Posts

Blogbook -- Language Engagements in Communities

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Entry 42 Too often in our lives, we don’t encounter arguments in the meaningful and ethical ways that schools, colleges, and academic disciplines often understand or assume them to be, nor do we encounter finding common ground, forming agreement, or making ethical decisions collaboratively. We don’t usually find people engaging in any of the habits I listed at the end of the last blogbook post 41 . What we get are unproductive shouting matches on CNN or Fox News, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or Facebook. People often just shout their claims at each other with little interest in engaging with anyone else’s evidence or reasoning, little interest in protecting those with whom they are engaging, and little interest in investigating their own biases or the ways their words do harm in the world.  Let me give you a simple example of what I mean. About 2 or 3 times a year, I get hate emails and tweets directed at me. Usually, they come after right-wing or conservative news media have posted a

Blogbook -- Decolonizing Our Languaging

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Entry 41  I’ve spent the last blogbook post ( post 40 ) making a case against argument (sort of), but I also agree that much college writing does ask for argument and not persuasion in the way that the CCSS, and most other writing standards and outcomes such as the WPA OS , articulate it. There is a lot to be gained by understanding and learning about argument and its textual focus on evidence, linear logics, and arrangement. The impulse to cite sources and start by offering what others have said before you in a discussion practices a kind of honoring and respect to others that is important and helpful in most decisions and exchanges. Citing and acknowledging the words of others can be an act of humility, but it can also be peacocking, off-putting, and disingenuous. College courses and professors often – usually – ask for logocentric writing, writing focused on the individual writer staking their claim in the “they say/I say” format, and college writing tends to favor a stance of “neut

Blogbook -- The Politics of Whiteness in the Logics of Outcomes

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Entry 40 In my last post ( post 39 ), I discussed the ways white male authors and their historically cultivated habits of language deeply inform the CCSS and its appendix essay , which explains the focus on “argument” over “persuasion” when teaching language and writing to high school students in the U.S.  But I was just getting started in explaining the problems with the appendix essay and the focus on argument. There’s more. I’ll continue in this post. The reason I go into such detail about the appendix’s discussion is that it is indicative of most logics in all course or programmatic outcomes, in both secondary and postsecondary contexts, and it’s good to know what we must orient ourselves against and why if we wish to be antiracist.  The appendix’s discussion of “writing” explains three kinds of writing students should learn: “argument,” “informational/explanatory writing,” and “narrative.” However, half or more of this larger section in the appendix on writing focuses on writing a

Blogbook -- Only White Men

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Entry 39 Let’s look deeper into the CCSS’ appendix to understand the fullness of the problem of whiteness, which is a bigger problem in the academy than just the CCSS. This problem comes from the historical and material conditions we live in. The anonymous authors of the appendix draw on only white male university professors and writing researchers to make their point about the outcomes of writing classrooms being mostly logocentric and “argument” based. They reference Gerald Graff, Neil Postman, Joseph M. Williams, and Lawrence McEnerney. They quote Williams and McEnerney of the University of Chicago Writing Program, and explain that the authors “define argument not as ‘wrangling’ but as ‘a serious and focused conversation among people who are intensely interested in getting to the bottom of things cooperatively’” ( note 264 ).  This ain’t a bad way to think about arguments, for sure. I like the focus on “getting to the bottom of things” through cooperation. But it isn’t the only way