ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Community Literacy: Negotiating Difference In Contemporary Public Spheres

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logo  2002-1Those interested in the field of argumentation theory and its application are increasingly turning their attention to the growing body of scholarship documenting how everyday people use literate practices in their day-to-day lives (Burton, 2001; Cushman, 1998; Fitzgerald, 2001), what Ann Gere (1994) refers to as “community literacy” (75). With its commitment to writing in the service of joint inquiry and collaborative problem solving, with its vision for the transformative possibilities of inventive practice, community literacy stands to help interested argumentation theorists and practitioners to update and to refine their understanding of contemporary public rhetoric. In this paper, I present a teenager’s rap. The analysis of the rap focuses on controversies surrounding it. The paper suggests that within public spheres, arguments have multiple functions, including to clarify stakeholders’ interests, to reveal their competing – sometimes conflicting – conceptions of the social problem that brings them together, and to highlight the alternative visions for rhetorical action that they recommend in response to the problem.

According to Gerard Hauser (1999), the current state of public life calls a rhetorical imagination, grounded in history, up short. Simply said: the contemporary scene for public rhetoric is significantly different from that of the past. Whether characterizing public life in ancient Athens or during the Enlightenment in Europe, two of the most striking differences are the degree of pluralism and changes in communication technology. In the past, conditions for communication were “weak in diversity,” relying on “shared tradition to resolve difference” (55). Technology, needless to say, has also changed the nature of public communication. As technology has intersected with a set of other factors, one effect has been to separate people from forums where policy decisions are made, a phenomenon that leads Hauser to note the marked differences in public rhetoric of ancient Greece and our own (19). Furthermore, technology supports the work of spin doctors, CNN tappers, public opinion polls, and belittling talk radio – the results of which “discourage a spirit of reflective political activism in this country” (5). In Vernacular Voices, Hauser (1999) contrasts our everyday encounters with public opinion and the media’s portrayal of “the public” this way:
Most individuals understand their speaking and writing as personal expression…. Most of our communication directed at persons or groups has some immediacy, and we know them in some way. We experience our transactions with them in concrete terms as addressed discourse: our own thoughts, our intended message, a specific audience to which we have adapted, and that audience’s perceived response. The public portrayed by the media, in contrast, is an abstract representation whose needs, thoughts, and responses are extrapolated from survey data … creat[ing] the impression of “the public” as an anonymous assemblage given to volatile mood swings likely to dissipate into apathy and from which we personally are disengaged. (5)

Such conditions lead Hauser to conclude that as “citizens, commentators, the news media, and scholars” we become “desensitized to our own rhetorical practices and their possibilities for shaping our public lives as citizens, neighbors, and cultural agents” (6).

Hauser’s assessment raises the question of how teachers might best describe public rhetorics, as well as account for and measure rhetorical effect within the writing classroom. The issue came to the fore at this year’s Western States Composition Conference held in Tempe, Arizona. Providing the keynote address for the conference, John Trimbur responded to the questions framing the theme for the conference: Writing, What is it? Why Study it? Why teach it? He suggested that teachers of rhetoric would do well to take seriously David Fleming’s (1998) recommendation to revitalize rhetorical education by looking to the primary aim of classical rhetoric: preparing students for participation in public life.  As a response, an instructor in the room described how he used in his classroom “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as achievement of public rhetoric. Others described how they used the same text in their classes. But Sharon Crowley soon noted: in its moment, the letter itself failed; it failed to persuade the eight clergy to whom it was addressed. Our discussion floundered. On the one hand, the letter wasn’t up to the daunting rhetorical situation. Yet the letter represents a signal achievement worthy of a place in a good many composition textbooks ranging from Writing about the World to Call to Write?

Implicitly, it seems to me, Crowley was asking the audience to articulate how it was that the letter participated in the struggle and constrained success of the civil rights movement in the U.S. That is, responding to her comments required a conception of how rhetoric functions in contemporary public spheres. While each of us expert is at analyzing the rhetorical moves of King’s letter-as-text, we were far less adept at describing publicly the complex web of practices, ideologies and institutions that permits and accounts for rhetorical agency, the always constrained catalyst behind deliberate social change. In the case of King and civil rights movement, we needed to be able to account for the dynamic interplay among King’s eloquence; institution divisions between the courtroom and southern churches; and, particularly important, the advent of widely broadcast television news coverage. Such a description would be able to explain how that interplay resulted in changes in public opinion, whereby opening up spaces, including college textbooks, as places for texts such as King’s “Letter” to become available for analysis and, indeed, to serve as a model of public rhetoric. And such a description would help writing theorists and teachers alike make connections among textual artifacts, scholarly theories, and community practices, on the one hand, and their own rhetorical repertoires, on the other.

Perhaps we had difficulty responding to Crowley’s reality check because of the gap between the issues we were trying to address and the dominant theories available to address them. Consider “grand theorist” Jergen Habermas’s model of the public sphere that has dominated theorists’ efforts to conceptualize public rhetoric (Golden, Berquist and Coleman, 1990, 380). In this model, the public exists as a single, identifiable entity, recognized by a shared commitment to the common good and governed by rational-critical discourse (Habermas, 1974). According to this model, the public adjudicates claims on the basis of warranted assent. Working from this model, an argumentation theorist or practitioner would magnify the few places where this kind of centralized, unitary public sphere exists and where ordinary people still have a role in that sphere: for instance, the jury. A teacher would then develop simulations requiring students to replicate this sort of collective, impartial judgment. In such an instructional situation, the issue is not whether any one set of jurors creates an ideal speech situation as Habermas suggests, but rather that the group realizes something “public” is expected of them and they want to live up to that expectation (Fleming, personal communication, January 27, 2002).

However, this focus on solely unitary, centralized public sphere carries with it important limitations. Foremost, the notion of a rational-critical discourse assumes difference can be bracketed for the duration of deliberation. As such, this model has ignored “the proletarian, feminine, nationalist, and popular peasant” spheres (Fraser, 1990, 60), suggesting that these discursive arenas are something other than legitimate public ones. And the rational-critical model focuses on the process and a single practice: the act of adjudicating claims on the basis of warranted assent.

This paper suggests that while the practice of adjudicating claims is central to a public when called together, say, in the name jury deliberation, it is only one among many public rhetorical practices. There exists the potential for a host of other “untidy communicative practices” through which participants “discover their interests, where they converge or differ, and how their differences might be accommodated” (Hauser, 1990, 55). Community literacy offers a set of commitments, a theoretical framework, and a suite of literate practices to assist researchers in identifying and examining other public spheres. Community literacy trades rational-critical discourse aimed at warranted assent for competing interests, acknowledged – not bracketed – social differentials, and reasonable (rather than rational) arguments. These arguments spur Burkean (1969) “identification” through which participants learn to understand their individual and collective interests, forge intercultural working relationships, and construct plans for action (19).
Framing the issue this way raises the question: how in our own time people do participate in various forms of public rhetoric? Where do we look? In terms of literate practice, what’s going on there? And how are we to understand the relationship between rhetorical participation and rhetorical effect, such as influencing public opinion and ultimately policy making? Already as a discipline we are adept at using rhetorical theory to understand the discursive richness of past events and discursive achievements. This paper suggests that community literacy can serve as a catalyst for us to infuse more rhetorical theory into our understanding of contemporary public spheres as well. For community literacy shifts our gaze from solely institutional or formal settings in order to develop rhetorically sound, empirically grounded descriptions of how more marginalized public discourse does form and function.
This paper takes sites of conflict for its unit of analysis (Flower, 1994). It explores how negotiations within these sites unearth people’s competing versions of the problem that calls them together. The analysis also tracks the discursive moves the stakeholders make to resolve the conflict. Through these moves stakeholders reveal competing visions for rhetorical action. These glimpses of alternative public rhetorical practices are of potential interest for argumentation theorists and practitioners. For through them we the value everyday people attach to local public discourse, including how they perceive rhetorical action promoting change.

1. The Case Study: A Teenager Composes and Performs a Rap Directed at School Suspension Policies
This paper analyzes a teenager’s argument, performed as a rap. It first examines the negotiations surrounding the teenager’s performance, then policy makers’ competing interpretations of its implications for rhetorical action.

The first part features an argument that a teenager named Mark presents at a community conversation on high school suspension policies. A bit of background: Mark was a teen writer at the Community House a settlement house in the center of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the operates in parntership with the Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy at Carnegie Mellon University (Long, Peck, and Baskins, 2002). Mark wrote his rap for a community conversation, the finale of an 8-week after-school literacy project. The community conversation is a practice of community literacy, designed as an intercultural public forum for addressing social issues affecting community residents (Flower 1997). For this project Mark and several other teenagers studied suspension policies and practices in their urban high school and wrote a policy statement, representing problems and suggesting solutions from their points of view. The topic of suspension was on the table because suspension – and allegations that suspension practices were racially charged – had become a problem for many constituents: teachers; the vice principal of the high school; parents; shop keepers; community residents; and, of course, the teenagers themselves. An alarming number of students were suspended each year at the high school Mark attended. More than 50% of all students there were suspended at least once by the time they finish 10th grade.

So after studying the issue for several weeks, interviewing the various stakeholders, and writing responses to issues they explored, the teenagers, with the help of the Community House staff, hosted a community conversation to include the school board president and vice principal as respondents. The teenagers presented a newsletter they had written, entitled Wassup with Suspension, documenting a range of perspectives on their school system’s suspension policies. To launch the conversation, Mark performed this rap:

Example (1)
by Mark Howard

This is not your everyday gangster rap. The purpose of this rap is to tell what really happens in school between students, teachers, and vice principals, and what causes suspension.

It started with two students in the class talking out of place
The boy starts getting rude and got all up in the girl’s face
The girl didn’t like it so she got up and yelled back
The teacher told the girl, Get up and sit down in the back
She got up with no problem and then sat in the back chair

He had to be a pest so he started to look and stare
At the girl to test her and try to make her mad
He said, Respect me girl … and treat me like your dad!
She stood up and said, Don’t play … my dad got shot last year
The teacher turned around just as the girl broke out in tears

The teacher kicked her out and said, Go straight to the VP
The boy started laughing as the girl said It wasn’t me
The teacher didn’t listen, even harder the girl cried
When she got to the office she found out the teacher lied

She talked and talked and tried to tell him what’s going on
The VP wouldn’t listen but she kept going on and on
The VP said, You’re lying ‘cause that’s not what I heard
The teacher wouldn’t lie so I’m going with the teacher’s word
The teacher said you tried to start a fight in the classroom
She said you threatened her then you said you would leave the room
She also said you tried to pick a fight with another kid
So don’t sit there and lie now; tell me what you really did

She said, It’s hopeless, every time I tell you, you say I lied
The VP didn’t listen and slowly the girl cried
The VP said, You’re going home for about three days
She shook her head as he said, You’ll learn from your wrong ways

The point of this story – nobody pays attention
To a student ‘cause they’re young. Now I may mention
If the teacher would have took one minute and acted like she cares
She would have saved a lot of time and a lot of tears
Teachers prove students right just about every day
They automatically think their way is the right way

Same for the Vice Principal they don’t listen too
You’re guilty, you’re suspended is the only thing they do
On the other hand, the girl was also wrong in her actions
She didn’t have to get up and scream for satisfaction
She could have told the teacher or even the principal
Instead she’s in trouble, suspended and sitting out of school
The point of this story is lost communication
Make sure it’s always there or you’ll be on a vacation.

The vice principal, in his response to the teenagers’ arguments, offered to make their policy document required reading for all teachers at Mark’s high school, which he has done. So what was accomplished then? The teenagers in the project gave voice to the situation from their points of view, suggesting that the for students, the story behind an altercation may be significantly different from what teachers and administrators may have imagined.

Mark’s performance at the community conversation makes two points that can refine how we think about the rhetoric of contemporary public spheres. First, we note that publics can emerge dynamically – in response to problems, rather than existing solely as a fixed, a priori site. The community conversation where Mark performed his rap came into being to address a mutual problem. Within this site, it is acknowledged that the participants – the school board president, the high school vice principal, the teenagers, the parents – hold different opinions regarding the nature of the problem. What unites them for the time being as a public is their commitment to the problem and their desire to influence its resolution through dialogue. When we note publics emerging dynamically, we shift our attention from text (e.g., King’s “Letter” as anthologized artifact) to performance (albeit supported by and tracked through text). As Hauser notes, moved to a level of performance, “rhetoric opens inventional spaces: spaces where ideas, relationships, emotional bonds, and courses of action can be experienced in novel, sometimes transformative, ways” (33). Within this framework, then, a performance is judged rhetorically effective not so much because it secures agreement but rather because it is understood across perspectives and, as a result, provides a basis for cooperation among those who have a stake resolving in the problem (Hauser, 1999, 55).
Second, Mark’s performance moves us beyond rational-critical stipulations of Habermas’s model (where emotions should be bracketed while one engages in rational, critical discussion), and it moves us beyond the dichotomy between cognition and affect in our own circles. We note that people become engaged because issues touch their lives. A rhetorical understanding of communication regards life-engaging decisions as necessarily involving emotions. And here we are reminded of the classical tradition’s rendition of rhetoric as a productive art: engaging emotions in tandem with reason is necessary for sound judgment.  According to Aristotle (1941/350 B.C.E.), it is essential to ponder proportion between acts and consequences for prudence to prevail.

2. Contesting the Rhetorical Efficacy of the Teen’s Rap
You may recall Young, Becker and Pike’s (1970) premise of tagmemic rhetoric: we can inquire into a problematic phenomenon by thinking of it as a particle (that is, as the thing itself), as a wave (as something that changes over time) and in a field (within a network or system). In the spirit of such inquiry, I would ask you to consider Mark’s rap as it participates over time in a larger field: a public discussion around the question of how organizations, ranging from public schools to non-profit organizations, can best support literate activity that works to build a more equitable and loving world. This question is a pressing one, one to which our discipline is accountable. It is around this question that Glynda Hull and Katherine Schultz (2002) have organized their literature review for the recently published School’s OutBridging Out-of-School Literacies with Classroom Practice. As McLaughlin et al. (2001) make clear in Urban Sanctuaries: Neighborhood Organizations in the Lives and Futures of Inner City Youth, the question of how best to construe literacy to support social justice is a matter of public policy. With Mark’s rap held at the center of our inquiry, this paper next traces three sites of conflict surrounding it.  In the negotiation of these conflicts, stakeholders clarify their interests, they suggest competing – sometimes conflicting – conceptions of the social problem that brings them together, and they nominate alternative visions for rhetorical action that they recommend in response to the problem.

To begin, let me take you back to the afternoon before the Community Conversation when the writers of the Wassup with Suspension? project hold a rehearsal. The teen writers know that more than 150 people had already RSVP-ed saying they’ll attend. Adrenalin is running. The teenagers are practicing intently. A journalist from one of the city’s newspapers is attending. After Mark’s turn at the microphone, she calls the rehearsal to a hault. This is the first contested site.

3. Stipulating contingencies for rhetorical action: The audience must be able to hear
One of Mark’s classmates, a young woman named Indie, attended the rehearsal and later recounted the negotiation this way:
Mark finished. Everybody – all of us kids – thought it [his rap] was just great. We were just clapping and clapping. But Tina – the reporter – was sitting next to me, and leaned over and said, “I didn’t understand a word he was saying.” I brought this up to Ms. Baskins [a literacy leader], and it soon got back to Mark. The discussion became more open and some of us brought up that, number 1, even if you’re a kid, it could be hard to catch all the words, because the music is loud and the rap is fast, and there’s a lot there. But especially for this adult audience who’s not used to rap, it would make it that much harder for them to understand. Mark wanted to keep the music pretty loud. We talked about telling people to follow along in their copies of the newsletter. But Mark said that would distract them from the stage. We tried to think of some other options. Then this idea came up:  to project the lyrics on the wall.

As Indie tells it, Mark, the journalist, a literacy leader, and several of the teen writers negotiate a solution: An overhead projection of the rap’s lyrics. Here, all involved seem to agree generally on the social need:  School policy-makers quite literally need to hear from teenagers.  Mark’s rap and the lyrics projected overhead comprise a hybrid performance aimed at getting the audience to hear Mark’s argument for changes in the school’s suspension policy. The overhead is a scaffolding aimed at helping the audience become more literate in the discourse of rap – well, at least Mark’s use of it.
The journalist the next morning published an article, using an excerpt from Mark’s rap as the lead – and later praising him for his “message-filled rap” and the Community House as “ a revolutionary writing and communication project.” The article extends the reach of Mark’s performance beyond those attending the community conversation or reading the teenagers’ newsletter to the general readership of the newspaper.

4. Contesting the relative worth of alternative literate practices
Mark’s performance reflects an important goal of community literacy: a young person’s literate act that has clear rhetorical goals and makes a powerful public statement advocating some sort of local social change (Long, Peck and Baskins, 2002). Consistent with its educational goals, the process even supported collaborative problem solving of Mark’s strategic orchestration of text conventions (such as the overhead) to support his rhetorical purpose. As such, the directors of community-literacy initiatives highlighted Mark and his rap in two texts that they later composed: a grant proposal to fund community literacy projects at the Community House and a presentation about community literacy which they delivered at a university on the other side of the country. These accounts of Mark and his rap serve as the next sites of negotiation.

The first draft of the grant proposal highlights Mark as the kind of teenager the Community House wanted (and needed major funding) to support. After a paragraph-long portrait of a center for community literacy is a description of Mark:
Mark is a teenage writer at the Community Literacy Center, or, as he would say, “a rap artist waiting to be discovered.” … He is a bright and resourceful teenager who, like all too many African American males, is frequently suspended from school. In his raps and in his life, Mark flirts with the possibility of joining a gang and becoming a member of a group that at least supports his art form. Mark is a fifteen-year-old at a crossroads. He has important choices to make. He wants to be heard and taken seriously and to have a place to come to work on his dreams. The Community Literacy Center is an alternative form for Mark’s art and argument and a place to begin a broader conversation about issues he cares most about.

The directors sent their draft to a wealthy elderly philanthropist I’ll call Mr. Jenkins, who supports a dozen or so literary projects in the eastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. As is quite typical, Jenkins has a representative who works with organizations requesting funds, but he makes the final funding decisions himself. The draft no sooner reached the representative’s office than the executive director of the Community House received a phone call from her, explaining that the introductory portrait of the young rap artist would not do. Indirectly representing Mr. Jenkins’s sense of urban social problems, needs, and solutions, she explained that Mr. Jenkins does not consider rap a literate achievement, and certainly not the kind of literacy he wants his trust to support. The representative suggested, “You’d be better off highlighting a young poet or fiction writer.”
The directors revised their proposal, highlight, instead, two teenagers – Chiante and Terrell – learning to “code switch” (Gilyard, 1991) at the Community House, strategically moving between the discourse of the streets and the discourse of political action. Also, the textual portrait of Mark is replaced with a simple photograph and moved to the second page.

What is in tension here is the relative worth of alternative literate practices: performing rap, cultivating a poetic sensibility, and code switching. For Jenkins, supporting Mark’s interest in rap doesn’t address Jenkin’s conception of the social problem he wants his trust to support. Yet the writers of the grant choose a different rhetorical strategy than attempting to convince Jenkins of the appropriateness of rap in this setting (something the could have done, say, by highlighting rap as a type of poetry). Instead, they back up. The seek cooperation on the problem that brought them together in the first place: after-school opportunities for youth in compromised neighborhoods. In the end, the Community House received funding: several hundred thousand dollars, some to cover operating costs but most earmarked for proliferation, to “convey the model of community literacy to the broader educational and civic community.” That is, to publicize their model.

5. Clarifying the relationship between an individual’s literate performance and institutional agendas
Several months later, the director of the Community House and two colleagues traveled across the country to talk about community literacy at a large state university. During one of the campus presentations, the director showed video-clips from the community conversation and explicitly highlighted Mark’s rap within a narrative of the larger project. Among those who responded during the questions-and-answer period was an academic who referred to himself as a cultural theorist.
He asked:
Why should Mark have to alter his discourse and explain himself to the powers that be? Why shouldn’t the powers that be turn around and adapt their discourse to Mark? I’m real suspicious here of some sort of colonialism: that the dominant discourse is coming into the community and trying to take in these kids. Saying to them, you have to adapt your discourse so it’s more like ours.

Note that the cultural theorist’s concerns stipulate some parameters for discussion. They suggest that if the director is going to promote this vision for community-based literacy instruction, he needs to be accountable to specific charges.
The director responded:
Cultural theorists like yourself are going to be suspicious – and you should be – if what’s going on is uni-directional. But you’ve got to consider that school board members don’t usually come and interact and listen to kids like they did that night. That was a change, that was an adaptation on the part of the school board. I feel that the fact Oliver High School was making this required reading for their teachers and using it in their teacher training workshops – that’s an adaptation. If you look at the discourse of school policy, it’s quite different from what you find in this booklet.
The theorist replied, arguing that the community and the university are distinct arenas:
Universities go beyond their jurisdiction when they attempt to get involved in community issues. He maintained that the overhead projected during Mark’s rap was part of a larger pattern of violence against the writers. Because of the inherent power differentials, to support teenagers in addressing issues of public policy is to colonize them through the discourse of policy.

With the support of the grant from the Jenkins Trust, the director and his colleagues later developed their first formal article about community literacy and published it in College Composition and Communication. Their article entitled “Community Literacy” reflects both sets of these earlier negotiations. For instance, to introduce the Center, the article begins with the identical text that the directors had deleted from the final grant proposal to the Jenkins Trust. In the article, again the portrait of Mark takes front and center stage, with the identical text from the original proposal now serving as an introduction to the entire article.
Furthermore, while drafting the article, the authors of “Community Literacy” recounted the cultural theorist’s concerns as representative of a larger theoretical position in the field. The theorist helped them to preview a set of disciplinary concerns regarding the problematic power differentials at play when universities and communities attempt to forge partnerships. The article would need to address these concerns at some length to improve the chances of its readers taking seriously the proposed framework and model for literate social action. One afternoon the director recounted the argument and grappled with its construal of larger social needs. He mused to others of us in the room:

What are the implications of what he [the cultural theorist] was arguing? He was talking about groups like who are separatists. That’s one way to deal with difference. To separate into camps and then just go at war with each other. It seems like he was saying we should just leave them alone. And I just really disagree with that. That discourse isn’t communicating with us, and our discourse isn’t communicating with them. There’s got to be some room in there to invent some bridges. It’s only in the safety of academia that we can even make such arguments.

The article itself responds to the theorist’s concerns within a larger argument for interculturalism.  What I want to highlight here is that the theorist’s concerns serve as a source of invention to Peck and his colleagues, challenging them to better frame their arguments for community literacy. Consider this passage from the article:
In an urban context, an intercultural agenda must stand against things as well as for new possibilities. Interculturalism demands a suspicion of colonizing rhetorics that work to impose a dominant discourse upon a working group.  At the same time, interculturalism demands a corresponding willingness to create hybrid texts that draw upon the shared expertise of the group…. In the process, boundaries become not only discourse barriers that separate but also places of relationship and encounter with persons from other communities (Peck, Flower and Higgins, 1995, 212).
In this way, the theorist’s concerns urged the director reframe and elaborate key ideas. The negotiation with the cultural theorist suggested that the director had sketched the details of the community-literacy project too quickly. Voicing his concerns, the theorist spurred the director to recontextualize his introduction to address a broader set of issues, issues that would need to be addressed to increase the probability of receiving a hearing among a diverse readers.

Viewing Mark’s rap in the context of this larger field, several rhetoric principles emerge:
One, a rhetorical model of public spheres not only expects participants to have interests but regards them as essential for the exercise of prudent judgments on public problems. As such, such a model supplants disinterestedness with accommodation on conflicting interests as a mark of a well-functioning public sphere (Hauser, 1999). And it “replaces the norm of critical rationality with the rhetorical norm of reasonableness” ( 61). In the course of discussing an issue, the success of an argument can be measured in terms of its success in forging identifications. As Hauser (1999) asserts, “Its [an argument’s] success or failure and its consequences for the public opinion that eventually emerge are a function of its range in addressing relevant needs and commitments” (61).
Two, the case study emphasizes that strategically crafted discourse is not an indication of ideological distortion as it is in Habermas’s model (Hauser, 1999, 47) but rather an empirical reality characterizing rhetorical discourse itself

In sum, this paper commends tracing sites of conflict within public discourse. I suggest that in doing so, one is identifying the local nodes or intersections that are at the heart of Hauser’s (1999) metaphor of public discourse as a network or lattice. Such work can help us to infuse our discipline’s characterization of local public spheres with a more dimensional, albeit heavily constrained, conception of what it means to exercise rhetorical effect within and across contemporary settings. As we elaborate such a model, we will be better able to imagine ways to infuse our undergraduate curriculum with a range of practices that, as Fleming (1998) recommends, prepares students to participate in public life. Surely, we’ll continue to prepare them to adjudicate claims on the basis of warranted assent. However, such research will also help us discover cultural, political, and social possibilities for practices that shape new understandings of common interests.

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Cushman, E. (1998).  The Struggle and the tools: Oral and literate strategies in an inner city community. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
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Long, E., Peck, W. C., and Baskins, J. (2002). STRUGGLE: A Literate Practice for Life-Project Planning. In: G. Hull and K. Schultz (Eds.), School’s out: Bridging out-of-school literacies with classroom practice (pp. 131-161). New York: Teachers College Press.
McLaughlin, M. W., Irby, M. A., & Langman, J. (2001). Urban sanctuaries: Neighborhood organizations in the lives and futures of inner city youth. New York: Jossey-Bass.
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