Sunday, April 30, 2017

Week 12: Ethics and Personal Ethos

Ethics loom fairly large for a student studying rhetoric and writing. We discuss ethics...pretty much all the time. For instance, one of the topics in my Classical Rhetoric course last semester was whether or not teachers should attach ethics, especially those of a democratic society, to the teaching of writing and/or rhetoric. Concerns about writing and language go back to the Sophists, a group of oratory teachers who charged students for their services to prepare them to defend themselves in court. Gorgias is famously known for taking his payments up front, a practice he caught some flack for from his students because, they argued, they shouldn't have to pay if they were unsuccessful in defending themselves. Gorgias responded that if students were able to defend themselves successfully, then their paying up front was a defensible and acceptable practice. 

Interestingly, this practice continues today: students pay for their classes up front. If students don't pay, they can't continue taking the course. The automatic assumption made in higher education is that students will benefit or learn from their coursework. If they fail, that's on them: they still have to pay for the course (unless they withdraw by the appropriate time, and in many institutions, that still doesn't constitute a full refund). What if we were to change that practice? If students pass the course, they pay tuition. Or perhaps if they fail, they would be entitled to either a refund or the opportunity to take the class again at no additional charge. How would that change the status of higher education today, as we discussed in last week's topic, Declining by Degrees? 

No comments:

Post a Comment