c3fyn (c3fyn) wrote in misfitpedagogy,

Ars Rhetorica

I'm thinking our Rhetoric class looks promising. It is going to probe at some of the cracks in the facade, which is always pleasurable. To wit--what are we teaching, when we teach writing? Should rhetorical know-how be imparted as a merely technical skill, or should all teaching practices be embedded in some kind of moral/political consciousness?

By way of starting this discussion, we looked at a piece written by the SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Walter Rauff, in charge of running the gas vans during the early stages of the Holocaust. One of the central rhetorical devices in their bureaucracy of murder was to remove any reference to Jews as human persons, and instead insert words like "merchandise" or "pieces". This way, it circumvented somewhat the inevitable messiness involved in referring to actual humans--ideas like "murder" popping in; words like "men", "women", or "children" causing such inefficiencies as moral qualms and squeamishness. Chilling stuff, really, but some very polished work, from a technical writing perspective.

To me this fits perfectly into the questions of predatory culture--of the colonization of nearly all areas of life by capitalist/market mentalities, the turning of education into merely another transactional site where a student plugs in, downloads value-neutral content as part of their performance on the way to finding their particular cog/cubicle. Are we here just to prepare students to get into harness, to serve the machine, or to serve their humanity?
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