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The three most important things I have learned so far from designing a
syllabus and teaching the Classical
Rhetoric course online at the graduate level are:
- Teachers can use the making of our tacit assumptions about core classical concepts, itself, as an example of knowledge-making that is essentially what classical rhetors were doing.
- Teachers can highlight that classical
rhetoric is central to who we are as teachers and citizens today. It is
our home. It is our base.
- Teachers should work to placeshift ideas to the commonplaces rooted in the lives of students.
These approaches are in line with ancient premises about composing that
Crowley and Hawhee (2004) adopt in Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary
Students: that thinking is rooted in the culture we live in, that disagreement
can be productive, and that we compose to effect change. To avoid the "rising
tide of mediocrity" in our classrooms, we must facilitate self-directed
learning rather than simple mind-stuffing. We must remove barriers to collaboration
so that the content discussed in our courses can be applied in real ways.
Our scholarship--all of it--should return to the central questions about learning
and knowledge and application of the ancients; what are our students learning,
and why should they be learning more (Bok, 2005)?
I found using new media technologies useful to represent the oral and written
communication modes prevelant in the rhetoric we studied. I have not analyzed
the work my students submitted in this article. Analysis is more important
in the classroom. What is important here is that readers review them
and consider how they can be used to affect change in their own contexts.
Classical rhetors were politicians, lawyers, teachers, and statesmen. Their
work was meant to effect change. Multimodal projects can be readily re-tooled
to effect change. Our students are situated thinkers in their own contexts.
A core concept from Aristotle's Poetics, muthos, refers to
the way incidents in a play are structured. Many scholars mistake muthos
as plot alone. Instead, it is "material arranged to make a coherent and
convincing artistic statement" (McLeish, 1999, p.37). It is more than plot.
It includes the editing of events and the arrangement of material to draw
out ideas (McLeish). For Aristotle, to unify action was simple logic; the
author selected and presented material that embodied the particular take
on a subject, and the more logic the more unity. The sign of a good
writer is that every material included seems essential. Poor writers select
and present work in seemingly arbitrary ways.
The same can be said of teachers authoring courses. But what holds a course together for students today is how well the content synchronizes with students' own concerns and ways of writing their worlds. What holds a course together is a unity of place, such as the idea of place presented by Castelvetro. Instead of place being a location, however, teachers should think of place as something different. Place should be dynamic and ever-changing. It does not always have to be a pythagorian algorithm that shows us how to find for X. But it should encourage us to make positive change in the world if, indeed, like xXx, we like it.
The answers can be more simple: they rest in application.
What holds a course together and makes it good is not ultimately the latest software and hardware.
What holds it together is flexible muthos and kairos with common new media types.
Good courses pay close attention to stasis and place and space.
Situation is everything.
Bring in the personal.