Last week, on a different blog, I mused about how teachers and critics can/should deal with speed. By speed, I mean this: given a cultural moment where texts move instantaneously, how are we to deal with nuance and recontextualization? We (in the humanities?) often teach students to understand all angles of a controversy/question before joining the conversation. This is a great approach for academic circles, but how does it work outside of the academy? I'm conflicted. I like this model, but I worry that I'm doing my students a disservice.
"Because his major speeches were so influential, long, and carefullywrought, it seems natural to conclude that today?s bear-baiting debatesare just the wrong vehicle for him. ?You?ve got to remember, he is aconstitutional-law professor,? I was told by Newton Minow, who aschairman of the Federal Communications Commission under John F. Kennedydeclared television a ?vast wasteland? and who as a partner in theChicago law firm Sidley Austin hired Obama as a summer associate 19years ago. ?He?s used to seeing all sides of an issue, and he tends tolay out all sides before giving his own view.? By that time, the clockhas run out."
I'm thinking about these issues a lot as the presidential campaign continues to dominate my infosphere. When I'm debating with people, I always treat topics as nuanced. I attempt to discuss any issue from any number of angles. And I attempt to provide evidence for my claims. In short, I try to argue in (what I would call) an ethical way. However, that style of argument is a very poor fit for discourse outside of the academy. Some of the arguments I'm having involve me trying to convince people that we should argue a different way.
So, my big question is: Is this a battle worth fighting? Or, is there another route to take? My discipline (rhetoric and composition) has long argued for nuance, mapping the conversation, and carefully considering the opposition. But should we assume that this is the best way to go?