Re: anti is ok (getting to 'why')

Eric Crump (wleric@SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 01:10:06 -0500

Steve said:

>...we have to nonetheless consider the implications of
>these less than controlled variable situations. ...there
>are problems with these methods in terms of applicability to other

That's only a problem if we *claim* general applicability. You're assuming
that anything under the guise of research makes that claim? OK. Then I'd
suggest we not consider the Writing Process Story Stew as research. Not
research formal & proper, anyway. That's OK with me because I think
collected stories hold up quite well as valuable sources of learning. They
need not meet the same criteria of research validity. I tend to think
stories have broad applicability, but not of the homogenous, general type.
Stories apply in a more fine-grained way. Each will have a degree of
relevancy to individual readers. Somewhere in the pile (if we get a big
enough pile) will be something for everyone to learn from. We simply can't
control what will be there or what they'll learn.

That's the idea.

>personally. I mean, we could (should?) give our students beer,
>sing them songs, make them play with crayons, teach them to juggle, send
>them to the park, etc., etc, all in the hope (feeling?) that it might
>improve their writing or prewriting or outlook on life in general. That
>might be good fun, but that isn't research per se. It might be
>"valuable" in some sense, but that's another question too.

Ah, nice attempt to discredit my argument by taking it to the logical(?)
extreme. Tried & true tactic. But I don't have any problem with this
scenario (save the legal ramifications of feeding beer to minors). I have a
lot of confidence that improving someone's general outlook *will* improve
their writing. Anybody done any research on that? :) It seems though,
Steve, like you're trying to protect the stern and august tradition of
academic research from something. Don't let the crayons in! God forbid we
should have fun while we're learning stuff. Wouldn't be valid! That's the
aspect of research *culture* that I have the least use for. I keep wanting
to tell Formal Researchers to use a little less starch in their boxers!
Play with crayons, fer chrissakes!

Playing with crayons has *at least* as good a chance of helping writers
improve as all the composition studies ever committed to paper.

>I guess there are two basic points of resistance I have to this. One is
>that it sort of suggests a collective throwing up of the arms, a kind of
>cop-out where we don't feel it's possible to evaluate our methodologies
>(just like we're not willing to judge which prewriting method is best),
>so we just don't.

Nah! going with learning from stories is a positive choice, not
resignation. You sound as if mastering research methodology is the highest
goal a scholar could aspire to, and that anyone who chooses not to must be
disappointed? I, for one, feel it's quite possible to evaluate our
methodologies. I just don't *want* to! That's a job for somebody who likes
evaluating methodologies.

>...clearly we
>can and do evaluate, categorize, and rank our different methods for
>attaining what we wnt to call proof.

Sure! If proof is what you're after, do it. Just don't assume that proof is
what we're all after, or *should* be after. It's a nice thing to aim for,
if that's what you're interested in. That's all.

>Second, our rhetorical practices suggest that an appeal to "evidence" and
>"research" that is both valid and reliable and that is based on some sort
>of methodology is valued more than "stories" or "anti-research."

What? You want us to respect some rhetorical status quo? Sheesh, Steve.
RhetNet is *about* poking at every established practice we have. Not
necessarily to knock them down, but to wake them up at least, keep 'em on
their toes. If our rhetorical habits are mired in those terms, then it's
definitely worth doing something cockeyed so's we can stir that pot!

--Eric Crump