This week’s readings point out the interesting tention between discovery and creation of truth. While thinking about rhetoric and its epistemic nature, I’ve been also thinking about truth in the composition classroom. I’m particularly interested in whether truth is created or discovered in my classroom. Yet, this question doesn’t seem as easily answered as I’d like it to be. I’d like to say that my students create their own truths, rather than discover those predetermine truths they assume are out there (or worse, that I hold the key to). At the very least, I’d like to think they leave my class with an awareness that other create truths and they should question those truths. Again, this gets tricky, because, as, Brummett suggests that a mistake to assume everyone is using the same meaning of “rhetoric is epistemic” (1). He identifies three meanings: methodological (truth discovered), sociological (truth discovered and created), and ontological (truth created). My students my have other classes (like, biology or chemistry) where the meaning is methodological. If that is the case, how do they transition back and forth between classes where these meanings are different? How can I help them do this? Better yet, how do I make them aware that others are creating truth for them (i.e. news programs, social media, etc.)? For example, Scott notes, “Thus rhetoric may be viewed not as a matter of giving effectiveness to truth, but of creating truth” (13). The rhetoric surrounding the Ebola outbreak is not simply revealing truth to people, but creating it for them in some cases.
One of my students asked last week if we could spend a day talking about Ebola, because she was “very worried about getting it” and “didn’t know much about it.” What she did know was that there were now cases in America (though, she didn’t know how those people contracted the disease or who they were) and that people were talking about the dangers of it. In this case, she was letting other people create her truth that this disease was a serious threat to her health. I told her that, unfortunately, I couldn’t spend a class period on it, but if she wanted to do some scholarly research on Ebola and present it to the class, I’d give her extra credit. She seemed interested, but at least she could go research and re-evaluate her truth. Is that discovery, creation, or both? Will she discover that her truth was wrong and create a new one?