Michael Zerbe

Toward a cultural studies-based pedagogy for the rhetoric of science

Michael James Zerbe

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: PhD
  • Date: 1998 pp: 210
  • Advisor: Weiser, Irwin
  • Source: DAI-A 60/03, p. 731, Sep 1999
  • Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681); Education, Curriculum And Instruction (0727); Education, Sciences (0714)
  • ProQuest Document Number: 304449263
  • ISBN: 0-599-20314-5
  • UMI Number: AAT 9921115


    The purpose of this study is to propose, justify, and theorize a cultural studies-based pedagogy for the rhetoric of science that would be useful in composition and writing across the curriculum courses. In contemporary western society, which ascribes truth to knowledge gained by science, scientific discourse reigns as the most privileged rhetoric and is often not questioned. The development of a cultural studies-based pedagogy would potentially allow students to gain a critical perspective of this type of discourse—that is, to learn to recognize the inherent rhetorical characteristics of producing and analyzing it—so that they can make more well-informed decisions about the numerous scientific and technological issues that face them and so that they can learn to recognize that their writing can help to construct science. To theorize this pedagogy, work from postmodern theorists on disciplinarity and power (Foucault), language (Lyotard), and education (Usher and Edwards) is combined with Althusser’s notion of an ideological state apparatus to demonstrate how science operates as a powerful cultural institution that inscribes subjects. The roots of contemporary scientific discourse in the Renaissance are then explored to demonstrate that scientific rhetoric, as with any other form of rhetoric—arose from specific historical circumstances and self-interest. To connect these explorations of science/scientific discourse with the mission of composition, various conceptions of literacy as perceived by humanities scholars and scientific literacy as perceived by scientists and science educators are discussed. The contrast demonstrates that scientific literacy is often thought of in uncritical terms. Cultural studies is then introduced as a means of establishing a pedagogy for achieving a more complex scientific literacy. A case-based pedagogy that results from this theorizing is introduced.