Agonism In The Academy: Surviving The Argument Culture Summary

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Imagine an educational institution that promotes collaborative learning rather than debate. An academic curriculum that fosters the notion of considering all aspects of a discussion as part of a growing process rather than as a sign of weakness. This concept of collective intellectual growth is being utilized by some of the leading technological companies in the world. However, this is not the case in the academic arena, according to linguistics professor Deborah Tannen. In her essay entitled, “Agonism in the Academy: Surviving the Argument Culture” published in the Chronicle of Higher Education which address the topic of “ritualized combats” in academia. Tannen claims that, “Agonism” is in fact “endemic” and detrimental in fostering a learning …show more content…
Tannen supports these claims by using a variety of appeals in her attempt to persuade her peers to be weary of the negative connotation associated with a culture of divisiveness; as a scholar of linguistics, Tannen is aware of the dire consequences with alienating certain students from the educational process and how detrimental this is to the human spirit.
One of the strategies that Tannen employs to build her ethos, her credibility, is through the use of precedent---the repeated citation of scholarly examples and historical references. In this way Tannen is able to build on the argument that “agonism” or society’s pursued of education has become a “ritualized combat” and endemic in the academic arena. In describing “agonism” as a “metaphorical battle,” in which students and scholars alike are taught to engage combative, confrontational arguments rather than to seek an analytical discussion approach to education, Tannen references cultural linguist Walter Ong in which he also describes “agonism” as a ‘ceremonial combat’. A habitual “programed” approach to intellectual growth (37). She continues on to explain that, “agonism” does not necessarily refer to a “disagreement” or a “vigorous dispute” but rather a scenario in which “two opposing” sides

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