In my seminar, we are reading James Berlin’s Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures: Refiguring College English Studies. I include this book as an example of a cultural studies writing pedagogy aimed at teaching students how to recognize and resist what Berlin calls “hegemonic discourses” expressed in “cultural codes.” This is sometimes called “critical thinking,” in that the goal is for students to see how the language in everything from advertisements to political discourse is designed to make them think and act in ways that support the dominant ideology of the culture. The idea is that if we can see how we are being manipulated, we can free ourselves and make our own decisions.
These days, we have to create a list of public outcomes for every course we teach. I sometimes joke with my students that one of the outcomes for a cultural studies course should be “Students will learn to resist hegemonic discourses.” Because the institutions that offer these courses are often trying to impose hegemonic discourses, or are at least complicit in maintaining the dominant ideology, I wonder if such an outcomes statement would be questioned.
I realized that my writing matrix did not include this concern among the skills and abilities I had listed, so I have made yet another revision. One could certainly argue that other writing skills are more important, but because many university writing courses are organized around a cultural studies pedagogy, I felt that it was important for “Critical Thinking/Ideological Insight” to appear in the matrix.
This is getting a bit unwieldy, but I think it is still useful for thinking about the goals and content of a writing course. Again, not every course will include all of these concerns. Previous posts on this matrix can be found here: What Writing Courses Do and Writing Matrix Extended.