Rhetorical theory in business communication curricula from 1900 to 1980: An historical critique
Randy Mark Brooks
- School: Purdue University (0183)
- Degree: Ph.D.
- Date: 1991; pp: 381
- Advisor: Berlin, James A.
- Source: DAI-A 52/06, p. 1999, Dec 1991
- Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681); Education, History Of (0520); Education, Language And Literature (0279)
- ProQuest Document Number: 747384571
- ISBN: 745946601
- UMI Number: AAT 9132428
- This historical study examines the implicit and explicit rhetorical theories of business communication curricula in higher education from 1900 to 1980. Existent histories of business communication curricula are limited by a developmental historiography which merely celebrates “pioneers” of the dominant craftsmanship approach to business communication instruction. This history examines the rhetorical assumptions which serve as the bases for various approaches to business communication curriculum. An examination of curriculum discussions, research, and textbooks reveals two major approaches to business communication: the craftsmanship approach and the managerial problem solving approach.
- The craftsmanship approach, which has dominated the curricula from 1900 until the present, is based on a tacit, implicit rhetorical theory extolling the well-crafted sales letter. The rhetorical assumptions of this approach are conveyed through a collection of widely accepted folkloristic principles for the writing of business letters. Based on faculty psychology, the late nineteenth century sales process strategy becomes the central advice for business writing commonly known as the ADCA or AIDA formula. Every business letter is viewed as a sales situation, so the goal of every letter is to (1) get the reader’s attention, (2) stimulate the reader’s desires (for your product, services, or request), (3) convince the reader of the reasonableness of your request or suggestion, and (4) arouse the reader to act. The “you attitude” in which the writer attempts to identify with the reader’s needs, perspective, language, and desires becomes the master strategy for planning means of stimulating the reader’s faculties in various letter situations.
- The managerial problem solving approach has its origins in the rise of management training in analytical and writing skills, specifically the Harvard case study method. Following attacks on the traditional business communication curriculum in the early 1960s, this managerial problem solving approach became the accepted basis for the curriculum within schools of management and business departments and stresses an explicit theory of business communication as an ongoing series of exchanges and interactions in organizations. Communication establishes relationships, creates organizational structures, and is the means of carrying out daily business in order to solve problems, not merely to persuade and appease customers.