Re: Re[8]: Reassessing our practices

Greg Ritter (gritter@FELIX.VCU.EDU)
Fri, 16 Feb 1996 12:12:11 EST

Bob said:

> I'm interested in hearing why the essay *shouldn't* be replaced
as the
> center of educational practice.

Kind of like asking "Have you stopped beating your wife?" If you
answer it, you're admitting a Bad Thing. In this case the Bad
Thing is that the monologic essay should be the center of
educational practice.

However, I think you're asking the wrong question, or, at least,
asking it in the wrong way. There are a couple of implications to
the question, Bob, and it's those implications that I disagree

First, the question assumes that there is and should be one
"center of educational practice." Second, it assumes that
removing the current "center" and "replacing" it with another
"center" is the solution to the problems of the current center.
Finally, the assumption that such a "replacement" can occur
assumes a lot more mutual exclusiveness between monologic and
dialogic forms than I think exists. In other words, the question itself reflects
an 'either/or' approach to the solution.

It strikes me that you've been defining the forms and the solution in a very
limited way. Up until the paragraph below, it seems as if you had been
presenting the "reassessment" as a choice that had to be made between two
contradictory forms. Below I see you moving toward an idea that I think is more
productive--an examination of the forms, an examination of the contexts in
which they are used, and an examination of how the forms can work together.

> As Brent mentioned I think, there are
> plenty of opportunities "to monologue" within a dialogical format, so
> there's your both/and. Dialogueing within a monological format seems
> more problematic to me. For example, the computer screen I am now
> looking at allows me to monologue-in-dialogue quite easily. There's your
> both/and again. On the other hand If I turn around and try to dialogue
> within the monological format of my television screen I'm likely to be
> frustrated. *Less* of a both/and there.

Yes, there is less dialogue between the TV screen and the TV viewer than there
is between, say, you and me right now. And you and I are dialoguing (or we
could say monologuing more within the dialogue) less than we would if we were
talking face-to-face. So what?

Do we "replace" television with something else? While we're replacing the essay,
do we also "replace" other monologic forms like novels, films, plays, poetry,
musical performances, painting, radio broadcasts, photography, etc. etc. ad

I keep feeling like you're saying that monologue has no place in education & I
just don't buy into that because the proposition that follows is that monologue
has no place in other areas of life (since, ostensibly, education is about
preparing people to deal with the challenges of life effectively). By far,
monologic discourse is the primary means of information transmission,
especially when synchronous exchange is not physically or temporally possible.
And it's *effective* when those physical and temporal limits are in effect.
Certainly interactive computing is going to affect the dominance of those
monologic forms I listed above, but "replace" them? I doubt it. What we are
more likely to see, I think, is a hybridization. As the physical and temporal
limits of synchronous exchange are lowered, dialogic forms will definitely
increase in importance, but (as you pointed out above) opportunities to
"monologu within dialogue" will continue and students will still need to
tand how to both use and understan
d monologic forms. And I predict that all of the monologic forms I listed above
will continue in their current form--historically, we've been pretty poor at
stamping out any forms of communication, even after new forms arise.

> I think, in other words, it's important to distinguish between a
> format/structure and a type of activity, just in order to avoid confusion.
> 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?

I understand and I agree that the monologic essay as the main method of academic
evaluation places limits on the students & emphasizes heirarchical power, and
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.

Greg Ritter