Lisa Toner

Ethical roles for the writing teacher: A rhetorical casuistry perspective

Lisa Marie Toner

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1996 pp: 204
  • Advisor: Porter, James E.
  • Source: DAI-A 57/07, p. 2977, Jan 1997
  • Subjects: Education, Teacher Training (0530); Education, Curriculum And Instruction (0727); Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681)
  • ProQuest Document Number: 304263995
  • ISBN: 0-591-04023-9
  • UMI Number: AAT 9638244


    • This study addresses the aims and role of postmodern writing instruction, particularly given a discursive context of the writing classroom wherein students and teachers have unequal power as discursive agents. Various composition theories have argued that writing teachers must recognize composition instruction as a political, personal, or heuristic act. This study argues that writing instruction must also be recognized as an ethical act. Its central argument is that any composition theory adopted in teaching writing has implications for the ethical discursive context of the writing classroom, the ethical role of the writing teacher, and the kinds of ethical awarenesses hoped to be developed in students as writers. Premises informing this study are Habermas’s notion that the ideal, or ethical, speech situation is one in which participants can freely express and critique each other’s viewpoints without fear of retribution, indoctrination, or coercion and Jonsen and Toulmin’s argument that ethics must be viewed as a casuistry in the senses of metaethic enabling discussion of conflicting ethics and a methodology enabling response to cases that pose dilemmas for a specific ethic.
    • This study identifies ethical assumptions and ethical roles for the writing teacher in eight composition theories: current-traditional, civic education, expressionist, feminist care, heuristic inquiry, problem-solving or socio-cognitive, Marxist cultural studies, and feminist sophistic. Ethical roles for the writing teacher are shown to fall into one of three main categories of Western ethical thought: deontological, virtue, and consequentialist. This study demonstrates that each role type is subject to a dilemma when faced with cases of student writing that create an intolerable dissensus between its method and its principles, thereby requiring the writing teacher to recognize, critique, and go beyond that ethic in responding to that text. This study concludes by engaging in discussions of critical pedagogy and feminist rhetorics to argue for including discussions of ethical values in writing instruction and to suggest that responsible authority for writing teachers and their students emerges in the practical rhetorical act of committing to an ethical viewpoint responsive to those with which we disagree.