For your final consideration E501

This week in our Theories of Writing class, we are wrangling over the place of multi-modalities in classroom instruction and their current and future impact to Rhetoric and Composition. Professor Lamanna asked us to think on how we individually feel about the viability of the CO150 Freshman Composition class in the face of multiliteracies both inside and outside the classroom. Is CO150 a dying breed?

For me, it all comes down to communication. If the “hybridity and intertextuality”, which The New London Group speaks of, can truly blend “creativity and…culture-as-process” together and therefore design new modes of meaning, I am all in (19). Composition pedagogies will benefit, in my opinion, from the fusion of multimedia- text, sound, and visuals. This hybrid, newfound functionality freshens compositional goals-that of “articulating new ways” of getting the message across.

As long as the multimodal pedagogies still promote argument, critical analysis, and rhetorical principles, I say go for it. Because, even with all the bells and whistles, writing still has to make sense. The message still must be communicated effectively. If pictures and sounds are blocking the message, then the writer will need to make changes to be successful in communication. It’s pretty straightforward. Logically speaking, teaching digital design will only serve to better equip students for the future. Technologies build on each other, so the savvy student will be ahead of the game with a firm foundation. Being a deft and flexible writer in all modalities, especially knowing one’s way around interactive technology, is confidence building.

The confidence to approach an argument from many sides is smart. The goal to successfully communicate a message is the prime directive. No matter the newfangled wrappings, the clearness of the message will always make or break the delivery system.    Rhetorical principles will always stand the test of time. It’s like how the changes to the automobile changed the approach to auto maintenance. As automobile design advanced, the tools required to maintain the new vehicles changed to meet new standards. But any auto mechanic will tell you, no matter how fancy the car, they still need to learn the basic knowledge of auto repair.

Pamela Takayoshi and  Cynthia Selfe point out in “Thinking about Multimodality” that, “it is important to remain in step with the ways in which students, workers, and citizens are communicating” (3). Staying relevant is key. And for now, digital design is a popular mode of communication. Smart classrooms are in demand more and more as, hopefully, attention spans lengthen with the inclusion of interactive classroom material. Takayoshi and Selfe report that “[a]ural and video compositions reveal and articulate meanings students struggle to articulate with words; audio and visual compositions carry different meanings that words are not good at capturing” (3-4). So, if teachers  can lessen the struggle some students encounter with writing by implementing technologies…isn’t that worth trying new things? Aren’t the “long-lasting and useful lessons” teachers can provide with multimodal composition methods worth the extra time and training to incorporate them into classroom instruction?

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Rachel Carson~

If the world ever needed a Rachel Carson, it is now. Why do I say that? Because Rachel Carson witnessed environmental degradation in her lifetime and took action at great risk to herself, both professionally and personally.

Rachel Carson is my next Rhetorica Heroica!  

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist, ecologist, and nature writer. After 15 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Carson retired to devote more time to her writing.

What twists and turns in life took this little nature-loving girl from Pennsylvania to wage one of the nation’s fiercest battles? Carson endured harsh criticisms, not only for being a whistle-blower, but for daring to engage in the male-dominated world of the scientist in the 1950s and 60s. She was trained as a scientist, yes, but what really kept her on task were the ingrained values of Courage, Determination, and the firm grasp of Certainty!

Carson wrote stories from a very young age, first to acquaint readers with the wonder of the oceans and rivers, and then as a conscientious scholar when she wrote her magnum opus, Silent Spring (1962), which shook the nation with its strong environmental message.

The use of DDT, the savior of the agricultural science business, was killing everything in its path, all life, including humans. Her awakening came when she realized the waters near her home, once alive with chirps and squawks of birds, was now silent. She searched until she found the source of such silence. What she found traced back to chemicals in the air and water. Carson’s cry was “what kills the birds will kill us” and she was right. As a scientist she knew how to back up her claims-with empirical data.

Carson’s book warned humankind of the destructive path they were on in their use of pesticides and insecticides in agriculture, like DDT. DDT, (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), according to U.S. Geological Survey, is an “insecticide highly toxic to biota, including humans…a persistent biochemical which accumulates in the food chain.” Imagine airplanes circling your neighborhood and outlying countryside spraying DDT down in a fine mist, covering everything. Soon birds are quivering, shaking uncontrollably, then falling from the sky. People are eating local foods, drinking the water, and getting sick and dying from strange cancers. Think of a myriad of respiratory illnesses plaguing young and old….all the while chemical companies denying any connection of sufferings to their products.

And what about now? Almost 50 years since Carson wrote Silent Spring, the earth is ailing, in need of aid more than ever, inhabited by threatened species, including humans.  It seems incomprehensible to think we will survive at the current rate of annihilation and apathy regarding our planet  that has seized the earth’s human inhabitants. We humans have certainly had our harbingers, our oracles, our soothsayers, who have heralded, and warned us…and these warnings only cause a pause in the march of “progress.” Where is our Rachel Carson? Muzzled by government, lobbyists and big money?

Rachel Carson was one who tried to halt the destruction against all odds, in the face of ridicule and opposition. She risked humiliation from the highest levels of national government. She dared to play hard ball with the Big Boys, and she won. The chemical companies retreated after her ally, President John F. Kennedy, took notice, read Silent Spring, and launched a full-scale congressional investigation. Soon Carson was called to testify against the chemical companies.  All told, “the President’s Science Advisory Committee issued a report in 1963 largely backing Carson’s scientific claims. By 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established as a cabinet-level position and, in 1972, DDT use was banned…the publication of [Silent Spring] is credited as one of the most influential events in sparking the environmental movement” (see fws.gov below).

Below is an excerpt from Silent Spring, Chapter 12, “The Human Price”:

As the tide of chemicals born of the Industrial Age has arisen to engulf our environment, a drastic change has come about in nature of the most serious public health problems. Only yesterday mankind lived in fear of the scourges of smallpox, cholera, and plague that once swept  nations before them. Now our major concern is no longer with the disease organisms that once were omnipresent…Today we are concerned with a different kind of hazard that lurks in our environment–a hazard we ourselves have  introduced into our world as our modern way of life has evolved. (187)

In tragic irony, while Rachel Carson was battling for the environment’s health, her own health was in decline as she fought the losing battle with cancer (no implication of DDT poisoning), succumbing in 1964, less than a year after the congressional hearings. Rachel Carson, true Rhetorica Heroica, in the face of her own mortality, fought for change through her writings.

For more detailed information on this courageous woman rhetor, please access the following links:

Rachel Carson: rachelcarson.org

Information on DDT: http://toxics.usgs.gov/definitions/ddt.html

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:  http://www.fws.gov/northeast/rachelcarson/carsonbio.html

~E501 Post~ Andrea Lunsford on Gloria Anzaldúa- ¡La Libertad!

In my Intercultural Communications class we talk about social identities and the tentative negotiations of those identities within cultures and languages. In these class conversations we focus on awareness of the cultural “rich points,” moments of confusion or conflict between cultures. These rich points are when culture is happening. By identifying similarities and respecting differences, cultures can map out ways to communicate effectively. In Andrea Lunsford’s article, “Toward a Mestiza Rhetoric: Gloria Anzaldúa on Composition and Postcoloniality” on the life of the chicana, feminist writer, I recognized the twists and turns experienced by Anzaldúa as she navigated her multicultural identities within an often antagonistic society.

Lunsford lauds Anzaldúa’s “personal triumph over the ‘tradition of silence’’ and how she found places to wrestle and negotiate beyond commonplace identity “cubbyholes” (2).Anzaldúa likens these navigations to the fluidity of “identity [as it] flows between, over, aspects of a person. Identity is a river, a process” (2). She speaks of herself as “a new mestiza,” a woman of Spanish and American Indian blood,  who has learned to inhabit her own reality, and wishes to teach others how to “read” her and others who don’t fit ascribed cultural roles.

Anzaldúa vigorously advocates a change in teaching strategy:

We need teorias…that will enable us to interpret what happens in the world, that will explain how and why we relate to certain people in specific ways, that will reflect what goes on between inner, outer, and peripheral ‘I’s within a person and between the personal ‘I’s and collective ‘we’ of our ethnic communities. Necesitamos teorias that…cross borders, that blur boundaries-new kinds of theories with theorizing methods. (Lunsford 4)

What kinds of methods can be created to “blur boundaries” in such a diverse community as the student body? How may teachers of composition use Anzaldúa’s experience to help their students broach issues of, race, gender, notions of body, and engage in open and respectful class discussions? One way is by students recognizing their own multi-layered identities of gender, race, ethnicity, familial roles, and how these effect their daily lives. Even the identity of ‘student’ should be examined. By this frank self-analysis, students can see the complexities and slipperiness of who they are in the community, in their family, among those they hide from and those they reveal themselves to– and why. Written reflections might give pause as students struggle to identify themselves and then give testimony without hesitation. By this exercise, they will see how complex others’ lives are as well, and by looking towards others with empathy, they can yield place for all voices.

Anzaldúa assures Lunsford her goal for her mestiza rhetoric is “a liberatory goal…to create possibilities for people, to look at things in a different way so they can act…in a different way. It’s like a freeing up, an emancipating” (6). I ask myself-Am I up for such a lofty goal to attempt to liberate students of writing to see others, to see themselves, in such new and critical ways?