I find it ironic that a piece about modes of language and learning beyond traditional writing is rather wordy. Perhaps it is because it is a work about alternatives to writing, written by someone who revels in the act of writing. It just seems…misplaced.
Anyway, it seems that this work places “composition” strictly within the written word, whereas our class considers a much broader definition. As I kept reading the word “language” popping up over and over again, I had to keep reminding myself that they meant written language. Our class has a large focus on producing more than just written language, but all forms of language. And I agree with that sentiment. Especially in this digital age, written word is only one of a myriad of ways in which an idea can be expressed. I remember as far back as my freshman year of high school we discussed Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences; that people have many different methods and modes of understanding and executing an idea.
The work alludes to some of these ideas, particularly visual/spatial intelligence, but there also many others including musical, kinesthetic, inter/intra-personal, logical/mathematical, and, of course, linguistic. To say that writing = intelligence is to say that milk = cows. Are they commonly linked? Yes. Do they play off of or depend somewhat on each other? Yes. However, does every cow produce milk and does every glass of milk came from a cow? Nope.
There is a sliver of truth to the use of language as a means of communicating intelligence, simply because we have put so much effort into written language as a form of educated discourse. I believe this is what they grapple with as the “primacy of language”. Other forms of language are less precise, less defined, more open to interpretation. Writing a formal research paper about a topic is ultimately more precise and informative (not to mention compact) than a presentation, slideshow, or any other form of language. This has less to do with the actual language being used and more to do with the fact that written language has been expertly honed for hundreds of years to precisely express intelligence, whereas other forms have, until fairly recently, been used expressly for the purposes of entertainment. That’s not to say entertainment can’t be educational or that entertainment is imprecise or incorrect. However, entertainment media, as a whole, purposefully wants some inference to be made by the audience. There is a personal investment and personal interpretation that makes entertainment so appealing. Educational media rarely affords this kind of openness, because to intelligently explain something is to leave nothing to be debated or wrongly interpreted.
Overall, I find “Challenging Theories of Knowing” to fairly address the concerns of written language being considered the only medium of intelligent discourse. Although somewhat ironic in its presentation, it clearly means well, and attempts to open the audience to the idea of multiple forms of learning and teaching.