4.0377 More on Texas Comp. Controversy (6/176)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 8 Aug 90 17:03:02 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0377. Wednesday, 8 Aug 1990.

(1) Date: Wed, 08 Aug 90 16:45:49 EDT (13 lines)
From: Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear <EDITORS@BROWNVM>
Subject: 4.0373 Posting on Texas Controversy

(2) Date: Wed, 8 Aug 90 14:08 EST (18 lines)
From: "Peter D. Junger" <JUNGER@CWRU>
Subject: The UT troubles and the use of law cases in writing

(3) Date: Tue, 07 Aug 90 22:40:33 EDT (23 lines)
From: Germaine Warkentin <WARKENT@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Texas debacle

(4) Date: Wed, 8 Aug 90 12:22:12 wst (57 lines)
From: A_ARISTAR@vaxa.cc.uwa.oz.au
Subject: Texas Writing Controversy

(5) Date: 08 Aug 90 09:4:00 EDT (31 lines)
Subject: "Writing" in UTexas com-

(6) Date: Wed, 08 Aug 90 10:23 PDT (34 lines)
Subject: Re: 4.0373 Texas Comp. Controversy (2/274)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 08 Aug 90 16:45:49 EDT
From: Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear <EDITORS@BROWNVM>
Subject: 4.0373 Posting on Texas Controversy

The "Editor's Note" contained in John Slatin's posting yesterday
was from the Editor of the *Daily Texan*, not from us. If either of
us were to have taken a public position on the E 306 issue at Texas,
we would have posted it from one of our individual accounts.

We regret any misunderstanding that may have occurred.

Elaine & Allen

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------25----
Date: Wed, 8 Aug 90 14:08 EST
From: "Peter D. Junger" <JUNGER@CWRU>
Subject: The UT troubles and the use of law cases in writing

I sympathize with the goal of introducing critical (legal) studies to
undergraduates, but am horrified at the idea that anyone might (mis)take
the opinions of federal courts in civil rights cases as good writing,
good argumentation, or good law.

By the way, a majority opinion is one that is joined in by a majority of
the judges; a minority opinion is one that is joined in by a minority of
the judges; a concurring opinion is one that agrees with the majority
opinion's result, but not its wording (in this case `wording' may or may
not mean the same thing as `reasoning'); a dissenting opinion is one
that disagrees with the majority opinion's result.

Peter D. Junger--Professor of Law--Case Western Reserve University

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------31----
Date: Tue, 07 Aug 90 22:40:33 EDT
From: Germaine Warkentin <WARKENT@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Texas debacle

Whatever makes Alan Gribben think his problem might be solved if he
divided the Texas English department into "theorists" and "traditional
scholars"? Some of us stack rats are real nuisances to have around! On
another point, I think I am safe in saying that Canadian participants in
Humanist must be watching this bizarre debate on multiculturalism with
awe. Being a chronically skeptical lot, we tend to have very few
"sacred" words in our national vocab- ulary, but multiculturalism is
probably one of them. My sympathies are with Prof. Slatin, though his
course looks to me as if it belongs in a department of Rhetoric. It
seems clear, however, that something other than a battle over the
curriculum is going on here; some other agenda is being dealt with.
Return ing to the revenge of the stack rats, with which I began: on the
morning after Nelson Mandela emerged from prison I had the great good
fortune to be teaching Marvell's "Horatian Ode" to my second-year class,
and did not miss the chance to make a connection between poetry and the
world of action. Kessler is right; the art of instruction is in the
connections you make for your students. My students, unhappily don't
question enough; connections sufficiently startling help make that
happen. Germaine Warkentin (WARKENT@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------79----
Date: Wed, 8 Aug 90 12:22:12 wst
From: A_ARISTAR@vaxa.cc.uwa.oz.au
Subject: Texas Writing Controversy

I'm joining this controversy with some reluctance. I'm not in English--
I'm a linguist--and have never taught a writing course in my life. I'm
an Australian, living and working in Australia, though a UT graduate, so
I'm distant from the current controversies in the USA. And I know, like
and respect John Slatin, so I'm reluctant to come out in opposition to
him. Nevertheless, I do feel that there's a position which has not
appeared so far, except, if you'll pardon the trendy term, as a
"subtext" in the ongoing discussion.

The position I'm alluding to is one of directionality. It's a cliche of
scholarship that the very issues which we investigate are dependent on
our theory of the problem we have chosen to address. What we derive
from the investigation depends much more upon this than upon the data.
And every teacher knows that the issues which students are offered an
opportunity to discuss are usually much less important than those those
which our readings encourage them to discuss. Teachers choose readings.
They aren't inevitable parts of the course being given. This
observation is in fact part of the standard critique of traditionalist

Ultimately then, a course usually has a particular directionality which
is a result of choices made by its originators.

Now, it seems to me very clear that John's course has its own
directionality, and that directionality is what has made it co
troversial. First, it has chosen a set of issues for discussion which
are of much more concern to one side of the political spectrum than the
other. Issues such as racism and civil rights are, in modern America,
invevitably of relevance to everyone. But they occupy those on the left
much more than those on the right. The left has had a great deal more
to say about them than the right, and this shows very clearly in the
readings chosen. These readings have some balance, but ultimately lean
fairly emphatically to the left. There is a body of intelligent,
right-wing opinion--many of the articles of _Commentary_ come to
mind--which is simply not there.

There's another kind of directionality present as well. The court-cases
which were to be examined were all ones which the left largely won.
Most students, even in America, end up conforming. Most students will,
when given the court-oriented documents, end up on the winning side.

Unlike some people at Texas I do not ascribe Macchiavellian motives to
John and his colleagues. But if one genuinely wished students to learn
rational argument in an unbiased context, I cannot, with the best will
in the world, feel that this was the way to do it. So I can only say
that I think that the administration of the University of Texas made the
right decision. I do not believe the course was intended to
indoctrinate into students a particular political opinion. But that, I
fear, would have been its effect.

Anthony Aristar
University of Western Australia.

(5) --------------------------------------------------------------43----
Date: 08 Aug 90 09:4:00 EDT
Subject: "Writing" in UTexas com-

Greetings, Prof. Slatin.

Thank you for taking the time to bring your controversy to the attention
of fellow HUMANISTs. I find it striking that this sort of departmental
internecine strife seems so often to take place within English
departments: why should that be so? (Or is it simply the case that my
anecdotal evidence here is skewed. I think in particular of the severe
tensions at Oxford in the pre-WW II years as told in the biographies of
C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, etc.)

Anyway, my query: I am wondering how you see the relationship of
_argument_ and _writing skills_ as it would be worked out in your
syllabus? Certainly examination of court cases lends itself nicely to
understanding the structure of argument, thus of "rhetoric". But
tightly knit arguments can be badly written. And court records (? are
these verbatim records, or "written" product?) need not be examples of
exemplary prose. The text-book market may have vested interests, but (I
mention this at the risk of being perceived as hopelessly naive!) do not
works like Strunk and White, _Elements of Style_ have a role to play? I
teach Western Religions, and routinely (sometimes passionately!)
recommend this work plus our English Department's writing courses to
undergrads. If you can face spending more time on this, I would be
interested to have your further reflections.

David Reimer, Wilfrid Laurier University

(6) --------------------------------------------------------------52----
Date: Wed, 08 Aug 90 10:23 PDT
Subject: Re: 4.0373 Texas Comp. Controversy (2/274)

Dear John Slatin: I thank you for the clarification of your syllabus,
to the extent that you have clarified it with a model sample. But, I
think I should most hard put myself, now and even more so when I was a
Freshman, to imagine analyzing a court case. Law is a manifestation of
social concerns, in the action of controversy, as I understand it, with
a vast and deep subtext, and tight rules of argument, which are not the
same rules as rhetoric and debate. Arguements cant be guided by very
strict rules by a presiding judge. Justice has nothing necessarily to
do with truth, goodness, or beauty. There is great hidden subtext of
history and manners and customs and morality etc., and to dissect a case
is not necessarily to learn how to think. Except to think as a lawyer.
I wouldnt want to use as a case the current abortion/anti-abortion
volcano. Marching on the Supreme Court and picketing it are not
necessarily sensible ways to look at law. And the Gribben letter you
quote is really a pitiable instance of the effects of politicization on
fantastic grounds, all around. I wont go into that at all, except to
wonder that the traditionalists of 30 years ago surely sowed some sort
of whirlwind in the Academy, which is now full of what I would term
lumpen idealists, cryptoMarxists and the like. It is rather comical,
seen from above, if one thinks one can look down from an angelic
detachment... Gribben is asking for a real disaster, and forgets his
history: bring in an outside force, and both sides will be pulverized,
like calling in Genghis Khan to settle a family dispute. Look at how
Serbs (Orthodox) and Croats (Roman) both speaking the same language!
murder one another! Balkan logic, Gribben's is, I think. Anyway...good
luck down there. Texas! All you educated folks so far out and away
ahead of the society, which prefers football and rallies and
subdivisions and S & L developments. Maybe the price of oil, it's
(hi)jacking up, will reactivate the fields and alleviate all that
depression from the Depression? Kessler here with an ice pack.