Friday, July 25, 2008

On Argument

This summer I have been teaching argument to college students. We aren't really arguing about anything, but we are figuring out the structure of arguments. We discuss questions like:

Which is more important -- to be right or to win?
Is it OK to win if you aren't right?
Is argument always about convincing people to change their stance/position/thinking?
When an issue is 99 percent decided, who should your audience be?
Which is more important - content or form?

And the big one that many seem to always fall back on when discussing writing and what makes "good" writing: Can good writing exist without good grammar?

With all of this in mind, I want to share a few interesting links:

This cartoon initially illustrated the idea that you have to get in the last word -- if someone writes something on the internet and you disagree, you feel compelled to correct them. But there is also a wonderful discussion about word order in addition to the cartoon: http://158.130.17.5/~myl/languagelog/archives/005424.html

This article suggests text-messaging does not mean the next generation will not be able to communicate using the English language. It even suggests texting is normal (as in, we've been doing this forever) and can help language skills. http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2289211,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=10

Plus, there is a great discussion about what writing instruction should look like (both are talking about writing instruction at the college-level, but I don't think the ideas are exclusive to college-level writing instruction). It is a reaction to an op-ed published in the New York Times, which is linked too. My question to you is what did your writing instruction consist of? Was it read and discuss content or did you look at form too? I know on many of my writing lists, including the Writing Mother, the advice is always to "read like a writer" or to "read back issues to figure out what editors want." To me, this advice means paying attention to the form and the content. It tells you to ask: What kind of topics will this magazine publish and how should that finished article be put together?

And I wanted to point you to information about a big concern for Internet users: Net Neutrality. You can find more information at SavetheInternet.com. Now, it seems to me that this model being proposed by Internet providers (charging for premium access, etc.) is not new. (And it isn't for other services like cable/satellite TV. I am suggesting this isn't new for Internet access.) Isn't this what AOL used to do? I'm referring back to the early 90s when AOL was sending out their CDs to everyone and his brother while developing its own premium content for AOL-only users. This is why I referred to AOL as the "internet on training wheels" (although I did not come up with that description on my own, I no longer remember where I first heard/read it). If I am remembering right back when I first searched for an internet provider, I rejected AOL because it would limit where I could go on the internet. Now it seems more providers want to go back to that model. (Keep in mind I never was an AOL subscriber, and I am using my very old memory to recall this information).

And with full disclosure in mind, most of the links I am sharing here are ones I found at this blog: http://www.stevendkrause.com

1 comment:

Serenity Now! said...

OMGosh Linda, "someone is wrong on the internet". That just summed up EVERY online argument I've ever gotten in to...

I didn't receive a lot of writing education. I've never taken a "writing course" outside of one freefall method course many years ago.

I had great teachers in high school who insisted that my essays be thought provoking... that's all they asked.

Recently I attended a "literacy night" at my son's school and it was interesting to see how they are changing the definition of literacy to include reading online, texting, surfing the internet, etc...