Rhetorical History and New Media

From the readings assigned so far, it is clear that rhetorical history repeats itself – as it is doing now. As Palmeri points out in “The First Time Print Died”, all media was once new. 

I thought Palmeri’s detailed look at new media through history was especially fascinating and useful. From Wiener’s attention to the non-literary generation, to Sparke and McKowen’s Montage, to Kytle’s Comp Book, it appears that teachers are fighting to incorporate new media into learning. One interesting point that Palmeri brought into his argument was the idea that teachers feel obligated to use new media in order to engage and motivate students. The students Palmeri was assessing were being fed television, movies and magazine covers constantly. The students now, however, are receiving information from everywhere around them, and especially the computer. It seems that it has gotten to the point where students do not expect to learn if technology is not somehow involved – a simple Google search showed me that more and more public schools are incorporating technology use into their mission statements.

However, it seems that new media are here to stay, and so why not teach students the skills they need in the classroom but also technical skills they can use for practical purposes? Palmeri quotes Kytle, saying “if the medium is the message, then the bound textbook – linear, inflexible, static – cannot encourage nonlinear, flexible, and dynamic response”. Today’s working world is filled with competition to be the most creative, innovative, and responsive professional. It seems to me that the best way to train students to epitomize these ideals is to train them using new media that is in and of itself creative, innovative, and responsive. 

I believe that learning the subject matter is important – grammar, literary analyses, and the ability to conceptualize ideas are priceless skills. However, I do not believe that these are the only things that matter anymore. Going to school to learn math, English, and history is not enough – in fact, schools who still teach this way put their students at a distinct disadvantage. While I thought Kytle’s idea of a Comp Book was radical, I think he has the right idea. Critical thinking, thinking on one’s feet, and even thinking for oneself are becoming lost in the pages of Sparknotes and online cheat sheets. Forcing students to use new media to form their own opinions and make their own judgments has clearly worked in the past, and it makes sense to continue to study rhetorical history to utilize new media to the best of its capabilities. 


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