share my work for editing, and then I open it up to other people. I don’t like sharing things in a public forum and creating a digital footprint of undeveloped work. It feels incongruous with my draft and revision process and my own nature as a private person. I hope to be convinced otherwise.

I really enjoyed the reading: Rhetoric and Composition, by Janice Lauer, and have had several themes from it dancing around in my head all week. The first was the distinction of rhetorical scholarship and its history as separate from grammar and composition. According to Lauer, when tracing education back to the Greeks and Romans, students were educated in a curriculum that included grammar, philosophy, and rhetoric. She states that by the twentieth century, rhetorical scholarship had almost disappeared and what remained was the teaching of composition. The result in the classroom was a focus centered primarily on grammar instruction and finished products. This point brought my attention to the significance of rhetoric as its own entity and how it impacts both writing and oratory abilities. I would also add that it alters the receptive skills of the audience. The art of rhetoric brings breadth and depth to any communication; both giving and receiving. I went on to do further reading to increase my own understanding of rhetoric at the following website:

https://www.aresearchguide.com/rhetorical-situation.html

I am deeply interested in this idea of crafting an argument and what it means in the everyday act of communication in writing and as a human being. These are some of the things I learned about the importance of rhetoric: including informal reasoning powers as well as appealing to the ethos and the pathos. Ethos is a Greek word meaning character that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation or ideology. Interestingly, it is also the word the Greeks use to refer to the influence and power that music holds over emotions, behaviors and even morals. I was reminded that Aristotle uses ethos in his concept of the three artistic proofs or modes of persuasion and have made a note to get back to this point in my own studies. The other words I gathered in this exploration of rhetoric were Pathos: A Greek word meaning a quality that evokes pity or sadness. Logos: A statement or argument used to convince or persuade an audience by employing reason or logic. A good argument should be rooted in all three of these places.

Coming from a political science background this exploration really appealed to me, and simultaneously it is shocking that I did not have a better grasp of the pedagogical principles involved. I couldn’t help but wonder how this lack of education in rhetoric impacts the receptive skills of “the audience.” In my limited grasp of rhetoric these days in politics, it seems that the “audience” is vulnerable to easy manipulation by politicians who play on the anticipated one-dimensional reaction from the audience rooted solely in emotion and lacking the roots of ethos, pathos and especially logos. I appreciated on P128 of Lauer’s essay, the mention of theorists arguing against what they felt was an excessive focus on individual inquiry. “Another nettling issue that continues to plague the field is the superficial or even missing the attention to audience or readers in teaching composition.” When the classroom is centered around composition only, the assumption is that the teacher is the only audience.

As an adult student, I long for a little bit of what Lauer refers to as “formalist pedagogy” and maintain the desire for spelling and grammar drills. I can’t help it. I am a product of my generation and cringe when I read incomplete sentences with spelling errors. I recognize the controversy around this topic and do not believe it is all there should be. The reading refers to this as “full-frontal teaching of grammar.” I agree with the idea that an individualized approach to teaching grammar is more effective. While I do not advocate the humiliation-based technique that was implemented in my own grade school curriculum, I do have a deep respect for form and structure as a foundation and hope that this does not get lost.

I look forward to investigating further many of the theorists and ideas that were touched upon, including Walter Ong, Kenneth Burke, Alan Purves, Rohman and Wlecke, Walker Gibson, Slevin, Crowley, and Freire.

I loved the message in Lauer’s summary and hold these thoughts  to be truth’s:
1)The Commitment to developing all levels of literacy, without exclusion.
2)The potential central role of literacy in empowering people to shape contemporary world culture.
3)Education is power and articulation is its vehicle. Helping students to develop their powers of inquiry and communication in order to enrich and re-envision their every day, civic, academic and workplace lives.

 

 

 

Vocabulary list from this reading:

Enthymeme: a rhetorical syllogism (a three-part deductive argument) used in oratorical practice. (Originally theorized by Aristotle) He described four different types of enthymemes.
Epistemology: The theory of knowledge, especially with regards to its methods. It is the investigation of what distinguished justified belief from opinion.
Heuristic: enabling a person to discover or learn something about themselves
Heteroglossia: the presence of two or more voices or expressed viewpoints in a text or other artistic work.
Kairos: the right or opportune moment for certain arguments
Semiotics: the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation
Semiotics and the communication triangle
Trivium: An introductory curriculum at a medieval university involving the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.