Brittni Cameron Professor Wolcott ENC 3331 11-19-12
Rhetorical Citizenship: To be Civically Engaged The terms rhetorical and citizenship both sum up civic engagement. In the book “Rhetoric in Civic Life”, one popular rhetorician, Aristotle, defines rhetoric as “try both to test and uphold an argument and to defend themselves and attack” (Aristotle). Even though he has several definitions for this word, this one is the most relatable. Leith, another rhetorician, took Aristotle’s perspective into consideration, but he also had a very different perspective on the definition of rhetoric. It appears that Leiths definition is a tad more subtle “the attempt by one human being to influence another in words” (Leith). Whereas, referencing the word “attack” portrays that Aristotle’s viewpoint is much more complicated compared to his. In addition, Aristotle describes rhetoric as “tecne”, while Leith uses the word attempt, which resembles an unguarded nature.
Furthermore, citizenship, a term that coincides with rhetoric has been defined in the article “In the Name of Citizenship: The Writing Classroom and the Promise of Citizenship” by Amy Wan. One of the major emphasizes in the text is that “successful writing instruction plays a key role in the preparation of good citizens” (Wan 28). Ideally, rhetoric is the teaching tool to practice citizenship. “Successful” citizenship may not exist without the teaching of rhetoric. In her teaching, she has three requirements that establish citizenship: “(1) the infinite flexibility that comes from shifting definitions of citizenship; (2) the pervasive belief that citizenship is an achievable status by individuals who have the will for it; and (3) the implicit understanding that equality and social mobility are synonymous with and can be achieved through citizenship” (Wan 29-30). Although these can be used as teaching tools, citizenship is ultimately defied by rhetoric. Much of Mathieu’s text “Tactics of Hope: The Public Turn in English Composition” portrays the educational aspect of rhetoric. She talks about other writers such as Weisser, whose opinion is that several professors try to make their writing more appealing by calling it
“public.” However, at first glance, one might wonder what the word “public” is actually referencing, or what is it that makes that word so appealing. Therefore, it complicates what is considered “public”; the confusion separates itself from the consequences of trying to make it more attractive to its writers. Also in her text, she includes how college freshmen consider the “payoff of a course relies purely in the grade” (Mathieu). Students need to interact with the educational experience and focus more on the skills they acquire from a rhetoric class. The article places great emphasis on the fact that to be a successful public writer you must also know topics of history and politics because that is the only way you’re going to be able to write for an audience. An example Mathieu uses are the reference of C.; the activist focuses on the education aspect, but also the significance of participation. His position as a public writer is admirable because he uses his job as tool to evoke emotion. His job as a citizen is to be thought provoking through rhetoric. The activist mentions how he uses “Jesus Christ Froze to Death” and in reference to elders “how do you like them, boiled, friend? (Mathieu), which essentially grabs the
audience’s attention. Those examples help you become a better citizen for the long haul Diehl also focuses on the participation aspect of rhetorical citizenship. Diehl’s article “is an example of the mapping project our class created. Their program, Grassroots focuses on writing and mapping as one. One reference is “being able to give a viewpoint a voice” (Diehl). Mapping has become such a motivational tool in the sense that for the exercise and walking map, it is crucial for a healthy lifestyle. By combining the physical aspects of the world into the rhetoric sense it makes room for an ideal citizen. Therefore, being educated in a tool such as Grassroots enables you to be able to participate in the real world through the use of rhetoric. Throughout my twenty one years of life, I have a few citizenship experiences that stand out the most. In high school, my biggest contribution to civic engagement was joining the Sea Club. It was a club whose efforts were to help better the environment by keeping it clean. In doing so, the club would meet outside of school to clean up trash on the beach and enact awareness through the power of voice. The club was
effective in such a way that grabbed the attention of our administrators. My teacher in charge of Sea Club ended up using rhetoric to implement a school wide recycling program. That was the first year any class had gotten the opportunity to do take on such a significant role in the community. This goal was achieved through rhetorical citizenship. It was our duty as citizens to show them the severity of the problems because it is the environment in which we live and therefore, it is our job to maintain it. As a result, our efforts as a rhetorical citizen didnâ€™t go unnoticed. In addition, during this semester, in a group effort the class created a map on transportation issues in the UCF/ Orlando area. My groups map focuses on locations of bike racks on the UCF campus which is ideal for students that ride their bikes on campus. Although, we werenâ€™t able to get in touch with Alaina from Landscape & Natural Resources, I feel like if more people saw the problem, it would enact awareness and then she might take a second look at the growing problem. If not, there are still several opportunities for cyclists and students at UCF to get in touch with the right people to change the bike rack issue. Most
importantly, I hope our map gets in the hands of the right people so that it can be used as a tool for the department of Landscape and Natural Resources. Itâ€™s not that students are ignoring bike racks as a problem, itâ€™s more so a lack of agency. At the end of that project, I truly felt that I did my part as a citizen and feel that our map has a potential to flourish. Lastly, this class took place during an election year and when I found out that President Barack Obama would be speaking at UCF, I felt that it was my duty as a citizen to go see him. In politics, rhetoric and citizenship go hand in hand. No matter what political party one is affiliated with, I feel that it is their obligation to surround themselves with the necessary tools to become aware of each party. When I found out Obama would not be there to speak, I saw several people turn away. However, I knew this wasnâ€™t an opportunity that happened every day and felt that as part of this country I had to stay to see Clinton. Although I know this is just my opinion, when I think of civic engagement I think largely of politics and environment. Civic engagement to me is one who is active within their community and practices awareness.
Over the course of this class, I have experienced that it is ideal to be knowledgeable of rhetoric and citizenship in order to be civically engaged. I feel like each of these terms falls back on the other. Without rhetoric, one wouldn’t be a successful citizen and without civic engagement, there might not be the true defining meaning of citizenship. Looking back on the activities that I consider civic engagement, that I have done up until this point, I realize that I could have gotten so much more involved. After learning the significance of civic engagement within my community, I don’t think I could go back to how idle I was before. Whether it is online, or in the “real world”, I consider myself a rhetorical citizen who continues to practice being civically engaged within society. There really is no sufficient excuse as to why it is acceptable to be any other way.
Leith, Sam. Words like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to
Obama. Philadelphia: Basic Books, 2012. Print.
Mathieu, Paula. Tactics of Hope: The Public Turn in English Composition. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc., 2005. Print.
Palczewski, Catherine Helen., Richard Ice, and John Fritch. Rhetoric in Civic Life. State College, PA: Strata Pub., 2012. Print.
Wan, Amy J, “In the Name of Citizenship: The Writing Classroom and the Promise of Citizenship.” College English 74.1 (2011). 28-47. Web. 7 November 2012.