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Welcome to WRD103: Rhetoric & Composition I

Autumn Quarter, 2016

Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss people.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

WRD 103 introduces you to the forms, methods, expectations, and conventions of college-level academic writing. We also explore and discuss how writing and rhetoric create a contingent relationship between writers, readers, and issues, and how this relationship affects the drafting, revising, and editing of our written — and increasingly digital and multimodal — projects.

In WRD 103, we will:

  • Gain experience reading and writing in multiple genres in multiple modes
  • Practice writing in different rhetorical circumstances, marshaling sufficient, plausible sup­port for your arguments and advocacy positions
  • Practice shaping the language of written and multimodal discourses to your audiences and purposes, fostering clarity and emphasis by providing ex­pli­cit and appropriate cues to the main purpose of your texts
  • Practice reading and evaluating the writing of others in order to iden­tify the rhetorical strategies at work in written and in multimodal texts.

You’ll be happy to note, I hope, that we build on your previous knowledge and experiences; that is, we don’t assume that you show up here a blank slate. We assume that you have encountered interesting people, have engaging ideas, and have something to say. A good writing course should prepare you to take those productive ideas into other courses and out into the world, where they belong, and where you can defend them and advocate for them.

Finally, it’s no secret around here that students who take early and regular advantage of DePaul’s Center for Writing-based Learning not only do better in their classes, but also benefit from the interactions with the tutors and staff in the Center.

This is a personal laptop-required section, so remember to bring your laptop to class:

Critical Thinking Contexts for our Class and for College

Unclear writing, now as always, stems from unclear thinking–both of which ultimately have political and economic implications.

A well cultivated critical thinker practices:

  • Rationality: relying on reason rather than emotion; requiring support; ignoring claims without support; following claims and support where it leads; being more concerned about finding the best explanation than about being right; analyzing apparent confusion; and asking questions.
  • Metacognitive self-awareness: weighing the influences of your own motives, biases, assumptions, prejudices, and ideologies. For example, about which of your assumptions are you most skeptical?
  • Open-mindedness: evaluating all reasonable inferences; considering a variety of possible viewpoints or perspectives; remaining open to alternative interpretations; accepting new explanations because they explain the evidence better, are simpler, or have fewer inconsistencies; accepting new priorities in response to re-evaluation of the evidence; and not rejecting unpopular views out of hand.
  • Judgement: recognizing the relevance and merit of alternative assumptions and perspectives and recognizing the with of evidence and support
  • Discipline: precise, meticulous, comprehensive, and exhaustive; resisting manipulation and irrational appeals; avoiding snap judgments.
  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it, effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, ideologies, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. – Adapted from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, 2008.

“A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” Edward M. Glaser. An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking. 1941.

Chaffee’s Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinkers are people who have developed thoughtful and well-founded beliefs that guide their choices in every area of their lives. In order to develop the strongest and most accurate beliefs possible, you need to become aware of your own biases, explore situations from many different perspectives, and develop sound reasons to support your points of view. These abilities are the tools you need to become more enlightened and reflective “critical thinker” (p. 28).

For Chaffee, critical thinking involves the following:

  • Carefully analyzing and evaluating your beliefs in order to develop the most accurate beliefs possible.
  • Viewing situations from different perspectives to develop an in-depth understanding.
  • Supporting viewpoints with reasons and evidence to arrive at thoughtful, well-substantiate conclusions.
  • Thinking critically about our personal “lenses,” which shape and influence the way we perceive the world.
  • Synthesizing information into informed conclusions that we are willing to modify based on new insight. (p. 35)

[From The Thinker’s Way by John Chaffee, Boston: Little, Brown, 1998]

Habits of Mind

Habits of mind refers to ways of approaching learning that are both intellectual and practical and that will support your success in a variety of fields and disciplines. The framework identifies eight habits of mind essential for success in college writing

  • Curiosity: the desire to know more about the world. In our class, that might mean challenging yourself and stretching yourself intellectually to think beyond the obvious and inquire into issues and contexts to which you might be blind.
  • Openness: the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world, rather than merely clinging to what you already believe to be true or not true; in our class, that includes critical thinking.
  • Engagement: a sense of investment and involvement in learning; in our class, that includes focused reading of the New York Times and your contributions to the intellectual life of our class.
  • Creativity: the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas; in our class, that includes brainstorming, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
  • Persistence: the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects; developing mental discipline and rising up to challenges, rather than backing away from them.
  • Responsibility: the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others; in our class, that includes practicing good time management, and identifying and using resources available to you — office hours, the Writing Center, each other.
  • Flexibility: the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands.
  • Metacognition: the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge: thinking about thinking and writing about writing.