By Becker1999 from Grove City, OH (March for Science, Washington, DC) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ian Barnard, Professor of Rhetoric and Composition in the Department of English at Chapman, recently gave a presentation entitled “Do ‘Facts’ Really Matter?” at the Western States Rhetoric and Literacy Conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Professor Barnard’s presentation, an updating of their 2017 article in Anastamos, Chapman’s graduate interdisciplinary journal, argued that one of the “Trump-effects” has been a misguided defense of “facts” by progressive intellectuals and activists, despite decades of scholarship among feminists, postmodernists, critical race theorists, queer theorists, and disability theorists that has discredited the uncritical obeisance to science, “facts,” and “objectivity.”

Professor Barnard criticized the formalist emphasis in disciplines like creative writing, film, and composition–the notion that these disciplines encourage students to say anything they want, as long as they say it well–and called on colleagues across the country who teach courses in rhetoric and composition to avoid using appeals to “facts” as a way of evaluating rhetorical claims, and instead to offer ethical and political arguments to make the case for why certain politics, policies, and executive practices are inhumane, discriminatory, destructive, self-serving, and wrong-headed.