Rhetoric of the academy : a pragmatist approach to reexamining individual experience in education

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Thomas, William Michael

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Higher education is at a crossroads. In the U.S. especially, the question of what role education should play in greater society continues to come up. Should education be about fundamentally developing the predispositions or skills of an individual so that he or she can be a more effective citizen later in life? Or should education merely function as a box to check off, a kind of rite of passage that, regardless of quality or content, is required of an individual on the way to becoming part of some “real world?” These issues are quickly moving to the forefront for students and scholars alike; no longer relegated behind closed doors at faculty meetings, these issues are coming to define the very institutions that question them. It is the goal of this thesis, then, to address these shifting goals for, and horizons of, education through a rhetorical lens. From this perspective, education functions as the text under consideration. Rhetoric as it is understood for the majority of this project can be seen in the social interactions that take place, typically between the individual student and his or her educational environment. The core theme that runs throughout this thesis is that learning is not something that solely takes place through formal education, nor is it about acquiring mere common sense; rather, it is a natural extension of human curiosity to wonder about and explore the world of which we are all a part. It is the responsibility of schools and universities alike to facilitate students in developing who they are as a part of this bigger picture. To this end, I introduce the term “inhabited learning.” Inhabited learning elaborates on why one’s learning experience in formal education is still so important: In an age of information we all need some way of making sense of the myriad facts and figures we encounter in our everyday lives, with the hope of being able to make better sense of ourselves in the process.



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