Educational policy analysis archives

Educational policy analysis archives

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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
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Public speech : the DeGarmo lecture for 1993 / Thomas F. Green.
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1 of 15 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 2 Number 5February 6, 1994ISSN 1068-2341A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Editor: Gene V Glass, Glass@ASU.EDU. College of Edu cation, Arizona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 1993, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any a rticle provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold.Public Speech: The DeGarmo Lecture for 1993Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Abstract: The State is constituted by law; the public by pub lic speech. But "What makes public speech public?" Two views are contrasted: the forum view b y which speech is public only if it is truth functi onal, and the idea of umbilical narratives in which speech is public when placed in some community of memory. Offered instead is the auditory principle, namely t hat speech is public when what is said by A is hear d by B as candidate for B's speech. This principle is explore d and applied and currently popular fallacies of pu blic speech are exposed.I. IntroductionIn this lecture I aim to explore some features of p ublic speech. I do so, moreover, out of a deep conc ern for its deterioration in contemporary America. The concern arises from a long delayed realization, that we now have practically a whole generation of students who in t heir entire lives have heard no major public leader speak to the nation powerfully about our ties to one another much less with conviction about what gratitude we owe our predecessors and what we owe our children. No m ajor public leader who has managed to speak with power to youth about the dignity of public service, none apparently able to say that a life devoted to it might be challenging, might demand the best that anyone c an offer, might test our capacities at the highest level. It is an awesome fact, but I believe it to be true. An d this silence, I think, has permitted us to engage in a flurry of deeply confused talk on educational reform that also is silent on the role of education in the form ation of the public. I ask you to think with me about this c oncern whether or not you accept this appraisal of the situation.I offer a simple argument. It goes like this. Publi c speech is constitutive. Without public speech the re is no public, only a babble of lamentations and complaint s, pleadings, pronouncements, claims and counter-cl aims. Without public speech, the public dies, politics tu rns to polemics, becomes partisan in the worst sens e, even


2 of 15venomous, and we are left with nothing we can reaso nably speak of as public education, public service, or public life. That is why it matters that we underst and how public speech is formative, how it does its work. So my first aim is simply to remind you of some aspect s of speech, especially the power of speech to crea te the world, and thus to create a public.We are born and there is a company already there to greet us. With birth, in short, we enter a plurali ty, but it is not given that we thereby enter a public. We are thrust into the one, must be nurtured to the other The one is a consequence of birth, the other an achievement of life. It is, moreover, an educational achieveme nt. In saying that the public is created by public speech, I do not mean to offer a claim of causal or tempor al precedence, not a statement about which comes first the one or the other, the public or public speech I mean rather to be asking an educational question, a ques tion of the sort, "What needs to be done, what skil ls acquired, what practices entered in order that a pu blic may emerge and be sustained?" The answer, I th ink, will be found in the skills and practices of public speech. Public speech is formative; it is constitu tive. The public is created by speech or not at all. So my fi rst aim is to persuade you that the quality of our public speech matters because that is what educationally f orms the public. My second aim is to explore with you a view of the nature of public speech and its fallacies, those ha bits of mind by which it is destroyed or its development ab orted. And in order to do this, I intend, as my thi rd aim, to persuade you that we speak of the public and of pub lic life in two quite different ways. One view draw s upon the notion of a forum a kind of public in which the speech typically required is the speech of inquiry evidence, demonstration, argument and claims and co unter-claims of entitlement. Call this the forum vi ew. The other view stems from what I call umbilical sto ries, and its typical mode of speech is not argumen t, but narrative. In all portrayals in Western painting of the first man and the first woman being evicted fr om paradise, the figures are represented with anatomic al accuracy except for one detail. Whether in the v ision of Giotto, or Leonardo, or sweet Raphael, or many othe rs I suppose, Adam and Eve are always pictured with navels. The first man and the first woman had belly -buttons. The thought amuses.(Note 2) I call it to your attention, however, not for its amusement, but in o rder to render another fact more memorable. We find it as difficult to concieve of any culture, or any public without its antecedents as to conceive of the fir st man and the first woman without theirs. And with antecedent s, of course, come stories, umbilical stories, stor ies of attachments. By this view, the public is a public o f some memory. Argument, evidence and claims of entitlement are less at issue than are simple remin ders of umbilical connections. Identity is the prob lem, not inquiry. Call this the umbilical view.What may be the relation between these views? I hop e to show you that the first, the forum view, depen ds for its actual existence upon the latter, the umbilical view, and that the principle of public speech I wa nt to explore, relates the two in just that way.II. The Power of SpeechThe idea that the public is created by public speec h is an idea thoroughly known to us. But, like the very end of our nose, we constantly overlook it. Effort is n eeded to even notice. That is why, I believe, we mu st detect the oddity of this idea. Only when the ordinary bec omes strange do we see it in fresh ways. The consti tutive character of public speech is not an idea I have ju st made up, however. It has its roots in tradition and in familiar experiences. I haven't time to cite all th e sources. Nor would we benefit if I did. Neither h ave I time to fully explicate a single one. I can, however, co nduct some forays into memory and tradition and in that way try, as best I can, to make the matter plain. So I urge your patience and invite your attention to som e ideas that initially may seem scattered. Trust me. I shall mak e the connections soon enough. For the first of these forays, recall the ancient R oman concept of the res publica, by which was meant and still is meant in the language of law, the "thing," of the public. The res publica is literally the af fair of the


3 of 15public. And this affair is, or ought to be, and in healthy circumstances always is, a "love affair." T he "thing" described is both a residence and a courtship, both the arena of our habitation and a project of our a ffection. The res publica is the Republic, a word familiar to us. Yet here, as every where, familiarity breeds a mnesia. We know it so well, we forget its meaning. The Repu blic is the affair of the people. We should not thi nk of it as our system of government. It would be better wer e we to think of our system of government as the structure, the machinery, or, in another metaphor, that hardy barrier to barbarism which, standing fir m against the constant threat of chaos, gives us time, time t o speak. The Government is formed by law, but the p ublic by public speech.This first foray then, lies on the side of recallin g what "public" means. I offer a second to remind u s what "speech" is about. Often, speaking is itself a form of acting. We are likely to look past this obvious truth, perhaps because of an "adjacent" vocabulary by whic h speech is viewed not as action, but as inaction. "She is all talk and no deed." "Cut the gaff and let's get busy." In these expressions, and others like them, speech is opposed to action. By this vocabulary, speech is ma de to reside with indolence. I admit there is that truth. Speech can be an instrument of evasion, but that is not the truth right now I mean to stress. We will forget that speech can be action also if we suppose that speech is used primarily to inform. O ften it is not. When I say to a dear, dear friend, "I love you ; I love you; I truly do," I do not mean merely to give information on my state of mind or on the compositi on of my affections. Informing is not my aim. My sa ying "I love you; I love you; I truly do" is already and by itself an act of love. When you step off the cu rb into the street and someone shouts, "Look out! Look out!" in forming you is not their aim. Warning you is, and b y uttering those words, they do exactly that. Such sp eech is an act of warning as surely as if the words had been just that -"I warn you!." By saying "Greetings!" to friends and strangers, they are greeted. Saying "Greetings!" and greeting our friends are not separ ate things. They are one and the same. The speech s imply is the act.That is the way things are with warnings and welcom ings, but also with promises and pledges. By saying "I promise," I forge a promise. By saying "I pledge... (my allegiance, say, or my troth), I pledge. The speech and the act are not two things, but one. In this re spect, speech is no mere flatus, a simple snorting that happens to agitate the air. Speak and the world is changed. Remain silent and the world remains just a s it is. Speak and you alter things. By speech, people are l oved and warned and greeted. Promises are made and so the future becomes fixed; pledges are pledged and w ith them fidelity comes to matter where before it mattered not at all. By speech, obligations are cre ated, assurances offered and received. By speech ch arity is extended and grace makes its appearance. These are more than merely acts of speech. In the language of philosophy, they are "speech-acts."This performative function of speech works also for curses. "Be damned!" Except when uttered in the fi rst person, as in "I'll be damned," (and perhaps even t hen) this expression, originally resident in a theo logy and cosmology now for the most part vanished, was never meant to assert anything that could be true or fal se. It did not inform. Here was a speech act by which it w as intended, I suppose, that someone actually be ma de to reside eternally in some nether land, a Sheol or Ha des. Like "Bug-out!" and "to hell with you!" such expressions, as William Gass suggests, are "thrown" at people like rice at the bride and groom.(Note 3 ) Just as rice at a wedding was not originally meant simpl y to say "Be fruitful," but to actually fructify th e pair, so also these curses are meant not simply to say "You are unwelcome here," not simply to announce a fact, but to make unwelcome any there may be on whom these missi les might fall. Note the sweep of these acts, what a vast region they cover. They range over acts of lov e and banishment, grace and assurance, as well as condemnations and guarantees. If these are things b rought forth by speech, then is it so difficult to see that speech, that is, public speech, is what brings fort h the public? A third foray. We are told that in the ancient worl d it was believed that words, once uttered, go fort h into the world with power of their own. Especially was this true of curses, oaths, and blessings. Such words we re sent


4 of 15forth and could not be called back. Think, for exam ple, of Isaac's blessing of Jacob (Gen. 27). Given under false pretenses, undeserved, unintended by Isaac, a nd evoked by deception, nonetheless, being given, t hat blessing could not be retrieved and annulled. This, of course, is the basis of one Biblical argument underwriting the gravity of speech or, in other wor ds, the obligation to speak the truth. If words go forth with power to do their work and cannot be returned and s wallowed, (Note 4) then we had better be careful wh at we say. Best get it right the first time.In Isaiah we read, "so shall my word be that goes f orth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty but shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (55.11). True and false prophets could be distinguished, in the Biblical vi ew of things, because if the prophet spoke the Word of God, then things would happen. The Word would "prosper i n the thing" for which it was sent. Proof that fals e prophets were indeed false lay in the fact that the word they pronounced did not so "prosper." God spe aks and it is so.(Note 5) Let there be light! But false pro phets speak and it is not so. Jeremiah complained t hat, though he spoke truly, the power of the Word tarried. It d elayed, and that delay, which should not happen, be came reason for him to doubt even his own credentials. I t is, I suppose, the central claim of the Gospels t hat proof of God's fleshy visitation is found in the fact tha t Jesus spoke and things happened. The claim advanc ed in those texts is that He was the Word, and the proof proffered is plainly that his speech accomplished t hose things that God's Word always does accomplish, name ly, the lame walk, the hungry are fed, the sick are healed and hope is brought to the oppressed.I do not care what you may think of the argument. I ask you to detect its texture. In these texts the theory of words and of speech is the theory of speech-acts. T his ancient belief that words go forth in the world to do their work is often presented as the view of a "pri mitive people." But this appraisal only reveals our vanity. It shows how much our own modernity pleases us. From t he facts, we could as easily conclude that finding this view of speech in the ancient world shows how primi tive we moderns are or how modern those primitives were, for we have by no means abandoned this ancien t outlook. Consider, for example, what we mean by saying such things as "His words are empty words," and "Those are vain words"? "His is empty talk." Wh at of seriousness is intended when we say, "I give you my word" "Her word is good"? These common ways of speech reveal our conviction that words ought not b e empty or vain, but should be full and valid or ef fectual. They should go forth from our mouths, "prosper" in what we "purpose," "prosper" in the thing for which they are sent. What else could we intend except that the words we speak should have their effect? Speech is formative. It makes the world. That is the Biblical point of view. It is also ours. The fact needs onl y to be noticed to be granted.As a fourth foray I appeal to your experience with the reflexive consequences of speech. Speech acts a re both performative and educative. They shape not only the world but ourselves. Words publicly spoken form speaker and hearers alike, but perhaps speakers eve n more than hearers. In Alcoholics Anonymous the in itial step in recovery is for the alcoholic to state alou d, publicly, and in the first person "I am an alcoh olic." The affirmation itself is therapeutic. But it can have this value only if these words are spoken in public .(Note 6) It is nothing to say these things privately, to one's self, or in silent thought. That kind of speech con ducted in the closet of the soul, leads not to recovery but to an even deeper descent into an ever darker night. Suc h public speech changes not simply the world, but the speake r. Public speech is formative. In this case, it for ms the self even as it works to constitute the group withi n which such speech is offered. This effect of speech upon the speaker is recognize d in other practices. It is the psychological and e ducational principle involved in the Bar Mitzvah when he affir ms, "I am a child of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I w as in Egypt." It is the principle underlying the conserva tive Christian tradition of offering "testimony," d escribing how things were, what happened, and how things are now; and it is part of what underlies the Catholic practice in the sacrament of confession. Preachers, priests, professors, and politicians, all in their own ways, know that to say what one believes, earnestly and i n public strengthens belief. Speech, public speech, forms the speaker.


5 of 15"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words w ill never hurt me." This school-yard chant of many generations (which I have slightly modified) is alm ost certainly false, but even more certain is the f act that its recitation is a useful tool. The repetition as a ma ntra that "...words will never hurt me," -such an act of speech is a tool for survival. Hateful words, in fa ct, do hurt, and perhaps they hurt the speaker even more than those against whom they are hurled. Hateful words a re not simply the words of hateful persons; they ar e words that make persons hate-full, i.e., filled wit h ugly hate. Speech shapes the speaker. Speech, in all these ways, is formative.III. A Theory of Public SpeechI offer these forays, as I have called them, not be cause I think they are completed arguments that sta nd beyond rebuttal, nor even because I suppose they are altog ether clear. Neither do I think they offer proof of anything. Let them be quite plainly what they are, simple poi nters to facts about this peculiar human capacity f or speech, simple reminders of the ordinary ordinarily overlooked, each offering a small window on the cl aim that the public is created by public speech. Still, the central question remains. Just what is meant b y "public speech"? Or, to be more specific, How does public s peech do its public work? What makes public speech public?The question examined: I shall offer an answer to t his question and then try to unpack it. But first, consider the question itself more closely. "What makes publi c speech public?" To ask is not to ask for a defini tion, so giving a definition will not help. There is no poin t in offering an ostensive definition. Nobody would be satisfied. And there is no possibility of getting a way with a stipulative one. Nobody would follow it. Conceptual analysis will not help. The answer will not simply drop out of an analysis of how the word "public" is used. Nor will the question be answered by finding some expression identical in meaning to the phrase "public speech." Neither is there any resear ch method likely to yield an answer. Maybe there is a Marxist answer and a capitalist answer, a liberal o ne and a conservative one, a feminist one and a cha uvinist one, a theistic one and an atheistic one, and who k nows what others, maybe a quantitative one and a qualitative one, still, I suggest that these too be set aside, at least for the moment, on the grounds that, without exception, in matters such as this, they aid unders tanding far less than they inhibit it. Try simplicity! Extreme simplicity. Studied simplic ity. I am reminded of a student this past fall who, in a discussion on the logic of knowledge-claims, pronou nced the currently popular constructivist thesis. Of course," she said, "all knowledge is subjective and socially constructed." I asked her whether she was wearing shoes and she allowed the question, said without a moment's hesitation or shred of doubt that she was. I asked whether she thought that knowledge was subjective o r socially constructed, and she demurred. The answe r doesn't matter anyway. The point does. To tell what it is that makes public speech public, I propose a return to innocence of a sort you have probably been trying f or years to overcome. We need the innocence of know ing that right now I'm wearing shoes counts as a genuin e case of knowing whereas believing that all knowle dge is subjective and socially constructed requires a lack of innocence, a substantial effort, perhaps even a graduate course if anybody is to actually believe it. In con trast, I urge you to make the effort, at least for the remainder of this hour, to recover an uncommon naivete. You h ave my permission to indulge the luxury of letting yourself, your very own purposefully naive self, to be the judge as to whether what I am about to say fits your experience. Let that be the test rather than whethe r my remarks fit somebody's research program. The Auditory Principle."What makes public speech public?" My hunch is that public speech occurs when what is said in one pers on's speech is heard by others as candidates for their o wn speech. Call this "The Auditory Principle." It s tates that speech, to be public speech, requires an auditor. P ublic speech occurs when what A says is heard by B as a possible candidate for B's speech. The principle po ints to hearing, in a certain way as the font of pu blic speech rather than any array of actions by the spea ker. If this principle is correct, that public spee ch is public


6 of 15by virtue of the acts of auditors, then it may be t empting to suppose that any speech is public speech if it occurs in some plurality, some crowd, some forum, o r as we say, some "public" setting. But, again, a c aution is in order. Don't reduce "public" to "plurality" o r confuse "public speech" simply with whatever talk goes on in public places, places where speech, as it were, is disclosed. That speech is aloud instead of silent and within e arshot of others, will make speech public only in t he sense that traffic sounds, being inescapably disclosed, a re public. Disclosure is at best only contingently related to the sense of "public" invoked when we refer to "pub lic speech." Consider the following fact. In any so ciety there may be persons who mean to speak to others, b ut no "others" who listen, no auditors, and thus, n one who hear. Declining to listen or to hear another is among our more efficient ways of denying that thos e others even exist. It is one way of killing them. By rende ring such persons inaudible, we make them invisible and, in effect, non-existent. That is part of what multi-cu lturalism in education is about, insisting that voi ces heretofore muted should be heard and hence allowed entry to the domain of public speech. It is not eno ugh that there be freedom of speech if nobody listens o r if nobody listens in a certain way. That "certain way" I describe as hearing the speech of another as "candidate for one's own." I admit t hat not much is explicated by the phrase itself. I don't me an, in any case that we have a duty to listen to on e another. I don't mean that public speech must be a dialogue. I mean only that public speech cannot occur unless statements about the world, as the speakers know it and announce it, are entertained by others as cand idates for the way those others might see the world. Where speech is not heard in that way, then we have some thing only potentially public, a kind of talk that is pub lic in contrast to private only in the sense of bei ng disclosed, like traffic sounds. This is not public speech; it is simply background noise. Even though aloud and v oiced in the midst of some plurality, it is not yet public s peech because there is as yet no auditor. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech de serves careful study as an example of public speech It works partly because it is framed in ways that enco urage listeners to entertain every step of that spe ech as a step that could be uttered as his or her own. It is framed in a homiletic style, familiar in the Black churches, a style that invites the congregation to affirm what is said at each step.(Note 7) In this way, what is said by one is entertained by others as candidate for his or he r own speech. "I have a dream" becomes "Here is the dream that we have." What comes forth from the voice of o ne comes to be "owned" as it were by others, not as doctrine or belief, not as truth claims, but simply as candidate for something that might be framed in his or her own voice. Thus, speech is public when, as auditor, one thinks things like "I could say what she has said" or "I do say what he has said" or "I might (might not) say what she has said, becaus e...." Each of these is a kind of interior comment that ca n enter into the process of hearing the speech of a nother as "candidate" for one's own. Notice especially, the l ast of these -"I might (might not) say what she h as said because...." "Because" is the prelude to reasons. H ow many kinds of reasons are there that can complet e this "because"? Not everything will count. Not everythin g goes. The "because" might call for truth-claims, reasons of the sort that enter into arguments and counter-a rguments. But it might call instead for reasons nei ther truth functional nor even framed in the language of argum ent. It might call for reasons offered in the langu age of "umbilical" stories.IV. Types of Public SpeechThe Forum: "Here are my reasons..." These are words that announce an effort to assess the truth or val idity of


7 of 15speech. And even though our question at the moment is not what makes public speech true or valid, but what makes it public, still, it is so that when truth cl aims are offered as reasons, they can result in mak ing speech public by making it subject to assessment by public standards. If I entertain the speech of another as making truth claims upon me, then I am, in fact, consideri ng that speech as candidate for something I might s ay. It does not matter to what makes public speech public, that I agree with what is said. Nor does the audit ory principle demand agreement. It calls instead for he aring in a certain way, and this certain way of hea ring without which public speech is not public is precis ely the same condition without which public disagre ement cannot be responsible.(Note 8) I can responsibly di sagree with or reject the speech of another only if I entertain the claims of that speech as candidates f or my own. So when "because" is followed with truth claims, sp eech seems to become public by being made subject t o public standards of assessment. I believe it is a m istake, however, to say, as some would, that this subjecting speech to public standards of assessment," is deman ded by the need for objectivity. They think that pu blic speech must be objective speech, and, in that respe ct like scientific speech, subject to standard evid entiary canons.(Note 9) Objectivity, however, is not a stan dard of what makes public speech public and the aud itory principle does not demand that kind of standard.The importance of truth claims for public speech is neither their objectivity nor their inter-subjecti vity, but the fact that in learning to frame truth-claims of publ ic speech we learn to formulate our views in ways t hat make it possible for them to be entertained as candidate s for the speech of others. If I say to you "I don' t want to pay higher taxes," I say something about myself that yo u might also say about yourself. You too could say "I don't want to pay higher taxes."(Note 10) Thus, it may se em that in your reiteration of my speech we have something that falls under the auditory principle, something that counts as "entertaining the speech o f another as candidate for one's own." That would be a mistak e, however. But why? The heart of the problem lies in the fact that these statements are mere expressions of desire.(Note 11) The "polity of desires" is distinc tly egalitarian, almost anarchic. That is to say, desir es are inherently equal. There is no natural hierar chy among them, no authority that does not stem from brute st rength of numbers, nothing in their nature sufficie nt to rank them, saying that some are better than others, that some ought to be heeded and others not.(Note 12) So when A says "I want..." and B says "I want..." neit her has said anything that bears upon whether what they want would be a good thing or whether they have any claim on the rest of us to grant what they want. N either has said anything that approaches public speech.Such separate and discrete statements of desire com ing from many people, may add up to a political constituency, but the sum of such statements, even in massive numbers, will not add up to even a fragm ent of public speech. For public speech, according to the forum view of things, we have to move from statemen ts of personal desire to public claims upon one another, from "I want X" to "we need X" or from "I want X" t o "X is a good thing for us."(Note 13) And the disciplin es of making this transition from private desire to public affirmation, are the disciplines likely to lead us into public discourse of a sort that makes use of t ruth claims, canons of evidence and standards of argument. These are the disciplines needed for entry to the forum. We do not enter a public at all, however, if we come to o ne another simply with our separate bundles of desi res and complaints. If that is the best we can do, then we come to public speech not as adults ready to plead a case, but merely as petulant children. Nor is it enough t hat I can voice your desires also as mine. That is not what is meant by "entertaining the speech of another as can didate for my own." And it does not result in publi c speech.Umbilical Stories: In the interior conversation goi ng on as the speech of another campaigns as candida te for my own, some reasons offered may be clothed as argu ments, but others arrive simply as umbilical storie s. They stem from a narrative of memory, and their rec itation does not present arguments and claims. It s imply calls forth objects of recollection making them pre sent to some community of memory. Their recitation by some invites their recitation by others. Thus, publ ic speech is not limited to truth claims. This narr ative way of entertaining the speech of another as candidate for my own is what I have in mind primarily as "pub lic


8 of 15speech."(Note 14) When someone like Martin Luther K ing Jr. says, "I was in Egypt," we do not expect pe ople to say "No you weren't" or "When was that?" or "How were things along the Nile?" This statement, drawn from a Biblical narrative, is uttered, as it were, to announce one's credentials and to tell us within what story we are to entertain what follows. These words annou nce what genre of speech we are about to enter, jus t as "once upon a time" and "I have yours of the 26th" a nnounce others. We do not treat the words "I was in Egypt" as a truth claim, and we are invited not to treat the words that follow as truth claims either. Yet they can be and are heard by others as candidates for th eir own speech. Some among those others can respond with "I too, was in Egypt." This is public speech. I rea lize that it is successful only if addressed to tho se who know the story or the litany and those who, better yet, count the story as their own. In short, that this i s public speech is dependent upon there being members who he ar such speech as their own. This is the speech, in other words, of members and the friends of members who can be gathered by speech into a community of memory around an umbilical story.(Note 15)This kind of public speech has its own objectivity or intersubjectivity, but not the kind that belon gs to truth claims and investigations of science. This is not t he speech of inquiry; it is the speech of membershi p. It is the speech of some public, not because it pronounces pu blic truth, but because it appeals to an umbilical story of some membership. Consider once again the example I cited earlier of a society in which there are speak ers, but no auditors, those who speak, but none who list en to their speech as candidates for their own. In such a society, even one that prides itself on f reedom of speech, there will be no public speech at all and hence no public to speak of. If public speech occur s there at all, it would have to occur in settings that most would view as private, like the family. Yet, what k ind of family could it be in which public speech, i n this sense, does not occur, a setting where some speak o f family affairs, but none entertain what is said a s possible candidates for their own speech, no one whose speec h enlivens the memory, stories, or convictions of o thers. If we ponder what that would mean, we may doubt tha t on such assumptions we imagine a family at all. There would be, for one thing, no parents, or at le ast none who enact the role, in a family where nobo dy entertains the speech of others as possible candida tes for their own.V. Fallacies of Public SpeechSo the "because..." clause might be completed eithe r by speech appropriate to public claims or by spee ch suitable to some narrative of antecedents. These wa ys can succeed in making public speech public. But other strategies will fail. They may be classed as the fa llacies of role, position and motivation, as well a s the fallacies of explanation and misplaced discourse.Fallacies of Role and PositionI cannot tell you how many times in recent years I have heard such rebuttals as "You just say what you do because you have tenure" or "...because you are mal e (or female)" or "...because you are a corporate executive" or "...because you are white" or "...bec ause you are an economist" or "...because you are impetuous" or "...because you are a politician" (Th at's the kind of thing we expect from politicians) or "...because you are a Christian (or a Jew, or a fun damentalist, whatever that means)." Examples are qu ite beyond enumeration. Each of these ways of speech co nstitutes not simply a failure to enter into public speech, but a quite explicit refusal to do so, a declaratio n that one will not entertain the speech of another as candidate for one's own. Each reveals an explicit technique f or rejecting the speech of another in a way that ma kes it unnecessary even to think about what has been said. Thus, each has the capacity not merely to stop pub lic speech, but to destroy a public. Such speech create s division as surely as public speech creates a pub lic. Such rejoinders are neither prelude to nor any part of p ublic speech. They shape no entry into entertaining the speech of another as candidate for one's own. They add up to the defeat of public speech. Fallacies of Explanation


9 of 15To the fallacies of role and position, we may add a kindred set, the fallacies of explanation. Why, we may ask, is it so easy for us to commit the fallacies of rol e and position, and even commend them as good pract ice? I believe it is because we confuse the role of audito r with the role of sympathetic listener. We confuse entertaining the speech of another as candidate for one's own with the quite different practice of lis tening to the speech of another in order to understand the sp eaker. Thus, we aim to understand the speaker, not the speech, to grasp not what the other is saying, but simply to explain his or her saying it. We seek to explain the speech of others under the false impression that in doing so, in trying to understand why a speaker sp eaks as he or she does, we are being sympathetic auditors.This is a misconception and a dangerous one. Public speech is defeated and the public destroyed whenev er we accept or reject the speech of another on grounds o f some psychological, sociological, or merely prefe rential explanation as to why the speaker has spoken thus. To grasp such an explanation has almost nothing to do with entertaining the speech of another as candidat e for one's own. Allow me please, a general illustr ation framed as a particular case. Suppose you turn to me for example, saying "I understand, Green, why you say these things. You talk this way because you are a p hilosopher (professor, old fashioned, male, of anot her generation or whatever)." Were you to say that to m e, I would know immediately that you had not heard a word I had addressed to you. Moreover, say that to me in an unctuous tone of sympathy and gentle understanding, and you will have deeply insulted me an insult made all the more painful by coming to me clothed in kindness, by arriving with the moral end orsement of charity. Say that sort of thing to me a nd I shall look you in the eye and say, "But, my dear, I didn' t seek to be understood; I merely wanted to be hear d. Don't confuse the two. I don't hanker after understanding ; I hanker only for a hearing." A therapist must se ek to understand the speech of a client in order to under stand the client. But the exchange between the two is not public speech and the listening that goes on there is not the listening demanded by the auditory princ iple. The therapist does not entertain the speech of the othe r as candidate for his or her own. Public speech is not counseling, nor is counseling public speech, and be ing member of some public is not a matter of being in therapy.Now I am eager not to be misunderstood on this poin t. It often happens that our public speech, the spe ech of one to another about our common affairs, is biased, expressing our personal histories and private pref erences. No doubt, we speak from our several positions. We c ould hardly do otherwise. In short, because interes t often, perhaps always, governs in the affairs of hu man beings, and because interests are bound to be parochial, therefore, a hermeneutic of suspicion is a good thing. Often it is more than a good thing. Sometimes it is a necessary thing. But it cannot be viewed as the only thing, because the hearing it e ngenders, when supplemented by no other, is precisely the kin d of listening to another that makes public speech impossible.What I object to, in short, is not a hermeneutic of suspicion, but an entirely different thing that I believe we have created, namely a culture of suspicion, a cult ure of public speech in which it is simply assumed that because of role or position, because of the partial ity or brokenness of reason, nothing any of us says can be entertained at face value. All must be explained an d hence nothing that you say, for example, need be entertained by me as candidate for my own speech. I f I adopt that attitude, or if you adopt it, then o ur joint membership in a public, yours and mine, has come to an end. Make the move from a hermeneutic of suspicion to a culture of suspicion in your relatio ns to your friends, and you will have no friends. D o it with your family, and the family will vanish. Nowadays, apparently, we need not be tutored to hear the othe r with suspicion. Doing that often seems simply to be doin g what comes naturally. Within a culture of suspici on, we need to listen to the other with a hermeneutic of a ffection. Listen to the loves of the other. Can the y be yours? Can they even be candidates for your own?Fallacies of Misplaced DiscourseTo the fallacies of role, position, status and expl anation, I add a third group, the fallacies of "mis placed


10 of 15discourse." Consider an illustration. Justice Holme s, in his famous speech "The Path of the Law," said in effect, "The law is simply what the courts decide a nd nothing more."(Note 16) Holmes offered this observation as part of a general resistance to a ce rtain kind of natural law tradition. It was his way of cautioning prospective attorneys to attend more to the court and less to the arguments of philosophy w hen pleading a case. The aim, after all, is to win the case not to win adherents to a theory. Persuade the judge or the jury, not the American Philosophical Society si nce they are not assembled in the court in any case This is good advice for the practicing attorney. It helps t o focus thought upon the task at hand. But I submit to you that this is useless counsel to the judge whose pro blem is not to plead the case, but to decide it, no t to convince the jury, but to guide deliberation. When one is the court and must decide, neither guidance nor solace can be drawn from the dictum that the law is whatever the courts decide and nothing more. Usefu l on that side of the bench where it is framed, the prin ciple is worse than useless when transported to the other side. It sits well at counselor's table, but not in the chair behind the bar. No genius is needed to find the fault. It is the sa me as would be noted were we to confuse the book re view with the book, the critic's analysis with the poem, the commentary with the text, the analysis of publ ic speech with the speech, the anthropologists report of life among the natives with life among the natives. Pub lic speech is living speech, the speech of members. How do we become members? By public speech, by allowin g the speech of the other to candidate as one's own. I shall try now to offer proof as much as the case allows for proof.In The New York Times dateline August 28, 1963, the re is a story by James Reston portions of which oug ht to be recited. Abraham Lincoln, who presided in his stone temple today above the children of the slaves he emancipated, may have used just the right words to sum up the general reaction to the Negro's massive march on Washington. "I think," he wrote to Gov. Andrew B. Curtin of Pennsylvania in 1861, "the necessity of being ready increases. Look to it." Washington may not "look to it" at once, since it is looking to so many things, but it will be a long time before it forgets the melodious voice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. crying out his dreams to the multitude. It was Dr. King who, near the end of the day, touc hed the vast audience ...with a peroration that was an anguished echo from all the old American reformers. Roger Williams calling for religious liberty, Sam Adams calling fo r political liberty, old man Thoreau denouncing coercion, William Lloyd Garrison demanding emancipa tion, and Eugene V. Debs crying for economic equality -Dr. King echoed them all. "I have a dream," he cried again and again. And ea ch time the dream was a promise out of our ancient articles of faith: phrases from the Con stitution, lines from the great anthem of the nation, guarantees from the Bill of Rights, all end ing with a vision that they might one day all come true. Dr. King touched all the themes of the day, only b etter than anybody else. He was full of the symbolism of Lincoln and Gandhi, and the cadenc es of the Bible. He was both militant and sad, and he sent the crowd away feeling that the lo ng journey had been worthwhile. James Reston offers a report of public speech. No a rgument here. No forum. Better to evoke the vast an d rich resources of umbilical stories, allowing others to take possession of these tokens of memory by virtue of which we are a public, an inclusive public, and bes t to do so within a liturgical setting, Lincoln sea ted, that is, "presiding from his stone temple" one hundred years more or less from emancipation. But now introduce to this scene and to this speech the academic, acerbic talk of deconstruction and critical hermeneutics, speech that belongs in the Academy and not on the steps of that stone temple, and one detects immediately the fallacy of misplaced discourse. Principles of resea rch and practice may serve well in the context wher e they are formulated, and serve badly as guides in anothe r place. The rule may sit well in the chair at coun sel's table and not at all behind the bar. Trash the critic's c omment. I'll take the poem, the music, the memory e very time.


11 of 15Give me the text liturgically situated and alive, n ot its classroom decomposition which is worthless e ither as public speech or as instruction in public speech.But I press the matter to another scene and in turn to still another an added eighty seven years befor e. I refer, of course, to Lincoln at Gettysburg. Gary Wills, in a recent book, has helped us to re-member.(Note 17 ) Again recall the liturgical setting, the circumstan ce, the act, the aim, to consecrate the ground and to remind us of its placement in a larger territory. Lincoln' s consistent policy, politically delicate to mainta in, had not been so much to free the slaves, as to secure the U nion, preserve the Constitution. Yet his first utte rance at Gettysburg harkened not to The Constitution, but to the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution says nothing about being created equal. The Declaration does. It was precisely because, by this speech, Lin coln brought the two together that he was criticized. "A ll men are created equal," indeed. Who says this na tion was dedicated to any such proposition? By what right do es he alter the Constitution in this way, complaine d the Chicago papers. But he did bring these two texts to gether, and did so, morevoer, in a single sentence. And Wills remarks, no doubt with some but not too much exaggeration, that those who heard this speech that day went forth changed. They gained a different ear, wo uld not hear things the same way again. It was the union of these two texts, Constitution and Declaration, a nd a public changed by speech, that made "I have a dream" something accessible to speaker and hearers alike. Speech offered by one, became not simply candidate, but actually resident, in the speech of others. The pub lic was formed and changed and formed by public spe ech. I do not want to leave the impression, however, tha t public speech is only the speech of heroes and or ators, that it occurs only, as it were, on high liturgical occasions. The centrality of liturgy is a topic fo r another time. Liturgies have to do with seeing, more than with he aring. The educational power of liturgies resides i n the peculiar fact that they change nothing in the world yet they allow us to see everything differently. Liturgy is the true instrument of deconstruction. My point, ho wever, is rather that public speech is living speec h. The key I wish to stress is not its liturgical setting at moments of high drama, but that public speech re sides in our capacity to entertain the speech of others as candi date for our own. By this auditory act, public spee ch is permitted and we are joined even in our disagreemen ts. I offer, in conclusion this, from Maya Angelou, Take Time Out When you see themon a freeway hitching rideswearing beadswith packs by their sidesyou ought to askWhat's all thewarring and the jarringand thekilling andthe thrillingall aboutTake Time OutWhen you see himwith a band around his headand an army surplus bunkthat makes his bed. You'dbetter ask What'sall thebeating and


12 of 15the cheating andthe bleeding andthe needingall about.Take Time OutWhen you see her walkingBarefoot in the rainand you know she's trippingon a one-way trainyou need to askwhat's all thedying andthe running andthe gunningall about.Take Time OutUse a minutefeel some sorrowfor the folkswho think tomorrowis a place that theycan call upon the phone.Take a monthand show some kindnessfor the folkswho thought that blindnesswas an illness thataffected eyes aloneIf you know that youthis dying on the runand my daughter tradesdope stories with your sonwe'd better seewhat all ourfearing and ourjeering and ourcrying andour lyingbrought about.Take Time Out. I could say that. I might say that. Had I the wit, I would say that. Would you? If so, then this is public sp eech as well. The need to attend to the speech of the ot her increases. The public itself is at risk. Look to it.


13 of 15NOTES 1. This lecture was prepared for The Society of Pro fessors of Education meeting in conjunction with th e American Educational Research Association in Atlant a, Georgia, April, 1993. The paper is currently in press in the TEACHERS COLLEGE RECORD. It originated, howe ver, in sessions of the National Faculty Seminar on religious education convened over several years at the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapol is, Indiana under the aegis of The Lilly Endowment. The possibility of this lecture could not receive a he aring in that setting, however, partly, I think because of a friendly, but nevertheless strict, adherence to wh at I now discern to be the fallacies of public speech. I fel t thus obliged to confront these difficulties and s earch for a more transparent formulation of my thought. Suitabl y recast, this lecture will be situated later as a chapter on public speech in a book called Walls; Education in Communities of Text, Liturgy and Norm, a book inspi red by my participation in that seminar.Printed copies of this article are available for $2 .50 from Caddo Gap Press, Alan H. Jones, Publisher; 3145 Geary Blvd, Suite 275; San Francisco, CA 94118 or f rom The Society of Professors of Education Dalton B Curtis, Sec-Treas., College of Education, Southeast Missouri State University, CApe Girardeau, MO 6370 1. 2. And the amusement betrays our common ambivalence between myth and literalism. Why are we amused? Because we had not noticed? Does our amusement prov e that we insist on taking the story literally? 3. On Being Blue, A Philosophical Inquiry, (Boston, David RxD Godine, 1976), pg. 47. 4. We have a rich vocabulary for "taking one's word s back." It includes "eating crow," "eating hat," g agging in the process-and what else?5. He had only to say, "Let there be light" and the re was. 6. It is vital to note that this therapeutic value is partly a consequence of the fact that these word s are said in a company of people who also can, have and will say t he same thing. 7. The speech has the structure of a multiple choic e question, i.e., a stem and then a series of decla rations following from that stem. I say nothing here as to how this style of speech and its content is rooted in the voices of memory and moral imagination. In the case of this speech we have not only public talk, but congregational and prophetic talk.8. Actually, the auditory principle is not "precise ly the same condition without which...." The ration al rejection of the arguments of another person, on an y other than purely formal grounds, will require th at one entertain the speech of the other as "candidate for one's own." Thus, it seems, that to use the 'publi c' language of the forum requires that the auditory principle b e satisfied. But that principle can be satisfied in situations other than those imposed by the argumentative speec h of the forum. Thus, what is argued here as the conditions that make public speech public is a much broader principle than the rules of argument in so me kind of forum. It should be noted also that "eviden tiary canons" are standards of speech, whereas the auditory principle deals with the larger matter of "hearing in a certain way." 9. An aside. My impression, perhaps erroneous, is t hat the currently popular 'critical thinking moveme nt' in education, presents the practices of public speech as primarily in need of adherence to such evidentia ry canons -drawn either from formal logic or from sc ience. If this is a fair appraisal, then it constit utes the identification of a mistake. Such evidentiary canon s have the consequence of making speech public beca use such canons represent public standards. But this id enfication obscures what it is about such standards that has that effect. This is a view that misrepresents what makes public speech public. 10. Note the indexical reference of the first perso n pronoun in these statements of desire. These are statements


14 of 15 by different persons about themselves. They are not statements about any joint concern, much less any common good. And if pronomial reference is any part of the meaning of such statements, neither are the se statements about the same fact.11. They are not even about our desires. "I don't w ant to pay higher taxes" is a statement even more p rimitive than "I know that I don't want to pay higher taxes. The latter is a statement about my desires, about which the former is a mere expression. "Ouch!" might be the e xpression of pain. "That hurts" a statement about a pain. 12. I am aware that there is such a thing as a hier archy of desires. I can have a desire to have other desires than those I have. We might say, "I wish I didn't w ant that so much." But these "higher order desires" are invariably the consequence of some order in the sel f other than desire itself. It was this absence of a natural hierarchy of desires that led to Plato's anti-democ ratic sentiments. He thought of the order of polity always as akin to order in the soul. And when desires alone r ule, there is no order. The "natural equality" of d esires is akin to anarchy in the self, he thought.13. See Joseph Tussman, Obligation and the Body Pol itic, (NEW YORK, 1960, Oxford University Press) pg. 78. Tussman marks a useful distinction between the "assertive mood" and the "claiming mood" suggesting that "'I believe P' is related to 'P is true' as 'I want X' is related to 'I am entitled to X'." This advancement from belief to knowledge (truth) and from blind assertio n to grounded entitlement is akin to the transition I am referring to here as moving from the expression of desire to public claims. 14. The illustration and much of the analysis at th is point I owe entirely to Emily Robertson. 15. It is worth nothing that this is the point at w hich Dewey's conception of the public fails. In THE PUBLIC AND ITS PROBLEMS, Dewey's principal treatment of th is problem, he defines a public as consisting of those effected by the consequences of actions taken He distinguishes nascent publics and self-conscio us publics, as those whose members are unaware of how they are effected by actions taken and those who ar e aware of how they are implicated. But the crux of t he matter is that, for Dewey, belonging to a public is a purely consequential matter, something entirely con tingent upon the nexus of act and consequence. Ther e is, for him, no such thing as a "community of memory," one defined by recitation of an umbilical story. 16. Actually Homes wrote, "The object of our study. prediction, the prediction of the incidence of the public force through the instrumentalities of the c ourts." And again, "The primary rights and duties w ith which jurisprudence busies itself again, are nothin g but prophecies.... ...a legal duty so called is n othing but a prediction that if a man does or omits certain thin gs he will be made to suffer in this or that way by judgment of the court...." Cf., "The Path of the Law," in TH E MIND AND FAITH OF JUSTICE HOLMES, ed, Max Lerner, (New York, Modern Library, 1943) pg. 72.17. Gary Wills, LINCOLN AT GETTYSBURG, (NEW YORK, S IMON AND Shuster, 1992)Copyright 1994 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesEPAA can be accessed either by visiting one of its seve ral archived forms or by subscribing to the LISTSER V known as EPAA at (To subscribe, send an em ail letter to whose sole contents are SUB EPAA your-name.) As articles are published by the Archives they are sent immediately to the EPAA subscribers and simultaneously archived in three forms. Articles ar e archived on EPAA as individual files under the name of the author a nd the Volume and article number. For example, the art icle by Stephen Kemmis in Volume 1, Number 1 of the Archives can be retrieved by sending an e-mail letter to LISTSER and making the single line in the letter read GET KEMMIS V1N1 F=MAIL. For a table of contents of the entire ARCHIVES, send the following e-mail message to INDEX EPAA F=MAIL, that is, send an e-mail letter and make its single line read INDE X EPAA


15 of 15F=MAIL.The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is Education Policy Analysis Archives are "gophered" at To receive a publication guide for submitting artic les, see the EPAA World Wide Web site or send an e-mail letter to and include the single line GET EP AA PUBGUIDE F=MAIL. It will be sent to you by retur n e-mail. General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Edito r, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. (6 02-965-2692)Editorial Board John CovaleskieSyracuse UniversityAndrew Coulson Alan Davis University of Colorado--DenverMark E. Thomas F. GreenSyracuse UniversityAlison I. Arlen Gullickson Ernest R. Aimee Craig B. Howley u56e3@wvnvm.bitnet William Richard M. Jaeger Benjamin Thomas Dewayne Mary P. Les Susan Bobbitt Anne L. Hugh G. Richard C. Anthony G. Rud Dennis Jay Robert Robert T.


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