Advanced Composition

ENC 4311 | Spring 2016 | Dr. Marc C. Santos

Course Description

My interest this semester is to immerse you in a historic and contemporary conversation regarding the purpose of higher education. These questions will be both philosophical (what does it mean to be educated?) and pragmatic (what do educated people do?). At the same time that the course explores historic perspectives on education, it also attempts to elicit definitions of “rhetoric” and explicate rhetoric’s place in those perspectives.

This course is divided into three stages. In the first stage, which I will call the historical stage, we will survey a range of ideas concerning the purpose of education–from ancient Greek through the early 20th century. Along the way, we will come to define rhetoric and frame rhetoric’s place in education. In the second stage, which I will call the contemporary stage, we will read 4 books that make very different arguments about the purpose, conditions, and effectiveness of contemporary higher education. These arguments will serve as a launching point for stage three, in which you will each (or in small groups) select an issue to develop an extended research paper and corresponding multimedia presentation.

The ultimate aim of this course is to develop your ability to read carefully, think critically and constructively (both paying attention to how something is put together *and* recognizing how it might be put with other things), communicate clearly and persuasively, and argue logically (in simplest terms, differentiating between making a claim and supply evidence, contextualizing and qualifying evidence, and explicating how evidence reinforces a particular claim).


  • Email: insignificantwrangler at gmail dot com
  • Twitter: Oisin16
  • Office: Cooper 301c
  • Office Hours: forthcoming

It is best to reach me via DM on twitter if you have a quick question. If your question is more than 140 characters, then send me an email. I check my email twice daily (9:00am, 3:00pm). I generally avoid email on the weekends. So, if you have an emergency and need to reach me right away, use twitter.

Also, please don’t be afraid to come during office hours to ask questions about the course texts or discuss ideas you might have for the final project. You should take advantage of my availability–learning to interact with faculty is a core component of a quality education.

Required Materials

Course Texts

These texts are available through the bookstore; many are also available used on amazon or through other websites.

  • Arum and Roksa, Academically Adrift. 2010.
  • Nathan, My Freshman Year. 2006.
  • Giroux, Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education. 2014.
  • Nussbaum, Not for Profit. 2010/2012.

Additional Required Materials

  • Three-ring binder (with)
  • Printer paper (and copies of all distributed .pdf’s)

Note that a considerable number of our readings this semester will be PDFs provided through Canvas. You are required to print all course readings and to punch them into a three-ring binder. Further, you are required to bring this binder to every class session. Failure to bring your binder amounts to an absence. I will be asking to you take notes in a very particular manner as you make your way through course readings.

Course Projects and Requirements

This semester combines a number of weekly requirements focused on the reading with a sustained research project.

Reading Blogs

I will ask you to maintain a blog this semester that focuses on digesting course readings and preparing for class discussion. I advise using Blogger for your blogs, though you are free to use other platforms if you wish.

Prior to every class session, I will ask you to make a three paragraph entry to your blog (of course, you are free to write more than three paragraphs, yadda, yadda). The first paragraph should offer a summary of the reading. I would stress the importance of concision in your summary; aim for 5 sentences. Identify the purpose of the piece (what does the author want us to do differently, what does she want to change?). Identify the evidence the author provides (what does she point to in order to prove her claim?). Identify who she agrees with, from what previous position(s) does she build. Identify who she disagrees with, who she opposes, or what idea she identifies as problematic or in need of refinement.

Your second paragraph should take us to a particular sentence or sentences in the reading (a passage of no more than 3 sentences). The paragraph should open by situating us in a particular place in the reading and then transition into a quote (and we will work on this in class). The quote itself should be in block format. Then, after the quote, you should summarize it in a sentence and then explain its significance (this last point should take at least 3 sentences, and the grounds for its importance will vary. This is the point where you are thinking). See my post on handling sources for a more detailed explication.

The third paragraph should offer a response to the argument. Do you agree? Disagree? Or, better yet, what parts of the argument sound constructive? Which leave you hesitant?

Discussion Responses

I will reserve the final 10 minutes of each class for you to write a quick discussion response (you will notice response threads in Canvas). This provides you with an opportunity to share with me what you got out of class discussion, what you feel needs more explanation, why you think I am batshit crazy, or a question that you feel needs to be addressed. Anything. I am sincerely interested in knowing what you are getting out of our class sessions.

Twitter and the Chronicle

I will ask you to create a Twitter account (or to use one you already have) and to follow The Chronicle of Higher Education. Once a week, I will ask you to compose a quick blog post on one of the Chronicle articles you see. Additionally, you should retweet the link with our course hashtag (#enc4311) and a quick description/snarky comment/thoughtful response tothe article (just remember that the Chronicle editors will see this and might tweet you back–let’s talk about digital ethos). This is not a busywork exercise: my strategic aim is that you will see connections between our historic and contemporary readings and Chronicle articles that feed into a topic for the final paper. You will need to make 5 of these posts before the end of week 9.

Final Projects

The final projects for this course will consist of an extended research paper which you will then transform into a multimedia presentation or installation (in other words, you can give a performance with a powerpoint, construct a website, develop a video, or come up with any original and interesting way to present you research in a non-paper form).

This project will have three stages. First, there is the proposal stage. I will meet with everyone individually or in groups to discuss the purpose of their research and help them develop a research question. I expect research projects will have a primary and secondary component (meaning, you will DO something and you will read some things). Research projects can also go back an explore ideas developed in our historic readings. For the second part of the project concerns writing up your research into an academic paper. Research papers will be in the 12 to 15 page range. Yes, I know that is a lot–but we will talk about the organization and requirements of a research paper and I promise you it will not be as hard as you think. Finally, in the third stage of the project you will remediate your research paper into a multimedia project.


Your grade this semester breaks down like this:

  • Reading Blogs (25%)
  • Discussion Responses (10%)
  • Chronicle Posts (5%)
  • Final Project
    • Proposal(10%)
    • Research Paper (35%)
    • Remediation (15%)

Standard Syllabus Fare

Students with a disability and thus requiring accommodations are encouraged to consult with the instructor during the first week of class to discuss accommodations. See Student Responsibilities: Each student making this request must bring a current Memorandum of Accommodations from the office of student Disabilities Services.

You are excused from class for major observances of your religion. Inform the instructor at the beginning of the term when you expect to be absent for these events.

Plagiarism: put briefly, plagiarism is the unattributed use of another person’s ideas. I expect you to cite all sources in your writing and projects in MLA format. See for USF Undergraduate Catalog’s definitions and policy.

Attendance is mandatory. Given the complexity of the readings, you really need to be in class. I will excuse three absences this semester. Any absences above three will result in a 10-point penalty per absence. If you have a family or medical emergency that will require you to miss class, then you need to contact me as early as possible. As indicated above, failure to bring your three-ring binder, complete with readings and responses, constitutes an absence.

Turn your phones off.

As I have indicated above, this class will explore difficult material. I urge you to take advantage of office hours to come and ask questions about the reading–even if it is to ask a question about the meaning of a single sentence. It is impossible to discuss either the history of education or rhetoric without treading on political, theological, and/or ideological issues. Please, please contact me if you have any discomfort with course material or course discussions, either via email or in my office. You can also print out material and slide it under my door if you wish to ask a question or voice a concern anonymously.


Things change, roll with it.

Week One (Jan 12/14)

Tuesday: Course Intro (15 min). DP:”Why are you here?” (15 min) L: Plato’s philosophy and Plato’s rhetoric (30 min).
Homework: Plato Republic VII (pdf). Set up a blog with Blogger.

Thursday: Share/tweak blogs (15 min). Discuss Plato (30 min). L: Who is Isocrates? (10 min). DP: Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” (10 min).
Homework: Haskins and Benoit (pdf). Make sure you have two blog posts (one on Plato, one on tonight’s reading).

Week Two (Jan 19/21)

Tuesday: Let’s talk Twitter (30 min). D: Haskins and Benoit (30 min). DP: Isocrates and civic education.
Homework: Barlow on Cicero (pdf).

Thursday: Discuss Cicero and the Chronicle article.
Homework: Read Lanham (pdf, I will email a preface for the Lanham reading). DP: Tell me about how the strong defense differs from Plato’s “metaphor of the cave.” Tell me about “architectonic rhetoric.”

Week Three (Jan 26/28)

Tuesday: Share Grassi, discuss Barlow and Lanham (45 min). DP: Roman education.
Homework: Read Proctor (pdf). Make sure you have one Chronicle post by Thursday.

Thursday: NO CLASS.
Homework: Read Dewey (pdf).

Week Four (Feb 2/4)

Tuesday: Discuss Proctor and humanism. Share Kant. Share Emerson. Discuss Dewey. DP: Idealism and Pragmatism.
Homework: Read Dewey (pdf).

Thursday: Share/discuss Twitter. Discuss Dewey. DP: Dewey.
Homework: Read Freire and Lorde. Note that the Lorde reading isn’t a .pdf, but is available here. I am interested in the tension or resonance between Freire’s notion of liberatory education and Lorde’s take on poetry.

Week Five (Feb 9/11)

Tuesday: Listen to RATM. Read Lorde. Discuss Freire and Lorde. DP: Lorde, Freire, Poetry, and Education.
Homework: TAKE HOME “EXAM”: Write a 500 word paper that works to define what you see as the purpose of education. What is the strength of this education? Have you experienced it? What do you think is the biggest threat to this form of education? Draw upon both our readings and your personal experiences. We will listen to these papers in Thursday’s class.


Week Six (Feb 16/18)

This week we will be working with Nathan’s My Freshman Year.

Week Seven (Feb 23/25)

This week we will be working with Nussbaum’s Not For Profit.

Week Eight (Mar 1/3)

This week we will be working with Arum and Roksa’s Academically Adrift.

Week Nine (Mar 8/10)

This week we will be working with Giroux’s Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education.

Week Ten (Mar 16/18)

Spring Break. Proposal Development.

Week Eleven

Proposal feedback, research methods.

Week Twelve


Week Thirteen

Draft paper.

Week Fourteen

Revise paper.

Week Fifteen

Revise paper. Remediate paper.

Week Sixteen

Remediate paper. Present remediations.

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