going public

This morning I’ve been reading some of Mike Rose’s work, especially his arguments for teaching academics to write for public audiences (something he’s notoriously good at).  Mike Rose is a Professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Information Studies and he’s well-known for his research on workplace literacy, remediation, and reconsidering our understandings of intelligence in relation to work.

In An Open Language: Selected Writing on Literacy, Learning, and Opportunity Rose points out that though rhetoric and composition as a field is “deeply connected to matters of broad public interest–literacy, teaching, undergraduate education” and we’ve been seeking connection with the public through service learning, courses in civic rhetoric, and work with workplace and community literacy projects, the field “offers little or no graduate-level training for public writing or speaking.”

Rose has been creating opportunities for graduates students in his program to learn more about and get more practice writing for public audiences (See his article with Karen McClafferty, “A Call for the Teaching of Writing in Graduate Education”).

Among the benefits of public writing, Rose says, are that “it can lead to a questioning and clarifying of assumptions,” it forces precision and “a honing of argument,” and forces you to think about what evidence is most persuasive.

I was struck by his comments, of course, because Harlot was started based on the recognition of a disconnect between academic considerations of rhetoric and persuasion and public deliberation of these matters.  Rose’s summary of the benefits of public writing also moved me.  Personally, I have struggled to write blog posts because of the kind of reflection writing for a public audience forces on me.  I agree with Rose that such reflection will only make my writing better, and I aspire to become a better blogger–and a better public writer.  Much like Rose noted above, though my dissertation research is directly concerned with public issues, I have not felt more removed from the public than I have writing my dissertation.

Check out Rose’s blog at  http://www.mikerosebooks.blogspot.com/.  The philosphy of his blog, in his words, is “a deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.”

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