I’m starting to think the first-year writing course might be the most important class in the world, or, rather, to the world, at this cultural moment.
It’s been a year of abysmal and broken public discourse. Add a pandemic, social injustice, increasingly shrill and reductive social media discourse, partisanship, the hijacking of minds and attention spans by technology, the endless stream of voices seducing us into lives of self-absorbed consumerism, language decay that leaves students increasingly unable to articulate their views and experiences, and I think “freshman” rhetoric deserves serious consideration for this outrageous award. It seems more urgent than ever to protect and nurture students’ abilities to think, discuss, debate, speak truth, hear truth, and disagree well. I think we are being called by our world, our culture, and our students to reimagine and redesign the nature and experience of first-year writing.
The ability to recognize, analyze, formulate, and articulate a persuasive argument supported by good evidence is the heart of an academic. For millennia rhetoric has been thought vital to democratic politics, civic engagement, and education.
But we need more. We need to help first-year students come to see and experience conversation and argumentation as a calling.Continue reading