Many proponents of teaching rhetorical forms argue that form is heuristic: that the preset forms of a culture are important storehouses of certain ways of knowing (Coe).
Bartholomae argues that we should teach these forms as a way of welcoming students into the knowledge-world of the academy. These forms can be absorbed unconsciously (Freedman), but Bazerman argues that it is important to learn consciously the discourse forms in which one's discourse swims. Learning to be conscious of those forms and how they shape thought is not just learning to function with those forms. It is learning not to be enslaved by them:
Explicit teaching of discourse holds what is taught up for inspection. It provides the students with means to rethink the ends of the discourse and offers a wide array of means to carry the discourse in new directions.
("Powerful Words" 64-65)
If hypertext does become a major medium for scholarly, argumentative, discursive, or philosophical rhetoric, we will therefore need to engage in rhetorical analysis of its rhetorical forms (assuming that it develops stable forms). Our problem, of course, is that we do not yet have a very clear idea of what rhetorical forms hypertext may take, or even whether it will catch on as a medium for argumentative rhetoric at all.
While we're waiting, we may need a much looser pedagogy. If we are not to abrogate our role as teachers completely, we need to find flexible tools that can involve students in the incompletely- understood environment that is (or maybe isn't) growing up around them.
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