Assessment and Civility: Using Ethos as a Tool

Assessment and Civility: Using Ethos as a Tool

Benjamin J. Cline (Western New Mexico University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9814-5.ch003
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Civility in computer-mediated communication, especially in the computer-mediated classroom, has been a topic of numerous inquiries. For this reason, teaching of the means and reasons for civil computer-mediated communication has become increasingly necessary. To accomplish this, the chapter will explore past research which indicates major sources of incivility that have emerged in computer-mediated culture. The chapter will then argue that civil discourse is also the most effective and useful form of discourse and show that needs to be communicated to students. This chapter then offers concrete means of teaching civility in computer-mediated communication by teaching civility as tied to the rhetorical concept of ethos already taught in the Public Speaking class.
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While the necessity of requiring the teaching of civility has been incumbent on educators for millennia, or possibly longer, the need for teaching civil communication, especially civil computer mediated communication, has never been greater. The popular news outlets abound with stories of what is probably the least civil of all computer mediated communication, online bullying. Fox News derides “a West Virginia high school's ‘Queen of Charm,’ who created a Web page that suggested another student had a sexually transmitted disease, and invited classmates to comment” (2012). MSNBC talks about a 16-year-old girl, “a self-described atheist, [who] has been the target of cyberbullying and threats” after a judge required that a religious banner at her high-school be taken down (2012). Headline Newsdiscusses the plight of a young man for whom online bullying “led to despair, self-mutilation and thoughts of suicide” (2011). CNN expounds on a litany of such stories:

Such behavior remains in the spotlight after the recent death of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy from Williamsville, near Buffalo, who last week took his life after what his parents say was years of bullying over his sexual orientation.

Last year, Phoebe Prince, 15, of Massachusetts, took her own life after being continuously bullied at school and online. The online bullying continued even after her death, as people left vindictive comments on her Facebook memorial page.

An 18-year-old Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, killed himself by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge in September 2010 after two classmates posted and broadcast a secretly-taped video of his sexual encounter with another man (Debucquoy-Dodley, 2011).

The New York Times captures the public outcry when telling the story of a 14-year-old boy bullied online to the point of suicide and claims that: “His story is a classic case of bullying: he was aggressively and repeatedly victimized. Horrific episodes like this have sparked conversations about cyberbullying and created immense pressure on regulators and educators to do something, anything, to make it stop” (Boyd, 2011). This public outcry for civility in computer mediated communication, especially in the computer mediated communication of young people, demands careful attention from those of us working in the education industry.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Civility: Actions and behaviors in which one acts towards others in an ethical and socially appropriate way.

Civil Discourse: Communication that engages with others in an ethical and socially appropriate way.

Arete: An ancient Greek term that is often translated as “good moral character.” It is the ability for a communicator to show that she or he is a good person and therefore worthy of being believed.

Phronesis: An ancient Greek term that is often translated as “good sense” or “wisdom.” It is the ability for a communicator to show that she or he knows what is being discussed and understands it in a practical way.

Ethos: An ancient Greek term for the way in which a communicator shows that he or she has good sense, good moral character and good will in order to make himself or herself more believable to an audience.

Inculcate: To create habits in people by teaching them.

Eunoia: An ancient Greek term that is often translated as “good will.” It is the ability for a communicator to show that she or he has friendly motives toward the audience and is therefore worthy of being believed.

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