The “style” of education

The way we think and talk about the “classroom” and “education” provides examples that tie course concepts together.

From a “standard view” of education, we might believe that education merely transmits objective facts, data, knowledge, and truth about the world. History is merely neutral facts. Literature and poetry are fluff that don’t matter too much for the “real” world. We learn “skills” and learn how to use “tools” that help us be efficient workers (and communicators). We memorize ideas and data and then imitate and repeat those ideas. From this way of thinking, the teacher deposits knowledge into your head, fills your head as if it were an empty receptacle.

On the other hand, a “rhetorical view” might realize that education and everything about education influences and invents knowledge and the way we understand the world and ourselves.  We cannot transmit information and knowledge as neutral, objective bits of data; instead, the process of education (which happens with communication) invents the knowledge.

The “style” of education also changes the way we think about education. Imagine what you would think about the class (and me) if I stood behind the podium and read a prepared lecture to you. Would you be excited about the class? Would you want to learn as much? The presetation style evokes different reactions.

You could also think about the physical arrangement of a classroom as a style that affects meaning and behavior. Look at the following pictures and consider how the style of the classroom communicates attitudes and beliefs and values about communication and education:


If you enter a class and all the desks are arranged in a circle, what do you expect in that class? How does that front imply a certain performance? If you walk into a large lecture auditorium where the lights are turned low except for the lights on the stage by the podium, what do you expect that class / lecture to be like? What does that style imply about the role of the students in the learning process? Are the students supposed to be active participants in that scene?

Like Lanham wrote, “Style becomes content” and “choreographs … human consciousness.”


2 Responses to “The “style” of education”

  1. Chelsea Kaufman Says:

    I agree with you on this Jonathan. I think for me at least it is better for me to sit in the front row or somewhere close to the front so I know I will pay more attention. It is key for a Professor to know how students learn and things that make them not want to learn. Like you said when the lights are low this probably makes the students more tired and they want to fall asleep. I learn better if I am not preached to. Using examples and having students work in groups and give their own examples is a good way to get every student involved.
    I also wanted to comment on the part where you were talking about teachers preaching to the class and wanting you to memorize things and store things into their brains in order to pass tests. I don’t think it is very useful for students to have to memorize things because we all know the only thing that happens when we do that is it is stored in our brains for only a few hours until the test is over and then it escapes within minutes after taking the test. This kind of fits in when Lanham says “choreographs…human consciousness”.

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