writers’ attitudes toward technical communication (Miller/Herndl)

In the these and the previous readings, much time has been devoted the topic of finding an adequate space and place for a Technical Communication program at a university. Often, the debate attempts to create dichotomies: Technical Writing vs. Literature, Humanities vs. Sciences, positivism vs. constructivism, rhetoric vs. science, techne vs. ars, objectivism vs. subjectivism, deductive reasoning vs. inductive reasoning. We have heard opposing views of what constitutes knowledge and how knowledge gets created. Invention yes, invention no. Is language knowledge or does language merely transport knowledge?

While I highly respect Carolyn Miller and will cite much of her research in my dissertation, I have to admit a certain amount of disappointment with this particular essay. In my opinion, in its attempt to present a strong argument, it remains too deeply steeped in the discourse that rather than providing a solution it agitates. I am surprised at the editors’ choice to include this essay by the same token. Clearly, the academy and the prevalent discourse have heavily influenced Miller’s essay. By remaining to closely attached to the extant discourse, Miller is not able to provide new thought  that could evolve the discourse.

This becomes even more evident after reading the Herndl essay which does a fantastic job of pointing out that  a failure to reach beyond the extant discourse of the discipline is dangerous. Herndl says, “I am not condemning research and teaching in professional writing; rather, I am making the claim that this research and pedagogical practice do not go far enough. If we recognize and explore the challenge presented by the relationship between discourse, teaching, and social reproduction, we may be able to discover ways to intervene and initiate cultural critique within our research and pedagogical practice. This would,of course, require that we expand our research goals and significantly alter our teaching.” (p. 222) He goes on to lay out the dangers of educating students who “cannot perceive the cultural consequences of a dominant discourse or the alternate understanding it excludes.” This is of immense importance especially in the discussion of an autonomous field of research. Clearly, Herndl is also influenced by his academic experience but, in my opinion, rather than lamenting what is not, he is much more constructive in his approach and challenges the field as opposed to digging into open wounds. Evoking Whatley, Foucault, Nietzsche, and Freire, Herndl is able to stay away from portraying our field as weak and dependent but rather energizes us to resist.

My own humble opinion is that a radical pedagogy is absolutely necessary to produce thinkers that will eventually enter the workplace equipped with the selfconfidence it takes to own decisions and to project the subject matter knowledge that gives them the organizational power Dobrin wants. I feel very strongly that in order to achieve this, we need to stop fighting science and technology and use them for our purpose. We need to integrate them into our TC curriculum in order to build our strength. (ok, that’s it for now…sigh)

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