This post is based on book chapter ‘The idea of a university- As seen by a Rhetorician’ written by Wayne C. Booth.
I am a graduate student in Plant Science and specialized in Weed Science. Weed, when you hear this word, Marijuana comes in your mind, right? But in Plant Science, weeds are any unwanted plants, growing out of place and need to be managed as they interfere with normal growing practices. It may a jargon for you guys-specialists in Writing, but not for Plant Science students, and non-specialist farmers. However, a Writing student who has no knowledge in Weed Science still can pass a fair judgement on my piece of work. I, recently wrote a cover letter for a research position in Weed Science and it was reviewed by two Writing students and got significant feedback. On the other hand, a Plant Science specialist may fails to give an accurate judgement. How these happen? Well, rhetoric works here. The Writing students used “rhetoric-3” or “academy-rhetoric” to pass the judgement on my piece of writing, remote field writing. Similarly, a Plant Science specialist uses “rhetoric-1”, or “special topic rhetoric” and may fail to pass an accurate judgement, because “rhetoric-1” is “highly fallible”.
I don’t fully understand the other sub-divisions of Plant Science. In Plant Science department at MSU, we attend a series of seminars every week presented by our fellow students. Most of the topics are different than our specialized fields, but we are needed to evaluate all of those based on the quality of content and way of presentation. Here, I need to explore all three kind of rhetorics as defined by Booth to make the purpose of evaluation worthful. First, “rhetoric-1” to understand the topics of my own specialized field and to make wise conclusions. Second, “general rhetoric” to take decisive action on more generalized topics by exploiting resources available in the undefined, surrounding environment. Third, academic “rhetoric” to judge the topics beyond my specialty or periphery of my specialized field.
Whether we confess or not, we are highly ignorant in our colleagues work, hence we need to understand their work by use of rhetorics. Since-as Booth stated-“all rhetorics are highly fallible”, we need more and more understanding of rhetorics to make our judgement more accurate. It is not as hard to understand as to be a specialist of other’s field even in sub-division of your specialized field.