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The Study Of Rhetoric Essay

1040 words - 4 pages

The Study of Rhetoric
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"The study of rhetoric traditionally has aimed to equip students with an ability to identify problems and issues, to investigate, to interpret, and to communicate results -- whatever the subject matter. These abilities require higher-level thinking, not just skills; analysis and evaluation, not just observation . . . . The study emphasizes strategies and practice rather than a body of facts and contemplation; thus the study of rhetoric aims for social application. Students are studying rhetoric in a technical communication course even though they may never hear of Aristotle nor study history and theory of rhetoric. Identifying a problem, gathering, interpreting, and arranging information, choosing an appropriate style, and making recommendations, as students learn to do in preparing recommendation reports, proposals, and manuals, are rhetorical acts. In its best tradition, rhetoric insists upon responsible and ethical practice. This is the tradition in which we educate students."

What one might see this as is an attempt to justify a mix between a prescriptive approach to rhetorical application (taught to students) and an adaptive approach. Rude suggests that strategies (adaptive/heuristic) and practice (prescriptive) should be integrated so that students are prepared to make "responsible and ethical" decisions when the time comes to apply this stuff we have learned. Carolyn Rude's approach to education is one that I see Pirsig and Johnson both approving of, but there are differences in strategies towards the education as well as the demonstration of the know vs. know-how of the technical communications education. I will attempt to tackle this paradigm in two parts: Pirsig's point of view and Johnson's.

Part I:
"Quality is a characteristic of thought and statement that is recognized by a nonthinking process. Because definitions are a product of rigid, formal thinking, quality cannot be defined."
(ZMM -- Pirsig 206)

Pirsig, a theorist as well as a rhetorician would see the approach as the right idea. Students should be faced with challenges that require demonstration of understanding as well as some demonstration of quality. I know that stating Pirsig feels students need to demonstrate some effort towards quality is reaching, but I think that is what he is truly looking for students (his in particular) to be able to understand and demonstrate. I feel that this is what you are trying to establish with us as students in your class as well.

Flaws are found in this methodology of education, Pirsig sees that students need to be taught Quality but, "…how are you to teach something that isn't premeditated? It was a seemingly impossible requirement." (Pirsig 176) Struggling with this concept leads one to believe that students must develop a sense of Quality based on what they feel. There is no prescriptive method to teach students to produce Quality. Pirsig's major problem with...

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