This paper, with some additions and changes, was presented at a conference, Rhetorical Education in America, at Penn State this July,  by Drs. Dan Collins and Robert Sutton.

Last amended 11/23/99


Rhetoric As Commitment:

Ethics and Everyday Life

....teachers of English need to offer the conditions for students to share their
experiences, work in social relations that emphasize care and concern for others,
and be introduced to forms of knowledge that provide them with the opportunity
to take risks and fight for a quality of life in which all humans benefit.

Henry Giroux


 Introduction: Rhetoric as Commitment

A student and her family struggle to decide to "pull the plug" on her grandfather.  Has he suffered long enough, they ask themselves . . . A boyfriend struggles with his girlfriend's decision to have an abortion.  What to do, he agonizes to himself over and over . . . A teacher looks out upon his students, realizing they are all potential jurors in a county wherein the last four murder trials were all capital cases.  How would they decide, he wonders . . . A young man struggles to explain his decision to join a citizen action group fighting local zoning laws enabling development of local wetlands.  Why can't you see this is important, he demands of his parents.

To relate rhetoric to commitment is to highlight a number of issues.  First, it is to see rhetoric as social action.  To commit is to do something or perform a stated action.  This commitment acknowledges an investment in a social epistemic rhetoric: to commit is to make known one's views on an issue.  That is, the nature of the commitment is reflected in the language used and the knowledge constructed within the rhetorical act.  To commit also means to agree to acquire the argumentative, analytic, and interpretative skills required of good rhetors and, ultimately, citizens.  Last, it refers to the arbitrary temporality of academia: in one semester's time, we ask questions of our students and each other that cannot be answered fully or satisfactorily.  To commit in this case means to consign for future use or reference.  Helping students enter into ongoing dialogues on ethics in both school-based and more immediate environments, asking students to consider ethics on both personal and social planes, requiring students to write and to reflect to potentially stave off the disembodiment of our culture, is not easy.  For in such actions, ongoing and perhaps perpetual, there is commitment, roughly, the state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to someone or something.

Several persons suggest that our contemporary society is faced with a moral crisis, partly owing to an inability to find common points of agreement with which to discuss morality and an inability to find moral resources to inform such discussions.  For example, Kurt Spellmeyer calls the fragmentation of discourse and the dismantling of public space so that it is no longer public--producing the demise of the social imagination--"the overriding predicament of our times" (268).  Cornel West agrees, lamenting our contemporary inability to imagine interconnected lives amid racial and cultural differences (8-12).  Equally problematic is the belief that moral persuasion, rhetoric, is not an effective way to alter how people look at situations and act, that it has no bearing on the fabric of social life, and that there are no bases of agreeing or disagreeing over moral matters.  Western civic society requires that persons be committed to certain kinds of public virtues and forms of discourse in order to preserve and practice their particularistic moral views.  News headlines document the strain that this ideal is under.  Persons cannot agree on forms of civic discourse, and particular communities have been undermined by various forces from the wider culture in which they are embedded.  Given these exegencies, we urge students to rethink the bases of moral debate and whether or not effective forms of moral persuasion are forms of empowerment.  We press students to imagine a variety of discourses and their value relative to particular purposes and particular audiences.   We ask them to think hard about the nature of the current social order and their position within this order.

Concomitantly, we would like students to think about the future worlds they would like to live in and identify what it might take to bring these worlds about.  Michael McGuire appeals to this power of rhetoric to enhance life's value for the rhetor.  Positing rhetoric as a way of knowing, an element in the social construction of reality, McGuire names rhetoric as a means of taking control of social constructions:

Rhetoric preserves the possibility (illusion, some would say) of human choice, and in fact forces choice by individuals. . . .  "Choice" enhances the value of  life to the individual; choice makes behavior meaningful and provides the possibility to exert influence over one's environment--to "take control" by choosing action and by defining situations.  (146-47)
Is it possible, we ask ourselves as teachers, to create the conditions wherein students begin to see rhetoric and ethics intertwined?  As James Porter writes, "[R]hetorical action always involves ethical judgment because the very act of composing establishes relations between writers and audiences, or relations depending upon some notions of 'rightness' and 'wrongness'" (62).  From Porter's standpoint, ethics is not offered as an answer, a set of rules governing conduct, but as a process of inquiry into any determination of right and wrong (68).  Ethics and rhetoric, then, both require commitment--commitment to a position, to settle conflicts and build community, to negotiate differences.

 John Poulakos, much like McGuire, also offers a future-seeking rhetoric.  Poulakos writes, "Rhetoric is the art which seeks to capture in opportune moments that which is appropriate and attempts to suggest that which is possible" ("Toward" 36).  This rhetoric, derivative of Sophistic rhetoric, attends to the actual and the possible: "[T]he rhetoric of possibility assumes an incomplete universe, a universe that man must bring closer to completion.  As such, it attempts to persuade by attending to that part of the world that is not" ("Rhetoric" 223).  For us, this rhetoric of possibility productively plays off of McGuire's use of choice: "The rhetoric of possibility focuses on man's freedom to choose and capacity to become his possibilities; as such, it seeks to make him aware of his possibilities and offer him new ones" (224).  Dividing our attention between the actual and the possible, we ask students to examine ethical situations for what they are and according to how they might be.  We seek to establish a forum for deliberation, for weighing options and making choices, and for developing the sense of agency commitment entails.

The Course

 Since the Fall of 1998 we have offered the first team-taught humanities course at Cape Fear Community College.  It combines a second semester English course, "Argument-Based Research," with "Introduction to Ethics."1  The class is arranged according to the constraints under which we teach.  Cape Fear Community College, part of the North Carolina Community College system, must follow the "Common Course Library" when offering courses.  Even course descriptions are mandated by the State Department of Community Colleges.  For us it would have been difficult and time-consuming--if not impossible--to create a new course.  Instead, we work with what we have--our own individual courses--and schedule them to meet during successive periods.  That is, students enroll in both classes, so the same students meet in the same classroom across two hours, three days a week.  On paper it appears as if students are in two distinct courses; in the classroom we try to make the class seamless.

This seamlessness is accomplished through assignments and class proceedings.  Typically, for the first two-thirds of the semester, students read the primary text: James Rachels' Elements of Moral Philosophy.  Rachels' text introduces readers to various moral theories and identifies ethical choices according to specific criteria, including the importance of making decisions based on the best available reasons while taking into account the interests of others.  We steer students through this material via class discussions.  We also supplement each chapter with either some type of applied text--a written or visual text that exhibits elements of the theory or that offers counterarguments to its specific tenets.  For example, as we discussed ethical subjectivism (i.e., the belief that ethics involves matters of personal opinion and not "objective" fact), we viewed and discussed Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing.  We also read and discussed two essays: exerpts from Cornel West's "Introduction" to Race Matters and Hannah Arendt's "Violence, Power and Bureaucracy."  All three texts were offered as applications and extensions of the tenets of ethical subjectivism as discussed in Rachels' book.  At other times we bring in readings which question Rachels' basic approach to morality, i.e., doing what there are the best reasons for doing while taking into account other persons' interests.  In these cases we have students read essays by authors such as Annette Baier and Richard Rorty, both of whom raise questions about traditional Western approaches to moral theory.

 The course can be seen according to two timelines.  Because students are enrolled in two distinct courses, grades are specific to these respective courses.  Students are informed which assignments correspond to which course.  The English grade is determined through a set of assignments structured around the exploration of a specific social issue (e.g., affirmative action, capital punishment, euthanasia, animal rights).  Groups are formed around specific issues, and students work in the same group throughout the semester.  Individually, students research their topic, and they individually write a synthesis paper and an argumentative paper.  Structured into class time are occasions for students to read and discuss their papers with students who are working on the same topic and with those students who are not.  The individual argumentative papers are then used to write a group paper.  In this paper, students can either forward a unified position for the group and explain the ways in which this position was reached, or they can agree to disagree by first delineating their competing assumptions and positions and then explain why a unified position was not possible.  Within their papers, students identify the moral theories that provide the best analytic framework for their subject.  They also convey, in narrative format, the proceedings of the group: who agreed, disagreed, and what was discussed.

The Ethic's course grade is determined, in part, through one-page reflection papers for the Rachels text.  Students are responsible for one-page responses to each chapter of Rachels' text.  These responses are read and discussed in groups of 3-4 students prior to any other enumeration of a chapter.  This strategy provides that students relate to the text without our views prejudicing their readings, and these deliberations provide the framework for the initial class discussions of the materials.  The supplemental texts spur further examination according to new questions and applications.  The remainder of their grade is based upon a written analysis of Rachels' presentation of a particular moral theory, an annotated bibliography compiled around the subject of their group paper, and three two-page response papers on various topics, depending on the texts used from semester to semester.  In all, students are asked to engage different kinds of texts and to complete different kinds of work corresponding to different audiences and purposes.

 We designed the class to introduce students to an academic conversation about the nature of ethics and ethical thinking, a sub-discipline of philosophy that uses various tools of philosophical analysis and argumentation.  This introduction is implemented through an investment into particular academic literacy practices.  Specifically, we hope that students will be better able to express themselves more persuasively and more self-critically while being more empathetic to those whose views and practices might be different from their own.  Furthermore, we want students to continue to grow as researchers, to find out the "facts" or "truth" of a situation while employing a hermeneutics of suspicion when appropriate, and to see more concretely that most issues debated in our communities are more complex than first thought.  Because both instructors are present in class for both hours of instruction three days a week, we model the kind of work that we endorse. Through questions asked and answered, points raised and considered, students observe first-hand the process of inquiry.  They see the unfinished nature of our work.  Perhaps more importantly, they also see a friendship solidified in spite of the long hours of class work which separates instructors from one another.  We are better colleagues because we know more about one another; we are better friends for much the same reason.  This sense of connectedness is of no small importance.

 We attempt, additionally, to bridge the gap between the academic world and the various everyday worlds of our students.  Community college students live in many worlds.  Most of them work; many have families or roommates.  Some are out-of-state students taking classes until their residency status starts and they can transfer to the local university.  Many are at the community college because it is their last chance to get a formal education and, hopefully,  participate more fully in the economic and social life of our community.  Others are there for various personal reasons.  Given such multiplicites, we help students examine ethics according to the social arrangements of their everyday lives and ask them to consider how things could be otherwise.

Our goal, then, is more than academic.  We believe that student investment into both ethics and rhetoric should carry into virtually all aspects of their lives.  We hope that students begin to better understand both ethics and rhetoric as components of their everyday lives; that is, ethics and rhetoric are not disconnected from day-to-day living but are weaves in the tapestry of human existence.  Rhetoric, Porter explains, involves "making decisions . . . considering divergent norms, principles, and conventions in light of particular circumstances that require action" (29).  So, too, does ethics.  Given our social existence, the fact that individuals exist within wider social relations, Porter argues that "we are already in a space where moral judgment is required.  If we engage in any act of communication, we cannot avoid making decisions that constitute our relations with others.  At this point we are in the realm of ethics" (8). Porter's identification of "the art of human relations" (i.e., a kind of normative practice determining actions taken respective of others) as one point of overlap between rhetoric and ethics is important, then, to our understanding of what we are asking students to do (xiii-xiv).

 This engagement is difficult work.  We are both suspicious about the desirability and viability of finding metaphysical foundations which can be universally agreed upon that could legitimize any meaningful human activity.  Having said this does not mean that we completely reject all forms of traditional philosophical analysis and/or argumentation.  It does mean though that we tend to view philosophical discussions, especially those involving ethics, as forms of rhetoric.  One way to think about a moral person is of a person who is a self-regulating, principled individual, and this also is one conception of the accomplished rhetor.  The individual in both cases would not only be a person capable of autonomous regulation, but when called upon, able to communicate to diverse audiences the reasons and motivations underlying her behavior.  Whatever else the individual does, she must be able to communicate her thoughts to her audience.  Otherwise, no matter how insightful, useful, or interesting those ideas might be, they will only be "deep thoughts."  Ethical determinations are, therefore, part and parcel to rhetorical acts.2

Sharon Welch, drawing from Jurgen Habermas, also looks to intertwine rhetoric and ethics, in her case to construct a "communicative ethic" capable of transcending differences in our culture that, more often than not, lead to silence and disengagement.  Welch argues, "From the perspective of communicative ethics, we cannot be moral alone" (88).  When faced with oppositional viewpoints and choices between competing claims, Welch argues not for consensus but for an underlying sense of solidarity that informs successful consensus.  This solidarity works according to two tenets:  first, a recognition of another's ideas enough to listen respectfully, and second, an understanding of the interconnectivity of individuals and groups in order to be accountable to one another (95).  We hope to convey to our students both of these tenets of solidarity.  One must not only convey her perspectives, one must also have the aptitude to listen to opposing views, to be less apt to judge and more prone to understand prior to making ethical pronouncements.

 We are interested in the pedagogical application of Welch's framework, for it values differences that will be uncovered in an engaged classroom, and it professes a process more than a prescribed position.  Toward such ends, both rhetoric and ethics are offered as processes of inquiry into contingent and situational exigencies used to negotiate moral judgments and subsequent actions in a world of competing differences.  We expect to find no fundamental tenets inherent in ethical decisions; instead we see competing claims and divergent courses of action.  We hope that such a framework empowers students by providing them with a way of making decisions for themselves rather than telling them what to think and do.  This framework also suggests that rhetoric and ethics involve not just a level of objectivity and rational abstraction as has historically been stressed, but, also, a level of commitment to the formation of habits of committed thought and action as indicated in our introduction.

So much works against this viewpoint, however.  Important elements of everyday life, such as cultural narratives--those "traditional" modes by which we make sense of our worlds and thereby conduct our lives--guide us, most often successfully, in our decision making.3  We do not want to dismiss these frameworks of meaning; instead, we want students to utilize them in their growing understandings of moral principles and the specific principles by which they govern their actions.
For example, the first week of the semester students are asked to read the Raymond Carver short story "So Much Water So Close to Home."  In this story, four men take their annual fishing trip to a remote part of the Naches River.  They are described as decent family men.  On this trip they run into unexpected problems: one of the men discovers the body of a dead, nude woman near their campsite.  It is late and dark, and the men do not know what to do.  Conferring among themselves, they decide to tie the body up to a tree limb so it will not float away.  With the body secured, they fish for the rest of the weekend, notifying the authorities of their find as soon as they reach a payphone as they drive home Sunday afternoon.

 The following day a newspaper article details the actions of these men.  Their motives are questioned by family members and townspeople alike.  In class, our students were also uncomfortable with the men's decision.  We asked the students if the men were justified in the decision they made.  Many believed they are not; instead of taking into consideration the family of this dead woman, they thought only of themselves, these students explained.  We reminded them of James Rachels' argument that moral decision-making requires good reasons: Is being tired reason enough to ignore the body and go on with their weekend?  After all, the men presumably worked part of the day, drove to the river, and then hiked to their fishing spot.  Turning around and going back to town would certainly disrupt and perhaps postpone a long-awaited outing.  Many students argued that these are poor reasons.  We asked students what they would do if faced with such a situation.  Most said that they would turn around immediately and alert the authorities.  Only a few said that they would stay the night and venture into town at first daylight.  None said they would stay the weekend as the men in the story.  Many students concluded that the men made an immoral decision.

A week later, we watched Do The Right Thing.  The film documents a twenty-four hour period in Bed-Stuy wherein an attempt to boycott a local pizzeria owned by an Italian-American white man (Sal) leads to violence and the death of a young African-American (Radio Raheem) at the hands of the police.  After the police leave with the dead man's body, community members burn down Sal's Pizzeria in angry protest.

Most students had not seen the film before, and many were silenced by the culminating violence.  They immediately wanted to place blame somewhere, anywhere, for the destruction of Sal's.  Buggin' Out (who initiated the boycott of Sal's because Sal would not put up pictures of African-American heroes on his wall next to his Italian-American Wall of Fame), Radio Raheem (who joined Buggin' Out in protest),  and Mookie (an employee of Sal's who instigates the burning of the pizzeria by throwing a garbage can through the large plate glass window of the pizzeria) are all named as immediate suspects.

 To further explore the film, we asked students to read two essays: Hannah Arendt's "Violence, Power, and Bureaucracy," and excerpts from Cornel West's "Introduction" to Race Matters.  We hoped that the two essays would complicate initial interpetations of the film and perhaps prompt a deepened sense of the movie and the dialectic of class and race Spike Lee attempts to portray in the film.

For Arendt, violence and power are not only different, they are opposites.  Violence seems a desirable means to a short-term end for the powerless, Arendt argues.  At best, it offers an attempt to be seen and heard.  Applying the essay to the film, we asked if Mookie was justified in throwing the trash can through Sal's window.  After all, he just witnessed the death of a friend at the hands of the police.  Should anyone be accountable for their actions after witnessing such a tragedy?  Given Mookie's persistent self-interest in the film, the fact that he only did anything if it benefitted him, many students were not willing to entertain the thought that Mookie did the "right" thing by throwing the trash can.  Other students argued for Mookie:  perhaps Mookie was attempting to avoid further loss of life so he directed his violence toward Sal's pizzeria and not Sal and/or his sons.  Or, he resorted to violence in order to gain attention to his position as one that is unsafe even in his own neighborhood.  Perhaps after such commotion, something positive will get done, making his actions justifiable, if not moral.

And the cops, they certainly reacted to the situation with violence.  Did they feel just as powerless as the residents of Bed-Stuy believed themselves to be?  Were they also pointing to a situation they felt needed addressing by resorting to a seemingly deliberate strangling of Radio Raheem?  Arendt's essay, then, allowed us to examine the film relative to questions of power and violence.

 West furthered our discussion by providing useful ideas to understand the dialectic of race and class represented in the film.  West argues that we must look to the structural flaws of American society, to historical inequalities and cultural stereotypes, if we are to productively engage one another and minimize social unrest.  What, then, could be accomplished in putting pictures of African-American on the walls of Sal's?  What was accomplished in the burning of Sal's pizzeria?  And what actually caused such violence?  West asks us to see that our disconnections ironically connect us to one another and to a common destiny that much more.  West forces specific questions to be asked of the film: How much do we care about the quality of our lives together?  What can be done to highlight the importance of a common destiny, if one can be agreed upon?  And in the words of deejay Senor Love Daddy in the film, "Are we gonna live together, together are we gonna live?"

What we are attempting through such practice is consistent with Charles Bazerman's point that action/participation is the important other side of rhetoric.  Bazerman defines such action as "the art of influencing others through language in the great social undertakings that shape the way we live" (62).  We hope to show students that they can shape the ways they live by entering into larger social discussions once they are equipped with the necessary rhetorical tools and knowledge.  Bazerman highlights the academy as one institution that acts as "one of the great levers for social change" (62)--and we hope our project works off of the best the academy has to offer: helping persons become socially aware, broadly informed, active citizens.  We also hope to extend the opportunity for students to become eloquent speakers and writers that establish connections across academic disciplines and beyond the schoolyard gate.

 The breaking of such boundaries is not always easy, however.  One day toward the end of the semester a student, one who was opposed to Affirmative Action at the beginning of our class discussions, told us of a recent decision he had made.  He informed us that he made up his mind to volunteer at a local "Big Buddy" program that offered literacy instruction to young people and their parents.  He explained that our class discussions on economic disparities and opportunity gaps within American society helped him see that Affirmative Action, in some forms, were needed if the enfranchisement of those historically left out of the calculations is to be a social goal.  He and a few friends had decided that they would use their good fortune of being born into two-parent families that emphasized education as a means to achieve goals and help those that were less fortunate.

The irony of this positive effect of our course was that on the same day, a day we finished our discussion of Affirmative Action and started on environmental ethics, another student threw up his hands in exasperation: "I'm tired," he exclaimed.  "I can't bear to look at another social problem that we have little control over.  What's the point?"  This student is justified in asking his question: although we want to introduce students to ongoing dialogues around social issues and their ethical dilemmas, we do not want to overwhelm students to the point of inaction.  We wondered aloud, to ourselves after class, what makes one student shut down and another open up?  What enables one student to embrace his agency while another comes undone?

Conclusion: An Ongoing Pedagogy

 These two examples reflect a theme of the course: an examination of ethics is a personal and a social calculus.  In what ways are personal issues connected to social institutions and practices that should be analyzed and critiqued?  In what ways are the binary responses of our students--action and inaction--byproducts of the same social fabric?  As indicated above, some students lament the ambiguities of moral issues in a multicultural and pluralistic society, and student often desire to know the right answer, the correct moral theory, or the proper course of action.  It is not just students though who confront this 'openendness' in moral matters; we all face the same challenges.

To help make their ideas more concrete, and to generate more connections between classroom discussions and local decisions, we have decided to have future students subscribe to the local newspaper for the duration of the semester.  Not that our local paper is a bastion of truth or good reporting, it is neither.  Instead it is an established forum for the sorting out of local, state, national, and international issues and ideas that affect our students' lives in ways they may not have considered before.  If literacy is one's relationship to the world, as Paulo Freire consistently argued, we want students to read and write their worlds according to perspectives enriched with the ethical theories they find valuable.  We hope that students see ethics as a framework from which to examine locally significant issues.  We want students to look at local realities and evaluate these realities according to a deeper calculus.  Not only will such application enhance their understandings of the ethical theories under examination, it will also help students perceive subtle nuances within their everyday worlds.  These worlds can perhaps be broken down into definable, more manageable spheres: country, state, school district, neighborhood, workplace, family, etc.  Scrutinizing newspaper articles that pertain to these spheres and writing letters to the newspaper's editor will hopefully help students more effectively sort out the vagaries of complex issues; not only will this scrutiny assist students in generating patterns of practices that produce the making of meaning in their everyday lives, it may help them to decide the battles worth their fight.4

 To further assist students in this determination, we also perceive a need to make these connections ourselves.  We are aware of various resources within our communities: literacy programs, soup kitchens, homeless shelters.  We are also aware of definitive "texts" students should have contact with when examining certain issues.  But we can always do more to keep abreast of such vital links, and we have made it a point to begin cataloguing these links for ourselves and our students.  If we want students to begin questioning the limitations of traditional disciplinary study, if we want students to engage this critique to make connections between their studies and their communities however defined, we, as their instructors, should model such behaviors.  Quite frankly, we need to know more about our communities to teach more effectively.  This statement is not any grand epiphany, but it is a subtle and persistent reminder of the complexity of Freire's dialectic.  Reading and writing one's worlds is not always easy, particularly for students engaging new discourses, in our case, rhetoric and ethics.  And the complexity points to the very social nature of this act: we need to build alliances, to draw people together.  This collectivity provides a critical basis for students to immerse themselves in the course materials; it might also be a vital element in any further work students might begin outside of the classroom.


1. Listed here are the course descriptions of ENG112 and PHI240 from our College's catalogue:

ENG 112 - Argument-Based Research:  This course, the second in a series of two, introduces research techniques, documentation styles, and argumentative strategies.  Emphasis is placed on analyzing data and incorporating research findings into documented argumentative essays and research projects. Upon completion, students should be able to summarize, paraphrase, interpret,  and synthesize information from primary and secondary sources using standard research format and style.

PHI 240 - Introduction to Ethics:  This course introduces theories about the nature and foundations of moral judgments and applications to contemporary moral issues.  Emphasis is placed on utilitarianism, rule-based ethics, existentialism, relativism versus objectivism, and egoism.  Upon completion, students should be able to apply various ethical theories to individual moral issues such as euthanasia, abortion, crime and punishment, and justice.

2. In many ways this team-taught combination of English and Ethics responds to David Fleming in his essay, "Rhetoric as a Course of Study," where he challenges teachers of rhetoric to

. . . begin by making our central image of the word (rhetoric) a classroom scene:    young adults learning rich, specific, but powerful language for talking about discourse; studying the history, philosophy, and science of rhetoric; and developing, through practice, needed intellectual and moral faculties and sensibilities. (185)
Specifically, our course maintains Fleming's insistence that rhetoric involve humanistic inquiry into rhetorical situations with the goal of helping students become active participants within their communities (183-84).

3. Advocates of cultural studies such as James Berlin and Richard Johnson emphasize the importance of narrative--a means of articulating experience in language--in the construction and maintenance of culture.  We seek to use narrative along the same lines.  Our description of ethics, in other words, should provide insight into how culture is taken up and lived by concrete individuals and groups in specific moments in time.

4. We have altered our syllabi to reflect these changes in our pedagogical philosophy.  Now for the English grade students are responsible for the following assignments: first, a reading journal comprised of three articles per week taken from our local newspaper.  These articles should focus on one particular ethical issue, and encompass local, national, and perhaps international articulations of the issue, second, two papers (three-four pages) based on essays to be read for class.  These papers should include a brief summary of the original essay, and critical reflection on the issues addressed.  Students choose the essays they wish to write about, and these students may be called upon to lead class discussion on days their essay is discussed, third, a group project addressing a particular ethical issue (preferably the issue to be monitored in their reading journal).  Each group is responsible for a multi-genre work examining and exploring aspects of the issue chosen, including an overview of the issue, profiles of local agencies dedicated to working with the issue chosen, interviews with various personnel affiliated with these agencies, predictions regarding the nature of the issue and the ways its core elements might change over time, and predictions regarding possible outcomes of ongoing debates on the issue chosen.  Last, group compose a bibliography of definitive sources on their group issue that highlights the complexities of the issue and the nature of their work being done related to this issue.  The bibliography should include books, articles, websites, as well as the names and addresses of local agencies enumerated in their projects.  The project, in total, is pitched as a cross-sectional analysis of a specific issue and how that issue is dealt with in our local communities.

Students are responsible for the following assignments for their Ethics grade: one-page reflection papers for each chapter in the Rachels text, an editorial forwarding an argument on a timely ethical issue.  This paper should include some background on the issue and a discussion of the moral theories involved. We also strongly encourage students to send their finished products to the local newspaper for possible publication.  Last, students are also responsible for an essay upholding what they perceive to be the most appealing ethical theory discussed in class.

 Works Cited

Bazerman, Charles.  "From Cultural Criticism to Disciplinary Participation: Living With Powerful Words.  Writing, Teaching, and Learning in the Disciplines.  Eds. Anne  Herrington and Charles Moran.  New York: MLA, 1992.  61-69.

Fleming, David.  "Rhetoric as a Course of Study."  College English 61.2 1998): 169-191.

Giroux, Henry.  "Textual Authority and the Role of Teachers as Public Intellectuals."  Social  Issues in the English Classroom.  Eds. C. Mark Hurlbert and Samuel Totten. Urbana,  IL: NCTE, 1992.  304-21.

McGuire, Michael.  "The Ethics of Rhetoric: The Morality of Knowledge." Southern Speech  Communication Journal 45 (1980): 133-48.

Porter, James E.  Rhetorical Ethics and Internetworked Writing.  Greenwich, Connecticut:  Ablex, 1998.

Poulakos, John.  "Rhetoric, The Sophists, and the Possible." Communications Monogram 51  (1984): 215-26.

---.  "Toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric."  Philosophy and Rhetoric 16 (1983): 35-48.

Rachels, James.  The Elements of Moral Philosophy.  3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

Spellmeyer, Kurt.  Common Ground: Dialogue, Understanding, and the Teaching of   Composition.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993.

Welch, Sharon.  "An Ethics of Solidarity and Difference." Postmodernism, Feminism, and  Cultural Politics: Redrawing  Educational Boundaries.  Ed. Henry A. Giroux.  Albany:  SUNY P, 1991.  83-99.

West, Cornel.  Race Matters. New York: Vintage, 1994.