This article analyzes ideologies underpinning argument-based writing assignments and considers how they may contribute to a current climate of polarization. The authors suggest that the argument-based essay may be what Kenneth Burke called an unquestioned and habituated “cow path” and conclude by considering how students may benefit from a deeper engagement with explanatory ways of knowing, writing, and relating to each other.
From Cow Paths to Conversation: Rethinking the Argumentative Essay
Laura Aull is associate professor of English and linguistics at Wake Forest University and will begin as the director of the English Department Writing Program at the University of Michigan in 2020. Her most recent work focuses on linguistic analysis of civility and concision in academic writing, and her research can be found in journals focused on composition, applied linguistics, writing analytics, and writing assessment. She is the author of First-Year University Writing (2015) and the forthcoming book How Students Write: A Linguistic Analysis, for which she received a Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Academy of Education.
Valerie Ross is founding director of the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Established in 2003, this discipline-based independent program recently received the Writing Program Certificate of Excellence from CCCC/NCTE. Her current research interests focus on program-wide approaches to writing assessment, writing disabilities, knowledge transfer, and writing in the disciplines, including a current cross-institutional multidisciplinary research project on writing and peer review in STEM fields, funded by the National Science Foundation.
Laura Aull, Valerie Ross; From Cow Paths to Conversation: Rethinking the Argumentative Essay. Pedagogy 1 January 2020; 20 (1): 21–34. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15314200-7878975
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