“Prepatory” writing and expression

Sarah Allen writes that “the academy has become obsessed with argument…other forms of writing have been demoted to ‘preparatory’ work – their unique strengths diminished in the face of the rigors of argument” (3).  She feels that students have been inculcated into a culture of argument that has some pretty twisted effects, though it’s unclear to me whether these effects are due to the academy or to contemporary public rhetoric (e.g. politics).  She writes that her “sharpest and advanced undergraduate writing students” primarily value opposing arguments for the sake of “knowing who ‘the enemy’ is and how to bolster one’s own thesis in the face of that enemy” (8).  She also identifies a contributing factor as “the assumption that a position is more convincing if it can be stated in a single sentence and prior to any other real discussion about the issue” (8).

This, I think, ties directly to the idea of what progressive pedagogy should be – an attempt to help students see that the world is far more complex than the binaries of argument, that “knowing” must be socially situated (per Allen’s quoting of Spellmeyer on Montaigne).

However, tying this to trauma, I see a potential barrier in that trauma can significantly affect what one perceives and what one is able to perceive.  The same can be said of standpoint theory – one’s social standpoint can very much alter one’s perceptions of what’s “relevant” in a given context.  Kind of like Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.”  Clearly (if this was actually said), she had no conception of the relationship between bread, flour, and cake – and no understanding whatsoever of the fact that royal wealth was insulating her from the near-starvation standard of living about to descend upon Paris.

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