Re: Pissing Contests

Michael Hamende (HamendeM@CTS.DB.ERAU.EDU)
Mon, 12 Feb 1996 10:04:34 EST

Dear Greg, Tricia, List,

I guess I have opened a can of worms. That's what I get for going
home an hour early on Friday. While to do not fathom myself a "troll"
it seems I stimulated some discussion.

I also must say I really enjoy these discussions regarding the comp
classroom, as well as these side roads we go down.

With respect to metaphors, I offer that there is a significant
difference between my use of "intellectual urinating contest" and a
literal one. It seems Tricia and others interpreted me in that
literal way. Not my intent at all. [We can never predict the results
of our rhetoric. :-)] I suggest that there is just as much difference
between an "intellectual urinating contest" and a literal one, as
there is between an "intellectual orgasm" and a sexual one. And be
sure there was NO sexist intent on my part, simply a use of words that
might get your attention. That strategy seems to have worked.

I am glad Greg clarified his position that it is NOT his expectation
that essays be used to prove comprehension. Although they can be used
for that purpose - it should not be their only use.

Again there is a big difference between providing students with a
worthy opponent who can, if she is skillful, help them to develop
their academic argument skills and someone who just wants to "piss
against them." Clearly, arguing with a student to simply prove you
are "right" is silly. Arguing with them for the purpose of helping
them understand what they think, why they think it, and [most
importantly] to enhance their ability to articulate that thinking
(whatever that might be) is our primary job.

Pissing with them to massage your own ego says a lot about the
weakness of the person who would do this kind of thing. I would never
suggest this is appropriate.

I agree with much of what Greg says about how the essay is abused in
other parts of the academy. I would also offer that critical thinking
skills do not serve students well out on the block either.

That seems to me to be a fundamental problem with our society as it
moves from an industrial based one to whatever its going to be(?).
Most American businesses and government agencies still don't know what
to do with someone who is bright, articulate, visionary, and skillful
at the use of the "essay" (and all that entails). They still want
people who will sit down, shut up, and do as they are told. And this
is what many of our schools turn out. K-12 and Higher Ed.

I guess the question becomes: How can we influence our colleagues in
other parts of our institutions who would abuse the essay as Greg
suggests, as well as influence the world at large to value those
skillful practitioners of the essay form and all it entails (critical
thinking in total)? It seems to me that we really are discussing how
people think and not simply a genre of writing.

Mike Hamende