Darlene Sybert (c557506@SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU)
Tue, 6 Aug 1996 13:37:30 -0500

On Tue, 6 Aug 1996, Michael Hamende wrote:
> So the problem may not be that the audience rejects the higher
> authority, but they they fail to see "it" as any kind of authority.

Isn't that splitting hairs? What is the difference between "rejecting"
an authority and "failing to see it" as an authority? That's my first
question and the rest of this is only marginally related to it.

If you are saying in the first part of your message that because someone
in my audience might not believe in God, I should never quote the Bible
as a source, I have to disagree.

In addition to its status in the Judeo-Christian-Islam faiths, the Bible
is an ancient work of literature, full of practical wisdom that has proven
to be true over the ages. Most educated people who have not had a negative
or de-conversion (I can't think of the right word here) experience in one
of these religions recognize that the Bible often expresses things
succinctly and in an easily memorable way. It's like when someone quotes
LaoTzu or Buddha or, for that matter, Marx or Freud. I'm not a follower of
any of those people, but I realize that much of what they said has stood
the test of time or, often, just makes sense in the context in which it
is quoted. I know they weren't flakes--that they backed up a lot of
what they said, so I'm willing to consider thier words. .And most people
quote these authorities and the Bible because they said something
profound in a way that can't really be improved on.

I've only had a few students in college classes write a paper that said
this is true because the Bible says it is. Instead, my experience is
that students use the Bible passage as a springboard into a topic or a
kind of confirming "gotcha" after making their argument--with or without
other sources.

One thing that has been overlooked in this discussion is that we
are talking about freshmen or at least undergrads mostly. Some of the
drastic sentiments that have been expressed or approaches recommended
might be appropriate in an upper level or grad class. Many of my students
are away from home for the first time, unsophisticated, and not too sure
of much of anything at the moment. I'm not going to kick them in the ribs
about the one thing they are certain of--whether I agree with them or not.
I think it is important in any class, but especially comp, to create
an atmostphere of acceptance or how are you going to have the comfort
level for "go for the gut" peer reviews?

I also think it is important to help a student establish a sense of
themselves as "authorities" in their writing. WAIT!!! Don't get bent,
yet. What I mean is that I think students need to develop a sense of
their own voice, so their research papers aren't just a string of quotes
from other sources.

I hope that in their research, they will learn something. And write an
essay that shares what they learned, quoting sources only when the
information they are using needs substantiation.

Of course, if a student does use a "God said so" approach as my
student who quoted the Koran only and wrote about nothing else did, you
have to talk to that student about the effect such an approach will have
on his results. For example, you could show him some of the posts that
have been sent on the list on the subject. :) And there is a verse
in the Bible about being a wise as serpants and harmless as a dove or
something like that which works well with the diehards. Listen, I tell
them, many people who don't share your faith will stop reading here or
at least be unconvinced. Wouldn't it be better to try to reach them in
such a way that they will at least read to the end of the paper? And
you can at least get them started thinking in this direction...but if
they don't read past the first've wasted your time.

And some time might be constructively spent helping the student to think of
audiences that would repond to his "God said so" apprach. But then, I say,
those people aren't in this English 20 class and that's who you have to
communicate with in this first paper...

Of course, I seldom have to do any of this, because at that first peer
review session, their peers tell the writer all this for me..and do a
better job of it, too.

Darlene Sybert
University of Missouri at Columbia (English)
TuTh 12:30-2:00 Tate Hall, Room 16 (Knock)
They say that Hope is happiness;/ But genuine Love must prize the past
And Memory wakes thoughts that bless/ They rose the first--they set the last.
And all that Memory loves the most/ Was once our only Hope to be,
And all that Hope adored and lost/ Hath melted into Memory.
Alas! it is delusion all;/ The future cheats us from afar/
Nor can we be what we recall,/ Nor dare we think on what we are. -Byron