Kairos 13.2: Praxis - Productive Mess: Results

Results: Limitations

Limitation: Complexity Made Simple

While we feel that the project was successful in introducing students to complex, dynamic modes of argumentation, we do not mean to imply that all students necessarily became sophisticated rhetors. Often students lacked the requisite language to completely articulate the nuances they were encountering, nor did they always resist the kind of rigid binary thinking that our complex approach hoped to eschew. Even when they understood that issues such as the purpose of education are highly rhetorical and agonistic issues, they often sought quite non-rhetorical responses to these issues.

A particularly apt example of this desire might be the poll posted by RD during the last week of our online collaboration. The week focused on debates concerning free speech in the classroom. RD, in addition to his requisite work that week, posted a quick question.

Please think about your stance on academic freedom in the classroom. Decide whether you strongly oppose free speech in the classroom, strongly support free speech in the classroom, or are apathetic either way. Post your answer here!

All you need to put is either:

A.) I strongly oppose free speech
B.) I strong support free speech
C.) I am apathetic either way

I will tally the results at the end of the week and post them during the weekend. The results might help us write our letters!


Though we were excited to find writers such as RD going beyond course requirements, we were disappointed to see this issue reduced to a simple binary that interpreted any middle position as a lack of caring. Walker Percy (1999) writes that "Students are a shaky dogmatic lot. [...] At heart they are totalitarians: they want either total dogmatic freedom or total dogmatic unfreedom, and the one thing that makes them unhappy is something in between."

But so many of the voters chose "C" or resisted giving a straight answer that we interpret their indecision as a kind of implicit resistance to the simplicity of the question. Thus, we felt that the question and responses testify to the ways in which dynamic, digital exchanges introduce students to the complexities of academic argument.