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A Problem of Publics and the Curious Case at Texas
JAC: A Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and Politics (2010)
  • Ryan Skinnell, San Jose State University
In 1990, English department faculty at the University of Texas, Austin attempted to redesign first-year composition to help students think about civic issues and write reasoned arguments.  The course was soon targeted by conservative critics who claimed it constituted “ideological advocacy” in writing classrooms. As the controversy exploded, it became a national touch point in America’s culture wars.  The public attention has been seen in retrospect as a major factor in the course’s eventual cancellation, but public attention was necessary for both supporters and opponents to achieve their goals for the course.  The conservative backlash that caused the course’s cancellation points less to the quality of the course than to the lack of ethos of Rhetoric and Composition specialists.  If writing specialists hope to have authority with publics, there needs to be a general movement towards establishing common ground with publics that may hold views that contradict disciplinary commonplaces.
  • public-intellectual,
  • public,
  • public sphere,
  • culture wars,
  • rhet-comp,
  • Linda Brodkey,
  • University of Texas,
  • ethos
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Citation Information
Ryan Skinnell. "A Problem of Publics and the Curious Case at Texas" JAC: A Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and Politics Vol. 30 Iss. 1-2 (2010)
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