Leaving aside the question of who's most litigious, what Rick says
strikes me as not only attractive, but right (by that I mean I _want_
it to be true, but I'm suspicious . . . and in spite of that
suspicion it still seems right):
> What I see is a tendency for rhetorical study to be narrowed to
> stylistics (language as distinguished from thought) in less
> democratic contexts, i.e., to matters of "clarity" and decoration.
> In the 19th century, if I remember correctly, some literacy
> scholars argue, the differences between Canada and the USA in
> literacy education parallel differences in levels of democracy and
> industrialization, including the greater advantage to be gained in
> the US by presenting written arguments effectively.
What I particularly like there is the distinction between the
_effect_ of a piece of discourse and the _estimation_ of it. I think
there's a strong connection here with my distinction between writing
and Writing (writing _works_; Writing is _approved of_). And this
connects to classroom contexts. If the piece of writing exists only
to have an effect, the writer's only feedback is whether the writing
effected the change she was looking for. That depends on a
situation where writing -- arguing, speaking effectively -- _can_
have an effect. In situations where it can't (or, being paranoid, in
situations where someone wants to make sure it can't), writing is
_judged_ to be good or not. It's evaluated: is it Writing, or just
writing? And when that's the response it gets, that's what it _is_;
in other words, the best way to render writing ineffective is to
treat it as Writing.
So, it's a wonderful circle: if the context is less democratic,
writing has less effect, and it's more likely to be estimated on a
stylistic standard; at the same time, if you estimate writing by a
stylistic standard, you exert a strong pressure to render the
situation less democratic. So . . . if I were worried about the
consequences of Rick's posting, the most effective way to defang it
would be to compliment him on his style. Or attack him for it.
Which leads me to a conclusion I'm a little worried about
enunciating: grading destroys democracy.
Um . . . I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm kidding.
Russell A. Hunt __|~_)_ __)_|~_ Aquinas Chair
St. Thomas University )_ __)_|_)__ __) PHONE: (506) 452-0424
Fredericton, New Brunswick | )____) | FAX: (506) 450-9615
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