Re: Re[8]: Reassessing our practices

Bob King (kingbx@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Sat, 17 Feb 1996 11:12:12 -0500

Bob King wrote:

> > When "the essay" is used to structure our educational practices I'm
> > not in favor of it. That's just my vote. "A monologue" within a
> > dialogical format/structure? Sure, I'd not vote to remove that option.
> > What about you?

Greg Ritter then wrote:

> I understand and I agree that the monologic essay as the main method of
> evaluation places limits on the students & emphasizes heirarchical power,
> that shifting emphasis to dialogic forms of discourse can short-circuit that
> heirarchical power, but it seems to me that a better solution than
> "replacement" is understanding how these modes of discourse can work together
> to provide options that neither alone could.

Bob King then responded:

I'd like to continue talking specifically about *how* these modes of
discourse can work together in practice. I was writing last time
that in my practice I have put dialogue "in the place of" monologue as
an organizing principle and this has allowed both monologue and dialogue
to be valorized and valued as activities. But notice I *have* made a
decision here. I am not trying to do some of everything, nor am I
trying to say that "doing some of everything" would somehow *not*
constitute a decision -- a decision which would, necessarily, reflect a
worldview. There is a default position, in other words, that we need to
own up to in several ways, and it's subtle. For example if we opt to "mix
in a little dialogical writing activity" to our monological format, then
we've subtly made a decision to default to status quo, more or less.

In my own field of cultural studies there is a parallel here in thinking
(wrongly, IMO) that multiculturalism means that we now study other cultures
during specifically designated lessons, rather than trying to appreciate
and enact the fact that the "other" culture we're studying might not even
recognize the word "study!" So even an amelioritive position such
as "let's just include everything" involves basic decisions which are
informed by values and assumptions which get reflected unerringly (IMO)
in one's practices. So I think we need, I need anyway, to follow
our inquiry into practices beyond points of too-easy agreement on a
simple priciple of inclusivity.

A few words about the conumdrum or paradox of either/or since that seems
to be a subtext in our discussion here. I alluded to a position in my
last post which I'll try to be more explicit about here -- in a kind of
"mini monologue" within our dialogical format (a format which, BTW, I'm
enjoying while I *should* be working on an essay! -- gee, I wonder what
that means:)

To *really* avoid the either/or, one must also avoid the either/or of
"either/or" or "both/and." In other words one must become "both either/or
and both/and." And then one needs to avoid the either/or of "both
either/or and both/and" or "that which eludes both the either/or and
both/and." And so on. I think Will Rogers could do better with this,
but you get the picture I imagine. It's sort of like old Zeno traversing
the stadium -- in theory he's still "traversing" as we speak, dividing
the remaining distance in half and going the next halfway there, but unless
you construct a pretty elaborate scenario (which would be allright with
me if you did BTW) he's bumped into something by now, in a practical sense.
This is what makes me nervous about amelioritive prescriptions -- ones
which steadfastly avoid the either/or in fear of a slippery-slope error.
They end up perpetually going halfway to nowhere (which is pretty much the
history of educational reform, IMO).

Conclusion to mini-monologue: (again wishing Will Rogers were here) it
seems to me we just need to say what we think is best and then talk to
each other rather than trying to avoid the idea that we have an idea
about what is best. I don't think taking initial positions fixes us,
paradoxically, as sticks in the mud on a slippery slope.

Bob King