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Our Philosophy

Director Roxanne Mountford teaches the 2017 orientation workshop.

Rhetorical Education

Our philosophy begins with a commitment to rhetorical education. In 2013, William Keith and Roxanne Mountford (director of OU's FYC Program) penned the "The Mt. Oread Manifesto on Rhetorical Education 2013" in which they assert that rhetoricians from all disciplines must work together in order to give proper attention to civil discourse through a return to rhetorical education. In our contemporary moment, a united approach to rhetorical education is critical for preparing students for their role in public life.

The FYC curriculum is informed by this dedication. As they prepare both writing and speaking assignments, our students practice communication skills learned from across the disciplines. Building such skills allows them to become respectful and effective participants in civil discourse. OU's FYC curriculum works to help build a citizenship composed of indiividuals that are capable of rhetorically analyzing discourse and using that analysis to productively communicate in the public sphere.

Slow Argumentation

It seems that a great deal of the public arguments being made are not successful at persuading their intended audience. We think a significant piece of this problem is that arguments are made hastily, without first attempting to understand the nature of argument or the position of the arguing party. As such, people argue at different levels and seem to never reach a productive outcome. 

We believe that slow argumentation can help solve this problem. By decelerating the process of argumentation, individuals can make more effective arguments because they have dedicated the time to prepare. This preparation does not simply mean accruing facts and figures that "prove" the arguing party's position; instead, slow argument demands a rhetorical approach to those with whom we might disagree.

We first ask students to analyze themselves, exploring what values motivate their positions and actions and allowing them to more readily recognize their own stake in issues of public importance. They then spend much of English 1113 and 1213 examining the perspectives, worldviews, and actions of those they disagree with and those that also have a stake in a selected public issue. Along the way, our curriculum emphasizes and practices concepts such as Krista Ratcliffe's rhetorical listening and stasis theory to offer students ways of exercising deliberation. The only projects in which students are asked to argue fall at the conclusion of our two-course sequence. Having spent nearly two semesters listening, delaying their argumentation, students are better  able to construct arguments to particular stakeholders that are respectful and productive. 

Civic Empathy

We want our students to leave our classes not only able to engage in critical inquiry and effective argumentation but able to understand the positions of others. Frequently, effective arguments are made that do not understand, or intentionally misunderstand, civic participants. While effective, such arguments owe their function to unethical rhetorical practices and do not elevate civil discourse. We strive for more.

In the process of slow argumentation, listening to others to understand rather than to defeat becomes a central priority. We choose to teach rhetorical practices that allow students to embrace the complexities of individuals, groups, and social issues in order to foster curiousity about the motivations of others. Emphaszing listening, we believe, creates the conditions for civic empathy to be achieved.