Tagged: week 2

2: What Can Be Taught?

First, this week’s readings did not “come to me” as easily as last week’s did. I’m not sure if it was because each of the readings dealt so heavily with rhetoric—a topic I still feel unfamiliar with, or at least not confident in my understanding of—or if I was unable to connect with or become interested in the topics as much.

I can’t quite grasp what I thought of Rude. I thought she had some interesting points or insight, but I struggled to draw any conclusions or make the connections between her arguments and my real-world life as a writer/editor or our discussions last week of what technical writing is (or technical writers are). Some of her thoughts that caught my attention (and sometimes seemed obvious) were: “writing, thinking, and social impact are closely linked” (71), “one must consider both sides of an issue in order to draw a reasonable conclusion,” (75), “creative problem solving often requires pushing beyond the limits of the known and familiar” (80), “practical decision making requires an expansion of the questioning process rather than the winnowing that leads to a hypothesis” (81), and “real-world writing does not necessarily conform to rigid genre boundaries…learning the genres of reports and proposals is one of the ways students learn strategies for solving particular kinds of problems” (83). Ultimately, however, I am unfamiliar with reports and proposals and could only glean new information from Rude’s article, with very little input in response. The one thought I did have was actually in response to her discussion on page 87 about the consideration of impacts of decisions. Some decisions, she said, are made “because a person with power favors a particular course of action,” and I couldn’t help but think of my boss at the publishing company I work for who seems to make rash and quick decisions based little on her staff and how the decision “will help prevent the creation of new problems in solving existing problems” and largely on how the decision will impact her.

Finally, I’m interested in what seemed like a sort of binary set up between Smith and Kent. Smith says: “Because it is conscious and strategic, rather than purely intuitive and inspirational, rhetoric is an art that can be taught and learned, and demands skill with language and close observation of one’s social context” (115). Then, Kent says, “Although specially designed composition and literature courses can sharpen and expand a student’s writing and reading know-how, no course can teach the acts of either writing or reading” (37). I was intrigued by these dichotomous positions because I’m still not sure I understand rhetoric enough to draw an opinion one way or the other whether it’s teachable or not, but I believe writing and reading are skills that can, at least, be taught to an extent, though some people are naturally better writers or readers than others. I, like Christina, noticed Kent’s style of writing and found it remarkably repetitive and at first was distracted by the repetition, then, by the end, felt his style of writing perfectly drove home his argument. Though I feel I followed Kent’s argument as he so carefully laid it out, I feel I have to disagree—I think writing and reading are teachable. And I have to agree that a student’s know-how and their writing and reading practices help them “develop important background skills” (38). I look forward to weeding through Kent’s essay and hope our class discussion will help me draw the lines between this week’s readings and our conversations last week about the workplace and what technical writing and writers are.

Kent, Thomas. “Paralogic Hermeneutics and the Possibilities of Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review 8.1 (1989): 24-42. JSTOR. Web. 27 Aug. 2012.

Rude, Carolyn. “The Report for Decision Making: Genre and Inquiry.” Central Works in Technical Communication. Eds. Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart A. Selber. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 70-90. Print.

Smith, Tania. “What Connection Does Rhetorical Theory Have to Technical and Professional Communication?” Readings for Technical Communication. Ed. Jennifer MacLennan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 114-121. Print.