Article Review: 350-word summary of “Why We Chose Rhetoric : Necessity, Ethics, and the (Re)Making of a Professional Writing Program”

Spigelman, Candace, and Laurie Grobman. 2006. “Why We Chose Rhetoric: Necessity, Ethics, and the (Re)Making of a Professional Writing Program.” Journal of Business & Technical Communication 20 (1) (January): 48–64.


Spigelman and Grobman’s article is a literature review that analyzes classical rhetoric and philosophy to support the authors’ assertion that their professional communication program requires a strong liberal arts foundation to provide students the skills they need in the business world.

The two primary issues that are at question in this article and relevant to my research on ethics in technical communication are

  1. How to best prepare students as professional communicators AND
  2. What curricular foundation will best prepare students not merely as “workers” but also as responsible (i.e., ethical) communicators.

Critical Insight and Reflection

The authors mentioned critical insight and reflection as important characteristics of a successful communicator; however, these qualities cannot be taught so much as learned. For example, a program can teach transferrable skills such as writing, grammar, and other “practical strategies” (Spigelman and Grobman 2006, 48) but these alone will not prepare students to face ethical dilemmas in the workplace.

The True Power of Discourse

The authors describe that the “concerns of rhetoric” are “ethical, intellectual, and pragmatic” (Spigelman and Grobman 2006, 49) and that this is more important than only teaching pragmatic courses because without examining the existing hegemonies or future ones that students will face in the workforce, the next generation of communicators will not understand the true power of discourse. The authors describe this as “the complexities and responsibilities of language” (Spigelman and Grobman 2006, 57).

How to Teach Ethics

Finally, although the authors do not make an attempt to label or define “ethics” I believe that their meaning is implied. Their classical rhetoric foundation and contemporary discourse study demonstrate that a liberal arts foundation embodies students with the qualities of responsibility, reflection, questions of conscience, consideration, [and] awareness. This approach coupled with a balance of pragmatic courses will prepare students to navigate new ideological and ethical predicaments that professional communicators will inevitably face.

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Filed under Article Reviews, Rhetoric, Technical Writing

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