Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Developing the Citizen


When I started reading the introduction to Roberts-Miller's Deliberate Conflict, I was brought back to an interview that Kelsie and I conducted a few weeks ago with our 103 mentor. A quick background, in our 601 course we have been working on creating Dynamic Criteria Maps for our mentors. What that means is that we have been collecting data based on their syllabi, assignment sheets, feedback on student papers, and an interview to determine what their belief and values are concerning teaching composition. During our interview Kelsie had asked a question about how our mentor viewed the values of the Writing Program. In her answer our mentor began to delve into the value of teaching argument. More specifically she said, "I think you have to be able to do that [be able to develop an argument] as…to be a citizen, to be an employee, to be a parent, to be anything. So I think argument, the essence of argument, all things are argument is critical. I think it’s very valuable to any student." It struck me that some of the very things that Roberts-Miler was discussing, the debate on teaching argument and teaching students to be citizens, was one of the values that my mentor had just recently discussed herself. In her introduction Robers-Miller even talks about how students and some instructors "do not see college in of for citizenship." While I may not agree with all of the points that she was making I do think that she is right in this aspect. Students don't go to school to learn anymore. College is a stepping stone, something to get through on the way to somewhere better. The problem is that in combining that with Habermas's discussion on a switch from culture-debating to culture-consuming, our future generations, and current generations, are not taught how develop themselves as effective citizens and don't seem to care. Habermas makes the point that "news media deprives the public of the opportunity to say something and to disagree." His discussion on the fall of the literary sphere shows the timeline of the public (in his case the bourgeois class) losing its want and ability to be an active and influential citizen. As we've moved further and further into the consumer culture our ideas of discussion and debate have waned and become very negative. We've kind of become this society of observers that would prefer a more hands off approach to citizenship. I definitely agreed with my mentor when she said, "…it’s a little discouraging when students say I’m in college so I can get a better job. Yes, that’s true, but be in college so you can learn things and be a more interesting person."  

1 comment:

  1. I thought this was interesting, too, Sara, when I read the Roberts-Miller piece. It was kind of curious timing that our mentor would comment around the time we were reading about the purpose of FYC.

    I definitely see Roberts-Miller's point about the dissonance between ideas about how argument functions in a democratic society and how (and if) argumentation fits in the composition classroom.

    I've been thinking about this in conjunction with my own (ever developing) teaching philosophy and the ENG 104 courses I'll be teaching in the spring. After we read bell hook's chapter on content vs. writing, I started thinking about how I may be pushing "an agenda" on students by imposing a theme for the course. Of course, as Roberts-Miller says, the way I conduct and design my class is largely dependent on how I see argument function in society. And I fall into the category of teachers who believe in the "utopian" sense of a rational and objective function of argument, where the dichotomy between irrational and rational exists.

    I'm interested to know if this discussion is a part of the practicum courses in other universities. This seems like a huge contributor to the success/coherence of a composition
    program. Would it benefit us to create open discussions about how we view democracy and public discourse?

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