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"Fear of Persuasion in the English Language Arts" with David Fleming

Headshot of David Fleming

Please join us as David Fleming gives his talk, "Fear of Persuasion in the English Language Arts." Light refreshments will be served.

Abstract: For several years now, I've been teaching a course (English 388 Rhetoric, Writing, and Society) designed, in part, to prepare prospective secondary English teachers for one section of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure. As part of that experience, I have been learning about the Common Core State Standards, which since 2010 have been the basis for Massachusetts' K-12 English Language Arts Framework. One aspect of the Core that I welcome is the special place it accords argument in students' reading and writing. But I worry about how that term has been framed: as an exclusively "logical" form of discourse in which personal and emotional appeals are excluded. Although, since 2016, we might be sympathetic to pedagogies that privilege "facts" over "opinions" (as the issue is now often framed in the schools), I believe this has been a mistake, one with enormous potential consequences given the national scope of this new curricular regime. Persuasion is an inescapable and vital motivation for human language use and the central discursive end of the rhetorical tradition. It requires care, not banishment. Unfortunately, if one looks to post-secondary writing and rhetoric studies, one finds a similar anxiety about persuasion; in fact, it's hard to find treatment of it at all. In this talk, I will argue for a reconsideration of our current fear of persuasion, a topic that I believe is of potential interest to all who teach the English language arts, K-16, as well as anyone interested in public discourse and the role of education in preparing young people for it. 

For more information about David, please visit his faculty page.