Hugh Blair, technê, and the legacy of both in twenty-first century composition pedagogy
Venus, Wesley Clay
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We often assume writing to be a technê, but we do so to a detriment. Thinking of any intellectual activity in this way trains our minds to the false belief that theory and practice can be made to correspond to one another in ways that are consistent with a subject, which is in this case language. Present-day writing pedagogy exists at the end of a long tradition of language-technai, and, as is the case with any human activity ever regarded as a craft, an often unaddressed and unacknowledged element of virtue attends it. This subjective and value-based component will always necessarily provide the foundation for the theoretical framework (its praxes), and in so doing create the illusion of objectivity. Such is the case for most of the theory-driven pedagogies we see today in composition studies, a tradition began to a significant extent in the eighteenth-century by Scottish rhetorician Hugh Blair. In these regards his legacy contributes significantly to the new tradition involving the systematic application of avant-garde academic theory to composition classroom practices. We see evidence of this in current-traditionalism, cognitivism, expressivism, and social-epistemicism which is consistent with the ancient model of technê and which is consistent even with certain elements of "the post-process movement", a movement among composition scholars which at least abstractly positions itself apart from praxis-driven approaches to writing scholarship.