rhetoric as the open hand

Michael Day (mday@SILVER.SDSMT.EDU)
Sat, 24 Aug 1996 14:56:30 -0600

Hey rhetnewts!

Really been enjoying the discussion of grades and student attitudes,
and just wanted to say that I too have been struggling over the
years to let my students come up with assignments that are relevant
to their interests, but still meet certain basic requirements
for demonstrating writing/ communication competency. I think they
are motivated by their own needs to work hard on the writing
process, multiple drafts, revision, etc. when they have something
genuinely at stake (getting job/approval/recognition/money/ or
simply articulating a stance that has meaning to them). So I
try to offer a sort of "garden of forked paths;" multiple ways
to fulfill course requirements, as many of them student generated
as possible.

I also hate grades but have to give them, so I compromise by
making one of their last assignments a comprehensive review of
what they did/learned in the course, and an argument for a grade.
Generally this works out well, but now and then I find people
arguing for a grade they really don't deserve, and I adjust it.
Since many of the work on projects in groups, I also solicit feedback
from their group partners to get a sense of their contributions and
abilities. All told, if I have to give grades, this seems to be
the best compromise.

Finally, to my question. In a renaissance humanist rhetoric class
about 10 years ago, the prof mentioned an analogy that has stuck
with me, but I can't locate its source. This is the analogy of
rhetoric as the open hand, and logic as the closed fist. Would
any of you rhetnetizens be able to help me find out where it
comes from?

Thanks a million,


Michael J. Day
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology