For the day after the election, which fell on the day evening class was held, we invited people from outside the class to attend an event where the students would lead a discussion of the rhetoric of the election and showcase the analyses they were learning in the course. The event was funded by the President's Student Engagement Initiatives at Hunter. A few sections of first-year writing students and instructors, several English majors and faculty, and a few librarians and administrators attended. The outcome of the election changed the tone of the event. Several students were too upset and angry to attend; another decided to spontaneously join a march at Union Square. Instead of anger, we started the discussion with the question "what can we do now?" and focused on positive ways to respond and resist. Through the rest of the semester, we thought about the ways our work in the course could respond to the results and our feelings about them. Some of us in the teacher education program decided to create lesson plans and units on teaching media literacy, rhetoric, or race through teaching the election; others posted different ways to organize and get involved in resisting the presidency of Clinton's opponent, with others posted places to donate to support those most in danger from this presidency. As Brie Cronin posted, "we are all still here."
The result of the public nature of the course illustrated one application of the civic uses of rhetorical education. Dana Krugle's work for the course reflected the course focus on intertwining rhetorical analysis in a variety of modes: she began with an analysis of Clinton as archetype, created a visual synthesis, and then wrote "The Talking Hillary Blues." The lyrics of the Talking Hillary Blues loosely adhered to the "Talking Blues" form of a verse with two rhyming couplets followed by an unrhymed fifth line, which offers a wry and subjective political observation.
Transcript: "The Talking Hillary Blues" (pdf)
Krugle's project synthesized the form and classroom posts into the lyrics then channeled Hillary's righteous indignation of losing the 2016 election through her mostly pathetic rhetorical appeals. By giving Hillary a post-defeat "character voice" (and a private, uncensored defense), Krugle hoped to reframe her historic campaign and legacy through her eyes.
Open pedagogies that focus on student-created materials using digital tools enable connections and dialogues that illustrate the themes and content of the course. The form becomes the content.
The connection between social media and political analysis—the focus of projects like Cronin's and Julia Canzoneri's—created a paradox, as examined by Alex Kreichman and Canzoneri in their responses to each other's posts on the Wordpress site. As Kreichman pointed out, it is easy to confuse the real with the image. In much the same way, it now seems that rather than the usual order of social media being a representation of reality, reality is now taking cues from social media. To use the old postmodern trope, it is as if a landscape were referring to a map of itself to see what it's supposed to be like, forgetting altogether that it preceded the map and that the map is supposed to be a representation of it.
But the digital world is not inherently separate from reality, but an extension of it, as Canzoneri responded. The words and images that appear online are not tangible, but they exist in a space that gives them influence, and their potential impact on our lives grounds them in reality. In this way, the way television and social media have impacted politics is not so much a changing of the political world, but a natural expansion of it.
The pedagogy of teaching political rhetoric, especially in the 2016 election, must also account for the role of social media in rhetoric. An open pedagogy in such courses can illustrate how politics has developed to accommodate political discussion happening over Facebook and investigative news breaking via Twitter, and so the rhetoric of politicians and politically active people has altered as well. This was an election where a reality television star who has never held public office took to Twitter to start flame wars with opponents. So while social media gives a voice to some who would not have opportunities to be involved in political discussions without it, it also gives a voice to some who would not have opportunities to be involved in political discussions without it.
The open pedagogy provided a space for different modes of digital rhetoric and analysis. We produced analysis of speeches (Sarah Parente), more traditional in content but innovative in mode of delivery as digital annotations; rhetorical theory (James Wheaton on the perfect female candidate and Rasha Reda on anti-ethos rhetoric); social media (Canzoneri's tweets and Cronin's meme stashes); and a variety of teaching resources that others could use in the future to teach about the election. The site we created and the crowdsourced readings could be used in future classes, representing the kind of student-created resource that Robin DeRosa (2016) created with her students and found to be a high-impact pedagogical practice.
While the specific timing of the course enabled this pedagogy, the approach can be replicated in other courses. Open-source digital platforms can facilitate a crowdsourced syllabus or a collaboration on a digital textbook for a class. Professors can work with educational technologists and librarians in delivering the course, even if the embedded librarian model is not feasible. It can be replicated in both face-to-face and online courses. While the lessons can work in closed learning management environments like Blackboard, we want to emphasize that the goal is to allow a public forum where students can create content that can be shared with others who want to enter the conversation. The key aspect of our approach is the inclusion of students in the design and implementation of the course to facilitate this high-impact pedagogical practice. Thus, the learning outcomes match Bronwyn Hegarty's (2015) eight qualities of open pedagogy as listed on the Open Pedagogy page.
The many different voices of our course site and the many topics covered; the scholarly and digital community we formed and reinforced through citing each other, developing tags, and responding to each other; the crowdsourced syllabus; and the students' roles as co-researchers on this topic illustrate one of the themes that defined Clinton's rhetoric. We found that Clinton's strength was in listening and collaboration and that is the approach that we ended up using in the class, showing how we were all "stronger together": it is our answer to the question we originally posed, what can we learn about rhetoric by studying Clinton at this particular point in time?