College Writing in a Democratic and Digital Society

College Writing in a Democratic and Digital Society

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College Writing in a Democratic and Digital Society



Citizens of the United States spend obscene amounts of money to get a quality college education. For example, Rhetoric classes at Oakland University are costing each student about $600 to take for one semester. What are students getting for their money? One way to really make this class part of the college experience, and worth the high cost, would be to involve multiculturalism. Writing about and listening to other peoples personal experiences can help students learn about and better understand other cultures. This is important because it can help students learn about each other, themselves and the rest of the world. By learning about other cultures students may be able to break down existing barriers and expand their horizons. Rhetoric classes have become much more advanced in the area of technology. Technology has advanced all over the world, including in the classroom. Now the question is how do we use this technology to help better our education as well as our society. We need to use this technology as a tool for literacy (Camper). Rhetoric teachers across the nation are taking different approaches to meeting the goal of spreading multiculturalism.

A Professor of Rhetoric and Composition, from the University of Texas at Austin, named Maxine Hairston takes an interesting approach to teaching writing. She describes this style of teaching in an article entitled "Diversity, Ideology, and Teaching Writing." Hairston is a strong believer in spreading multiculturalism in education. She believes in a teaching style that allows students to express themselves freely through writing. Through this exchange of ideas, values, opinions, traditions and personal experiences students recognize and relate to other cultures and backgrounds. Hairston states that "these students bring with them a kaleidoscope of experiences, values, dialects, and cultural backgrounds that we want to respond to positively, using every resource we can to help them adapt to the academic world and become active participants in it" (Hairston). Basically, what Hairston wants to do is develop a curriculum that is not based on text book drills, but rather on the experiences of the students in the class.

However, there are many students like myself, that spent all of their High School years in an environment with very little to no cultural diversity. I grew up in a neighborhood where I was surrounded by people that all shared a similar nationality, ethnic background, and even social class.

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This, however, does not mean that students can not gain from learning about the unique experiences of other students. Even in a small town like the one I came from no two people are ever the same. We all see the world through different eyes, in a different way. "Real diversity emerges from the students themselves and flourishes in a collaborative classroom in which they work together to develop their ideas and test them out on each other" (Hairston).

This brings another article to mind, called "Lives on the Boundary". It was written by another teacher, from the University of California, Los Angeles, named Mike Rose. Rose believes in taking a similar approach to teaching writing as Hairston. In his article he describes an interesting activity he used to teach writing to his students that really allows them to share their perspectives. "I'd have them write about pictures," Rose said. In the activity he would present pictures of people such as John F. Kennedy, Ron McKernan, the keyboardist from the Grateful Dead, and some random young girl looking out of a window. After presenting the pictures he would ask his students to respond to the pictures by writing anything that they saw in or thought about the pictures. He would tell them not to worry about spelling or grammar, just to write what they saw. This would allow the students to express parts of their own culture as well as learn about those of their classmates, therefore helping spread multiculturalism.

So, in a society as technology rich as the one we live in, what is the purpose of a college level writing class? Thanks to recent updates in technology, the Internet has become a very simple and commonly used tool. Now a days, it is nearly impossible to have an excuse to lack in communication. For example, imagine my mom getting irritated with me because I have not been "keeping in touch." I tell her I haven't had time to call, and of coarse her response is, "you could at least email me or talk to me online!" She right, as usual. Communicating with people via the Internet is cheap, easy and always available. My point is that this is another way to help spread multiculturalism. If I wanted to, I could get online right now and talk to someone from Australia either in a chat room, on an instant messenger or through a discussion board. Our society is become more and more technologically advanced. However, this may have a downfall.

A fictional essay written by Kathy Camper portrays the dangers of the rapid technological growth in our society. The essay is written in the form of a letter, from a woman in the future to a academy of computer sciences. She is writing the letter because she is trying to get admitted into the academy of computer sciences. The author of this letter describes herself as a colored female that is stuck in actual reality, rather than virtual reality. In her letter she paints a very dreary picture of what the future is like. She talks about how she does not have equal opportunities as "computer jocks" do. Basically she is saying that just because she does not have computer skills, she can hardly get by. "Yes, true half the world be walking on air, be zooming on a computer screen, buzzing every dog gone thing just like the old time books did say. But the other half, they me, living in the real world which you left a mess. Yes, we wearing plastic clothes. But they slimey1970 polyester from the used clothes store. Yeah, we visualizing reality. But it's a dumb Karate game for 25 cent" (Camper). I found this quote to be especially powerful because it divides our present society into two practically separate societies, 'high-techs and lo-techs'. It illustrates the possible dangers of an increasingly digital society.

An increase of technology can, if used with caution, be very beneficial to our society. It may help dramatically increase multiculturalism in education and expand cultural diversity. On the other hand it may cause tragedy for those who are not 'computer literate.' The main goal of our society should not be to continually increase the technology we have but to learn to use what we have to better society.

Work Cited Page

Rose, Mike. "Lives on the Boundry: The Struggles and Achievments of Americ's Underprepred," New York: Free Press, 1989.

Hairston, Maxine. "Diversity, Ideology, and Teaching Writing," College Composition and Communication 43.2 (May 1992): 179-195.

Camper, Kathy. "A Note from the Future." Wired 3.01 (January 1995). www.wired.come/wired/archive/3.01/camper.if.html

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