In this first sustained critique of current-traditional rhetorical theory, Sharon Crowley uses a postmodern, deconstructive reading to reexamine the historical development of current-traditional rhetoric. She identifies it (as well as the British new rhetoric from which it developed) as a philosophy of language use that posits universal principles of mind and discourse. Crowley argues that these philosophies are not appropriate bases for the construction of rhetorical theories, much less guides for the teaching of composition. She explains that current-traditional rhetoric is not a rhetorical theory, and she argues that its use as such has led to a misrepresentation of invention.
Crowley contends that current-traditional rhetoric continues to prosper because a considerable number of college composition teachers—graduate students, part-time instructors, and teachers of literature—are not involved in the development of the curricula they are asked to teach. As a result, their voices, necessary to create any true representation of the composition teaching experience, are denied access to the scholarly conversations evaluating the soundness of the institutionalized teaching methods derived from the current-traditional approach.