Rhetoric’s History & Power: Dr. Erin Laverick

Over the centuries, rhetoric has evolved and taken on many different forms. In a digital age where almost everyone has access to a public platform via social media, rhetoric is now everywhere. But how are we to digest all of these messages? How do we differentiate between the helpful and the destructive? Dr. Erin Laverick, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences at CUAA, is joining us to look back over the history of rhetoric, analyze how it’s changed, identify the emergence of female voices, and provide suggestions on how we can engage in a meaningful way with the rhetoric of our current day.

Guest Appearances

Dr. Erin Laverick is the dean of the school of Arts & Sciences at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Dr. Laverick obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, her master’s in English from Illinois State University, and her PhD in English from Bowling Green State University. She has more than 16 years of experience working and teaching in higher education.  

Key Topics

  • What is rhetoric? Where did it come from and how has it changed over the years?
  • How have women historically utilized the power of rhetoric to create impact of their own? Dr. Laverick outlines the unique tools, like self-deprecation, that women used in the middle ages and beyond to spread their messages. A popular example of this is Julian of Norwich.
  • Today, rhetoric is all around us. How are our thoughts and beliefs being shaped by it? Are we even aware that this is happening?
  • We need critical thinking in order to sort through all of these messages and figure out what we should be listening to and what needs to be dismissed. Just because someone has a platform, doesn’t mean that he/she should be listened to. Dr. Laverick shares the following as markers of good communicators:
    • Ethos—ethics: the writer, speaker, or artist should be sincere
    • Goodwill toward the audience
    • Adequate knowledge about the topic
    • Good character   
  • A text in present-day rhetoric can be anything—it could be a book, a commercial, a social media post, etc. When analyzing texts and messages, think through:
    • Who is the intended audience?
    • What is the person’s purpose behind posting or publishing the text?
    • What’s the context of the post or published piece?  
  • As you learn to evaluate speakers and analyze texts and begin to engage in the conversations of our day, Dr. Laverick notes that you don’t need to win an argument in order for your engagement in the conversation to be successful. At the end of the day, you simply just need to enter the conversation.

A Few Mentioned Resources + People

What are your thoughts on rhetoric? Have you given much consideration to the way you interact with the messages of our day? We’d love to hear from you regarding your experience. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share your feedback on this episode.

Episode transcript

Dr. Laverick:  When we look at rhetoric, we can look at how people speak, or how people write, but also artifacts, or visual rhetoric, can tell stories as well. Part of a woman’s rhetoric is to look at spaces and artifacts that may be 100, 200, 300 years ago were overlooked as just basic necessities. We could look at a vase of flowers, we could look at items in a kitchen, and they can tell us stories about who these women were or are.

Michael: Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of Living Uncommon podcast. We were just talking about how we have absolutely nothing to talk about right now. So, this might be a bad intro. Except, this is now Dan, our new co-host’s second podcast. We were just talking, Dan, so, one of the things I really like is Seltzer. I was just saying how every night when I come home, I want to crack open a cold seltzer. I don’t really drink alcohol. I mean, maybe, once or twice a day. Just kidding. Just a once in a while, but, Seltzer is my thing. It’s a great way to kick back. Dan, why don’t you like it?

Dan: I’m just not a fan. It’s not very flavorful. I like flavor.

Michael: When you come home, do you crack open anything? Do you have a juice box?

Dan: No, not usually. I have a glass of water, room temperature water, and I stare at the wall for two hours, and then I go to bed.

Angelina: No dinner, just a dinner of water.

Michael: But, do you have a thing you do when you get home? Do you go to open the fridge and look for food? What’s the first thing you do?

Angelina: I’m probably more apt to go for food. It’s just whatever’s there, you know? The shelves aren’t always lined, but, when they are, then anything’s free game. Sometimes, I try to make it to dinner, and sometimes that doesn’t happen.

Michael: So, you do a snack before dinner? 

Angelina: I’m usually not there by the time dinner is finished. It’s like, I’m not even hungry. It’s a problem. 

Michael: America, what a place. 

Dan: So, I have have an obsession right now. It’s New York City. 

Michael: Says everyone from Wisconsin who visits New York City.

Dan: I took my daughter on a college visit there a couple weeks ago, and we just were there for maybe three days, and it was pretty great. So, I was listening to this podcast, it’s like the history of New York. It’s very interesting. These two guys talk about different locations, and the backstories. 

Angelina: Was that your first time?

Dan: Yeah, hoping to go back maybe in the fall.

Angelina: If your daughter chooses to go to school there, then, you’ll have an in.

Dan: Yeah, we’ll have an opportunity to go.

Angelina: So, what was your favorite thing that you did, or ate, or saw?

Dan: Probably everything that I did…honestly, I’m just wandering around the city. You just get on the subway and take it somewhere, and then, get off and walk around for a few miles here and there, just looking around. I love the architecture. The fact that, you know, here’s a city that I believe is something like 300 years old. It’s very old city. The Dutch got there in the 1640s, or something [EDITOR: It was 1620]. Obviously, Wisconsin’s not that old. Yeah, mid 1800s. So, we don’t have quite the same history, and it’s interesting to see a city that does have that. I was shocked to see that there’s a Target everywhere. They have Targets in the city. It’s just kind of strange, but helpful when you have to like use the bathroom and you can’t go into any place. They won’t let you in. You just go in to wonder at the Target. Pretend like you’re buying something.  

Michael: I’ve always wanted to go to Quebec City. I’m not good with the history of North America as much as I should be. It feels like you’re in Europe, but everything looks almost medieval in Quebec City. It just seems like a cool place to go. 

Dan: A lot of catapults.

Michael: You’re right. There’s not a lot of history in North America compared to, like, when I was I studied in Europe, and seeing cities in Italy. It was kind of crazy to think that these cities are thousands of years old. I mean, it’s, you know, Roman kinda pieces, but pizza is good in both places, right?

Dan: I suppose so.

Michael: Speaking of history, we’ve got a really interesting podcast today with the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences in Concordia Ann Arbor. Angelina and I recently went up there and did a few podcasts, and she has a really unique feel of research and focus of study with rhetoric, but, in particular, the female perspective in rhetoric, and a historical female perspective. This was a really interesting podcast, and I’m excited for you all to hear it.

Michael: Welcome back. We are here with Erin Laverick who is the Dean of School of Arts and Sciences at Concordia University Ann Arbor. She has some really interesting viewpoints on rhetoric and feminine point of view. So, we want to dig into that. Before we do, Erin, we always like to ask people just a little bit about their their faith life, and their background, and their professional life. So, if you could give us the narrative of how you came to where you’re at right now, spiritually, and also how that coincided with where you’re at professionally.

Erin: I was born and raised Catholic. I grew up in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and there were four small Catholic churches, kind of on each side of the city, and we belonged to St. John’s. So, it backed up to our house, and we went to school there, my brothers and I. My brothers and I went to school there, we attended church, and it just was part of our daily lives being part of that parish. Then, I went off to college, and I probably didn’t practice my faith as much as I should. I think college is the time where it can be a challenge to stay immersed in your faith, and really practice your faith. So, that’s one part of Concordia that I love is how devout our students are and how they are so committed to not just going through the daily routine of attending chapel, or going to their Bible class, but really honing in on their faith. That’s something I wish I would have taken better care in doing as a college student. When I got married and started having my family, that part naturally came back to me. So, now my husband and I live in Maumee, Ohio, and we belong to St. Joseph’s parish in Maumee. I teach Sunday School to three and four-year-olds, which is really fun seeing the faith through their eyes. It’s rewarding. When we moved into the Lenten season, I gave the students a piece of paper and it said, ‘fast, give, pray.’ Although, a four-year-old, he’s like, “I know and I’m going to fast.” I’m like, “What?” “Oatmeal Cream Pies!” The different stories that they tell you, or things that they come up with, it’s just really beautiful to see that relationship forming with the church. That’s my journey to where I am now with my faith.

Michael: Awesome. So, tell us a little bit about your academic interests, what you’ve been researching, and how you came to be the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences here.

Erin: Sure. My academic background is in rhetoric and writing. So, the writing piece focuses on best practices for teaching, typically freshman composition or first-year writing. A lot of my scholarship actually takes place in my classroom. This semester, I used the musical Hamilton to teach flat structure, and I think I have 10 students who agreed to participate in my study, and how using the hip-hop lyrics and the different structures of the plot, or the character development, sort of informed their ability to write a narrative. So, that’s one piece is using my class as a research space, and then the second piece is the rhetoric.

Rhetoric focuses on using whatever means we have available to us in order to persuade an audience. Right now, I’m working on an article where I looked at a piece of historical nonfiction and read it through women’s rhetorical lens. The book is told through diaries and letters written by the female characters. I don’t know if you’ve ever read, ‘The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.’ It’s a good book. You should check it out. It’s by Jennifer Ryan. Anyway, the plot is unfolded through these fictional diary entries and letters. We know that way, way, way back during the times of Aristotle or Cicero, women weren’t necessarily allowed to use rhetoric, or they weren’t necessarily in those very public spheres. As we move through history, once women became educated or literate, their rhetorical practices were much more private in nature. So, you can really delve into what their lives were like because they weren’t composing letters and keeping diaries for public consumption. It was for private use. I think it’s really telling that Ryan picked those venues to tell the story of these fictional characters. So, that’s one piece. Then, the second piece is the use of artifacts. So,  I argue in this piece I’m working on that Ryan is very intentional about the items and the artifacts that she writes into this novel to sort of frame and develop the characters.

Michael: Historically, When you think about the male point of view being dominant for much of literature and much of recorded history, what are ways that the feminine point of view, the feminine rhetorical style, I don’t know if that’s the right way of saying it, but it has kind of peaked in from outside the margins, right? What are some unexpected ways you might say that maybe it’s popped up if you look for it?

Erin: I think it’s everywhere, it just maybe hasn’t really been claimed as rhetoric. So, when I was in graduate school, there was a book that I read by a scholar named Cheryl Glenn. It was called, “Rhetoric Retold.” So, she actually went back all the way to ancient Greece and Rome and found works from female rhetoricians and gave them, or carved out a space for them, within the Canon. If you look at work back in the civil rights movement during the women’s right to vote, we can look at work by Ida B. Wells or Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and we can analyze their speeches and their writing through the same that we use to critique speeches that were delivered by famous Roman emperors way back in the day. The work that was established by people like Cicero and Aristotle, we can take their ideas and use them to look at pieces of female rhetoric, just with a different twist, or a new lens, or framework.

Angelina: You said that maybe those pieces from the female perspective just aren’t yet accepted into the Canon of rhetoric. So, why do you think that is?

Erin: I think that in the past 20, 30 years, there has been a shift. We do see more work by female speakers, or writers, moving into the Canon. One piece that I really find interesting is a work by religious mystics from the Middle Ages. Their writings are fascinating, and you can find them in the Canon now, and you can read those pieces and see a stark difference in how men in the Middle Ages crafted their letters that they would send to different heads of the church. Maybe in the female writing, we might see more use of self-deprecation in order to enter into a conversation with someone above them in the church. One of the things that I like to talk about with my students is, is she really that self-deprecating? Someone like Julian of Norwich. Is Julian of Norwich really that self-deprecating, or does she have this really important message that she wants to convey to whom she’s writing to? This is a way for her to enter into that conversation, grab his interest, or grab his attention. Looking at how these women were really crafty, and we were able to establish a presence, is something really interesting. I think it speaks to our student body as well to see how these writing strategies that we teach in first-year writing have been used for years, and years, and years in university.

Michael: I’m sure when people see this podcast listed they’ll be like, “Rhetoric?” They won’t even understand what the word means. It’s really important, I think, today, more than ever, to be aware of rhetoric and aware of rhetorical maneuvers that are being influenced by every second of our lives. Can you help paint the picture of just that? How are we being influenced, and how are our thoughts being arranged, and structured, because of rhetoric?

Erin: Rhetoric is all around us, and the ancient rhetorics gave us different frameworks, or lenses, that we could analyze texts. A text could be really anything. It could be a book, it could be a commercial, a public service announcement, a social media post, anything. The framework that I use in my first-year writing class is having the students look at the orator’s ethos. Ethos really looks at ethics. We want the writer, or the speaker, or even the artist, to be sincere. They should possess goodwill toward the audience, they should be knowledgeable about their topic, and they should have good character. Quintillion called it ‘a good man speaking well.’ We want to see that that person is trustworthy and that he, or she, is coming with a message that is worthy of us digesting, or taking in. It’s really asking students to critically think and analyze these texts.

Then, on the flip side, think about how a really effective speaker, or writer, presents an argument, and maybe try to copy, or use, these strategies in our own speaking, or speaking and writing. One of the texts that we looked at this semester in my first-year writing class, it was an argument. The tone was a little harsh, and the author did not present him or herself. So, we talked about what type of message is being conveyed in this piece, if the author is unwilling to accept responsibility for what he, or she, is putting down on paper, can you really trust this person, or these people? Why would someone take such a harsh tone if their job is to persuade, or convince, an audience that maybe doesn’t necessarily agree with what is being said. I like to use examples of argument in my classroom and have the students analyze the text through different ancient rhetorical frameworks.

Michael: Have we lost the ability to critically think about messaging coming towards us? I mean, a rhetoric is to have the ability to analyze this stuff and pick it apart. In the social media, and just with the way politics are, you want to get in your own echo chamber. If it’s from a side that you’re on, or something you already believe, you just say, “Yeah, that’s right.”

Erin: I think, in our last presidential election, people got caught up in that. They just sort of listen to whatever side they agreed with. I think that, right now, especially with social media, that messaging is coming at us really fast. It’s becoming harder for us to really sit down and analyze, or pick texts apart because there’s a new one every few seconds, every few minutes. Whereas, when I was growing up, you got a morning newspaper, and then maybe you watched the news when your mom was making dinner. That was it. That was all we knew. Or, public radio. That was really about it. I feel, especially my students, they’re just overwhelmed with media and social postings. It just comes so fast. In order to rhetorically analyze a text, it takes a lot of time, and you have to dig deep and look at things like word choice, and the images that are being used to help pinpoint, or pull out, certain points in a text. That takes time, and I think we have the time, it’s just that, maybe, we’re not sure what text to really focus on anymore.

Angelina: I’m really intrigued by social media’s role in this because it almost seems like if putting a message out there, in whatever medium that it is, is rhetoric. Then, really, we’re all engaging in this. I wonder that because there’s so many messages, it’s almost easier to listen to the same type of message that you’re comfortable with, and there’s no longer that space there, or people aren’t willing to make that space to dive in. I find it really interesting that with social media, it’s kind of given everyone a platform and a voice. With what you were saying, if there’s a message that’s being spoken, then that’s rhetoric. Really, everything that we have today, if you look at Facebook, or Instagram, we’re all engaging in this. Like you said, because there’s so many messages, and it’s so overwhelming, does that contribute to people, especially with how polarizing the messages are, they’re no longer being crafted with care, so, does that pull people towards an echo chamber of just saying, ‘the messages are so harsh, or, they’re so polarizing that I’m just gonna keep myself limited to these kind of messages and not even engage with the rest of it.’

Erin: Yeah, I think there’s something very comforting about that, ‘oh, this group of people agrees with my thoughts, or my beliefs, or my viewpoints, so it’s more comfortable to read this piece of literature, or it’s more comfortable to be on this social media platform with this group of followers’ or whatnot. I think where we need to, especially with students today, sort of push them out of their comfort zones and have them look at different viewpoints and different beliefs because that’s where we meet or find common ground.

So, right now, my students are actually designing a multimedia project where I gave them the topic of immigration but they have to pick the focus point. Some of them were really uncomfortable with the topic because maybe they only have read certain types of articles about immigration, or maybe they’ve never thought about how their political beliefs might not coincide with what they’re taught on Sundays in church, or maybe they never thought about what it means to seek refuge, or what it means to leave your home with absolutely nothing. So, it has forced them to look at different viewpoints, and it’s caused them to maybe leave their comfort zone and explore different conversations.

When we look at how arguments are structured, you don’t necessarily have to win the day at the end of your argument paper, or your multimedia project, or whatever you’re working on, you simply need to enter into that conversation with something fresh, or something new, so that you can contribute to these ongoing conversations. I think, when we trace back to to women’s rhetoric, women historically may have come at some of those arguments and a different framework, so, how did they fight, or work, to move into those conversations is something that is very fascinating to me.

Michael: When you think biblically, you think about the way we read the Bible and kind of male points of view, where’s the feminine point of view and the feminine Oracle maneuvers in the Bible? Have you ever thought about that? I’m sure it’s there somewhere. I’m sure there’s some scholarly work about it. 

Erin: I haven’t. I need to go explore that now. When I read the Bible, I am drawn to a lot of the female characters because I think it’s something that, as a woman, maybe I can relate to. I think that since having my own family, and when I think of The Passion of the Christ, Wow, I mean, I never thought about his death through his mother’s eyes and what she must have gone through. So, I think, from a rhetorical lens, we can reclaim or retell that story through a different perspective using evidence from the Bible to support that narrative. I think that would be a really powerful story to tell, or narrative to tell.

Michael: Do you think the church is, and it search is a broad term, do you think Christians maybe today, in general, are hesitant, or scared of thinking in this way that there’s two kinds of human beings on earth, right? There’s men and women, and they’ve been involved in the church. So, there’s a whole other side of history that could be told that’s powerful, vibrant, and really part of a real relationship with Christ. Do you think focusing specifically on a female point of view, have you sensed it caused anxiousness, ill ease, with people that are Christian or no? If so, why?

Erin: One of my very good friends, and I’m going to give her credit here. I’m gonna cite her name. Her name is Christine Donecker and she’s a rhetorician. She’s a Catholic. She’s an English professor. Just a few weeks ago, she gave this really powerful speech at the National Convention for College Composition and Communication. She spoke about her role as a female rhetorician and a Catholic, and how sometimes, those worlds don’t always coincide, and how it can be scary to be devout and look at these texts through a different framework. It’s a really powerful speech. A lot of what she said resonated with me. As a Catholic, I think that many of my good friends maybe just don’t think about it. This story of Martha and Mary, I think that would be another powerful story to see through a different lens, or read through a different lens. That’s maybe something that people aren’t necessarily comfortable with yet. I hope, someday, that we can get to that point where we can look at Bible verses and use the Bible as a text to see things through different viewpoints, or use it as a means to engage in these conversations further.

That’s one thing I like about working at Concordia, that as my students are researching immigration, they are pulling Bible verses, and we’re having these really rich discussions about how can you use this first to support your point of view, or, how does this Bible verse support what this politician is saying about immigration reform? I’m not sure every college student is given that opportunity. Sometimes, using religion to support a point of view is sometimes frowned upon in some classrooms, and here, we’re using it as a tool to support our arguments, and that’s really exciting to me.

Angelina: I’m really interested in what you said about going back and reclaiming stories and then retelling them. Can you just talk a little bit more about…you mentioned that maybe people just aren’t comfortable with that yet, or aren’t ready to hear those stories retold. What’s the value in going back and saying, ‘what does this text look like if we interpret it through a female lens, what’s the value of that?’

Erin: I mean, the value from a pedagogical standpoint would be, again, that critical thinking. You’re forcing students to look at text through other people’s points of view, or taking theories and applying them to different types of text, so, that’s one value. I think if we look at it through a theoretical lens, it’s really giving value to work that women have done, but maybe it just was never celebrated. Let me walk away from the Bible for a second and turn to cookbooks. So, cookbooks have been around for years, and years, and years. I think a lot of people just took them for granted. Now, we have people who are actually studying them, and looking at the messages that were presented in these cookbooks, and reading them through a rhetorical lens. I feel like the work that women have done is being celebrated and not cast aside as, ‘well, that’s just a cookbook.’ The women who put these cookbooks together used the same rhetorical devices that great politicians use when they craft their speeches, or great speakers have used when they communicate with audiences.

The other piece of it is, I once had a student who found these books that were used to record minutes from women’s societies. They’re in this old chest that might have been her grandmother, maybe great-grandmother, had kept. In the 1920s, these women in Ottawa County, Ohio would come together and they would have monthly meetings, or they would have food, finger food, and they would talk about how to restore the library and how to fundraise for this event of the church. So, we see women gathering in a very private space of each other’s homes. Going out into the community, and doing good work, and using the minutes to capture what role they played in, and within, their community. Those minutes, we would argue, are really important primary sources, as important as the newspaper articles that might have celebrated what men in the community were doing at the time. It’s just a different piece of rhetoric that we can reclaim, or look at.

Michael: Well, we kind of like to leave these conversations with recommendations for different books, different authors. If somebody is curious about how they can get an entry point into starting to think more critical about the messages coming towards them, where would you direct them?

Erin: There’s a great text book called, “Everything’s An Argument,” and I love it because it gives pictures of advertisements, and social media postings, and news clips, newspapers, and it sort of walks you through step-by-step how to analyze those pieces. That would be a really good introduction to what does it mean to craft an argument. The other book that I love is called, “Available Means,” and it’s an anthology of women’s rhetoric. The editors Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald, they were really strategic in the pieces of women’s rhetoric that they selected. They go all the way back to ancient Greece up to present day. In each piece, they have an introduction to where they give a little bit of a bio on the female rhetorician and then give readers a sneak peek into how the women shaped, or organized, their pieces. It’s a nice springboard into, “Oh, in this piece, I’m going to look at repetition, or, I’m gonna look for the women’s use of self-deprecation to begin a letter.” It’s a nice way to feel your way through what women’s rhetoric looks like and the strategies that the women use to craft their messages. This is one of my favorites.

Angelina: Then, final question. You shared a lot of really great strategies for students and teaching them how to engage with the rhetoric that’s going on currently and in the past, but, what would be practical advice that you would give to older generations, or people who are out of college, or even younger people, maybe high school students, what kind of practical advice would you give to them to help them if they’ve never engaged in strategically analyzing rhetoric or understanding what’s happening when they’re reading a social media post? What’s some practical advice that you would give?

Erin: Real simple. Who is the intended audience? The person who is posting this tweet, or Facebook post, or newspaper article, or editorial, who’s the intended audience of that text? What is the person’s purpose behind publishing or posting it? What is the context? I think, if you can just approach it through those three, very simple, questions, you’re on your way to analyzing anything and everything. Even simple tweets can be analyzed. I think audience purpose context is the best place to start.

Angelina: Well, thank you so much for being here with us today.

Erin: It’s been fun. Thank you for having me.

Angelina: Yeah, absolutely.

Michael: All right, we’re back. I love these kind of conversations where we can dig into things that might not be so obvious. I don’t think people are thinking about rhetoric. It’s not necessarily the most top of mind topic, but, as we talked about in the discussion with her, it’s super important. It just seems like we’re in a day and age where people don’t think critically about messages coming towards them. They don’t think about the way all sorts of media…talking about text can mean many things, right? Text can mean a social media post, it can mean an editorial, it could be other things like video, design, whatever, right? It can be any of this stuff. How it’s structured to impact you, and in particularly, Christians. I just think that it’s encouraging for me to hear somebody at a Christian University, a Christian scholar, like Erin is, talking about these sorts of things. Well, what do you think? Do you think that people are thinking critically? Do you think this is an important thing for Christians to focus on and understand?

Angelina: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of ironic because the way that she’s talking about rhetoric is that, in our day and age, it’s everywhere. It’s all around us. Whereas, even just twenty years ago, like she was saying, you would get a morning newspaper, and maybe watch the news at night, and that was your exposure to messages. Now, today, messages are everywhere. Despite the influx of messaging, we’ve lost the ability to think critically about what they are, what they’re saying, who they’re coming from, it is kind of terrifying. 

Michael: It’s probably, partially, just like, what if…people are being educated towards professions these days. That’s why we’re gonna Concordia. We have this liberal arts core which teaches you to think. You get philosophy, and theology, and all sorts of critical thinking disciplines, and it’s embedded into the core curriculum of the university. Not everybody gets that. So, those that don’t get that aren’t as equipped to sort through all the messages. I think, even if you do have that, it’s exhausting, as you mentioned. We have so many more messages coming at us every day in a variety of media, and how can a person’s brain sort through that? I mean, I could go on Facebook right now and probably see more messages in the span of five minutes than somebody saw in a week in 1975. Our brains haven’t caught up to that. I don’t know if they will.

Dan: She even specifically mentioned that people get overwhelmed by mass media. I think you asked her about rhetorical analysis, and is that important for people, are people good at that these days? She’s kind of referring to the fact that it just takes time to analyze something. Nobody takes time to analyze things. I think it was Kierkegaard who said, and maybe you can fact check me on this, “The crowd is untruth.” So, it’s idea that we’ve got this mass crowd of people, everything’s….I remember, since I’m old, I remember when the internet moved from what we call, “web 1.0,” which was just people pushing content out there to a “2.0,” which was everything becoming direct interaction, blogs, and comment systems, and then social media. Like the idea of the crowd is now this non-stop voice always in your pocket, or in your ears if you have air pods. It’s constantly telling you things, and how do you filter out? How do you look for the good in it? How do you learn from it? How do you discern the right things to be hearing, or the right way to be learning? I’m still not 100 hundred percent certain that I could define to you what rhetoric is. I certainly got a sense for her work. It was interesting for her to talk a little bit about her background in adding women’s studies on top of rhetoric.

Michael: To your point about adding on the Women’s Studies aspect of it to her work and rhetoric, I think that’s also equally important. When you think about it, we’re missing out on an important perspective. I mean, there’s the male perspective, just because of historical context, and because of different dynamics, has been the dominant perspective. There’s different genders, right? There’s different sexes. There are different perspectives between the two of them, at least, historically. It’s only enriching and broadening our understanding of historical context, social contexts. I think, even, as we talked to her, in some ways, it could be applied, interestingly enough, to biblical contexts too. I appreciate having somebody like that at Concordia who can bring in that and help broaden our students minds, and help, with her scholarship, broaden more than that just with a wider reach. 

Angelina: Even like she mentioned a little bit about how some of the topics that she was getting her students to engage in. Especially for students that have grown up with social media, and with being this inundated with messaging, and then getting them to look at some of these issues that are going on in the world, and assigning to them to engage with these topics critically, rather than just taking something at face value, I think that’s even more than just the generation that’s in school right now. That’s something that all of us could benefit from. I think, the more we keep going, the more we have our favorite news sources, we have our favorite voices that we tune into, and we just take everything at face value. Some of those tips that she shared on how you can start to be a critical thinker and analyze the messages in your life, I think that’s super important. It was helpful to hear her lay it out where you can take step one, you can evaluate the author and look at their ethos, and are they trustworthy, are they knowledgeable, and take that approach to the messages that you are letting come into your life. It’s super encouraging that students are getting that education and being encouraged to think that way.

Dan: Yeah, definitely. You know, when people sometimes ask me, there tends to be some trending towards people maybe not going into liberal arts education anymore. You just skip that, become an entrepreneur or whatever. People always ask me, “Why do you think people should still go to college?” I think this aspect of learning how to critically think, learning how to like discern fact from fiction, whatever the case may be, but just that quest for knowledge. To see that in Ann Arbor with bringing in a brand new Dean, that’s a big deal. And, bringing in someone who sees the importance of that as a part of higher ed. I think that’s that’s very promising.

Michael: We look forward to more interesting discussions, like the one we had with Erin, in upcoming episodes. For now, thanks for listening. We look forward to more episodes soon.

This podcast is brought to you by Concordia University Wisconsin and Concordia University Ann Arbor. However, the opinions and views are not meant to be official statements on their behalf.


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