An English Composition Primer
First-year college students are expected to improve their English composition skills during their first two semesters. Students are expected to develop the technical ability to distinguish rhetors from rhetoric, utilizing these insights in support of claims students make in their resultant essays. This should be a straightforward process; however, many first-year college students find the language used in academia to be convoluted and confusing. Technical analysis can be performed with relative speed and accuracy if one is familiar with taurascatics, using relevant facts, insights, inferences, opinions and references to support their position(s).
I will apply the use of taurascatics and technical analysis of two articles to illustrate these principles. The first article, written by Helen Lee Bouygues, can be found on Forbes.com and is entitled “Why We Need To Think Critically About Data.” The second is from Leonard Shedletzky, a communications professor at the University of Maine who submitted an essay titled "Seeing Bullshit Rhetorically: Human Encounters and Cultural Values" to the academic journal Res Rhetorica.
The expansion of one’s vocabulary is needed in order to successfully apply taurascatics in their lives, because meaning is typically obscured through the use of deceptive language. Rhetor is simply another word for author, or speaker. Rhetoric refers to what the rhetor is speaking about. The rhetoric will change depending on the audience, and the rhetor cannot possibly account for all variations of future audiences. Discourse is a combination of who is speaking, what they are speaking about, and who they are speaking to, regardless of intent. Taurascatics is an academic term for “the study of bullshit,” (Fredal 243) where bullshit lies within the context of the statements being made by the authors or speakers.
The majority of people I questioned about the word and definition (N=21) were bemused there is a technical term used in the academic world for the serious study of bullshit as used in language and culture. You may be wondering how this trivial fact is going to help you write better essays, and there is a distinct possibility you are questioning the validity of this essay in particular at the moment. You have your own predispositions and logical triggers when it comes to recognizing bullshit. You have another set of conditions and triggers for explicitly referring to something as bullshit, be it using written words or your outside voice in a crowded auditorium. Your English professor has the same. Everyone has an internal method or process for determining if an author or speaker is attempting to be deceptive or has little to no authority on the subject(s) of which they are speaking. Positive detection(s) of deception or lack of authority set off the internal bullshit detector and begin the process of justification and management of action (Shedletzky 32-33).
College courses require students to differentiate between positions of authority when ascribing statements of fact or opinion in their essays and term papers. A group of supporting statements found in an academic journal article typically have more credibility, or authority than supporting statements found in a popular magazine article. Students need to possess the ability to infer what rhetorical changes, if any, are made between derivative works.
Bouygues’ article describes an academic course on taurascatics as presented by Washington University. Examples found in the course materials are used to describe the importance of detecting the bullshit espoused by marketing and public relations teams in the business world every day, and the piece is relatively short. Shedletsky’s essay discusses at length how bullshit works within the rhetorical structure of human existence in the search for truth. His piece is twelve pages long and has over thirty sources. Bouygues’ byline states she is a “contributor” to Forbes, who “writes about critical thinking in education.” Shedletsky is a professor at the University of Maine, and a quick reference at the University of Maine’s website shows he has a PhD in communication and is currently a professor of communication at the university. Both authors have experience in the study of critical thinking as relates to education, but only Shedletsky has a PhD and is a professor. This simple bit of comparison allows me to infer Shedletsky will have more authority on the subject of taurascatics than Bouygues for the majority of arguments I choose to make. I will not completely discount Bouygues’ rhetoric or discourse on the subject, simply because Shedletsky has more academic credentials, instead I will integrate her claims in support of my own.
I can infer Shedletsky’s writing was published before Bouygues by reading the dates of publication. I can also infer the Washington University professors who designed the course “Calling Bullshit” referenced by Bouygues may have more extensive knowledge of taurascatics than Shedletzky, as their lecture series began in 2017. A more definitive answer to which party has more authority will take more research, quite possibly involving a telephone call, or an e-mail. For the purposes of first-year English composition essays, my current establishment of the rhetors’ authority will suffice. I establish my own authority by referencing both rhetors and anyone they referenced in their work. I relate others claims and conclusions to my own to establish credibility. My authority is reinforced by using the terms “claims [statement], refers to [another’s statement], infers [statement], concludes [statement].” I avoid the use of the terms “states [statement], “says [statement], and believes [statement].” I present opposing points of view as needed to further strengthen my argument, authority, or position.
Making the determination of rhetorical changes between derivative works is simple. Use your innate sense of taurascatics to determine what changes have been made to the content in the derivative work. There is rhetorical change anytime the rhetor (the author or speaker) changes the context or structure of an idea or statement. Bouygues’ makes no mention of taurascatics in her article, she blatantly uses the term bullshit. This counts as rhetorical change. She doesn’t delve too deeply into the thought processes involved in detecting bullshit; she refers to demonstrable visual aids showing how marketing teams distort data (they imply accuracy) through the use of deceptive scaling techniques. Shedletsky creates rhetorical change in his essay when he states on page 42, "In short, we shift to a focus on the process rather than the product." He is surmising what one of his sources surmises on the matter, before he includes the reference to their work. My conclusion of Shedletsky’s intent is yet another example of rhetorical change.
English Composition classes are nothing more than demonstrating your ability to determine the majority of elements within a discourse. This ability is demonstrated by students composing their own discourse, to include classroom participation. Students who meet the standards set forth in the assignment details are typically entitled to an average grade, because they simply met the requirements. Students who can apply taurascatics during their research and intelligently discuss their findings in a cohesive and stylistic manner will find themselves with better scores on their essays.
Shedletzky concludes in the second to last paragraph of his essay, “what is put forward here is that sometimes, calling bullshit is not simply unthought out belief. Sometimes, it is based on coming to your own understanding. And this is an exhilarating emotional experience” (Shedletzky 42).
Today’s English composition courses are designed to account for students’ ability to arrive at their own conclusions after wading through lengthy passages of discourse created by others. In turn, students create their own discourse in an attempt to demonstrate proficiency. Students who are able to incorporate the emotional experience derived from understanding why one rhetor chooses to obscure or deceive conclusions from previous discourse(s) into their essays and classroom discussions will be successful. Students will need to cleverly incorporate their taurascatic findings in well composed essays replete with technical structure and robust vocabulary.
Successful college students read critically and call bullshit when they see it.