Monday, October 24, 2005

Thoughts from class today

I'm playing devil's advocate here. Today in my rhetoric of emotions class we discussed our final paper that we have to write. I'm totally on board with it and ready to write, but something about the conversation made me question it. This is a class on Rhetoric of Emotion, Affect, and Motives. The final paper is an argumentative or persuasive paper. Donna showed us an abstract that she had written--which was awesome. She's been the first professor I've had to really talk about what to do. The proposal was excellent, slightly formal, although she used the first person. After reading the abstract, I wanted to read more. But the point is that isn't an argumentative or persuasive paper directly from the institutional and patriarchal handbook? We're using the framework condoned and supported by the institution--we're not hacking at all. The class is about rhetoric, emotion, affect, and motive and we will write in the cool, rational logic of argumentation.

Is there emotion in rhetorical modes? Don't you have to write differently when we are aware of emotion and affect? Our understandings of academic writing are socially constructed, so until we write an argumentative paper we will not have learned anything.

Today Maggie mentioned the fact that students feel shame in school. And I just wanted to say that is true for teachers as well. Pedagogical change or just changes in thinking for students can feel very threatening. I recently heard a teacher say she didn't want to try to have students write and read more (by choosing their own books) because they'll cheat, and anyway "I like the way my classroom is. It works for me." I guess the reason I mentioned this is that her reply was filled with anger. I'm wondering if her intellect is threatened. For her, it is more important to have kids one the same page, keeping on the same topic. I believe it is easier to control emotions when everyone is reading the same thing (and I think that many teachers feel like emotions are universal, so students will be thinking the same ideas about the novel. How many teachers ask the students to discover the "themes" of the novel for themselves?)

Is pedagogy arbitrary? Really? It's highly influenced by motives and control. Russell brought up Bertrand Russell's school. It didn't seem to work too well. If you want to have a class run itself, it's important that students listen to each other. Is it controlling if I explain to them different ways that they can listen and then respond? I don't think so. Okay, I'm rambling now.

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