Re: Re[8]: Reassessing our practices

Bob King (kingbx@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Thu, 15 Feb 1996 13:17:30 -0500

On Thu, 15 Feb 1996, Michael Hamende wrote:

> Now for the classroom. I am quite intrigued with the idea of giving up
> the monological essay for a "real" on-line dialogue in a comp classroom.
> Just think of the implications for "distance learning", which is a real
> topic right now. You could have a comp class with students all over the
> world in a system like this!! Just think of the polyvocality of that!!!!
> What a concept!
> This seems connected to the gentleman in SD who has been asked to develop
> distance comp class.
> This also seems a way to move from the monologic essay and toward real
> rhetorical practice and dialogue. Maybe this is the answer to "what do
> replace the essay with?" However, I wonder how this will be received by
> those other departments who already suspect us of not really teaching
> students to write?
> Comments? Thoughts? I'd be interested in hearing from the gentleman who
> said yesterday that he had given up the traditional essay for an on-line
> dialogue. I assume you or the class pose questions or present topics and
> have the class "go at it?"

Bob King writes:


I'm glad there is now some common ground for discussing conversational
writing and related matters (distance learning, etc.). I think it is
pretty much the case that *one* answer to the question "what to replace
the essay with?" is right in front of us as we do the listserv thing!

Re: the question what to do about other academic depts thinking that comp
teachers now *really* won't be teaching students to write is an
interesting one. I teach in a Cultural Studies program, so the
issue does not arise for me in the kinds of immediate ways it does for
comp teachers, but I would offer this as an observation/opinion: I think
this is a case where rhet/comp instructors could assert their expertise
institutionally. If people in rhet/comp try conversational sorts of writing
and end up feeling that it serves their purposes better than monological
sorts, then you could potentially liberate whole droves of professors in
other depts from the well known "joy" they take in reading their
students' monological essays!

I find it ironic really that the academy in many ways serves the essay
rather than the other way round. Give people a reason to openly
acknowledge that they don't like essays all that much, either to read or
write, and who knows what you might find. Maybe pretty soon it will be
obvious to everyone that Emperor Essay has no clothes. I know there are
institutional resistances to all of this though, so I'm not saying it
would be easy. It's just that writing is after all the expert purvue of
English rhet/comp, so the university community might could be shamed into
listening to you folks!

In my own teaching w/o essays, yes it's pretty much as you described.
The conversation is at the center and I as the teacher try to keep the
conversational fires going by adding fuel (readings and films and etc.).
Everything gets covered, and often a good time is had by all! I've
gotten very interested in the interplay of f2f and electronic
conversation, since the courses I teach are discussion format. I'm
interested in hearing about the dymanics and problematics of distance
learning, where there is no f2f dimension.

Bob King