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155 5 Toward a Sustainable Citizenship and Pedagogy Kim Donehower, Charlotte Hogg, and Eileen E. Schell Throughout this book, we have argued that literacy educators need to examine rural literacies in context and work against the urban biases that inform much of the literacy research in our field. Literacy has traditionally been used as a wedge to separate rural from urban and suburban, symbolizing rural people’s perceived otherness from the rest of America. Until we recalibrate our understanding of rural literacies, it will be difficult to see beyond the public rhetorics of red state versus blue state, rural versus urban that separate us. As part of revising what rural literacies can mean, we advocate a critical, public pedagogy that questions and renegotiates the relationships among rural, urban, and suburban people. Student and citizen involvement in a critical, public pedagogy makes way for an alternative metaphor for rural literacies—that of sustainability—to emerge. As George Lakoff and Mark Johnson note in Metaphors We Live By, metaphor is not simply a characteristic of language; it shapes both thought and action (3–6). As we have argued, for too long the operating metaphors for understanding rural literacies have primarily been those of preservation, modernization, and abandonment. Under a sustainability metaphor, there is no comparison of rural literacies against urban and suburban default models; rather, the sustainability metaphor allows us to see rural literacies as adaptive practices that change over time to respond to the short- and long-term needs of the communities those literacies serve. And, instead of setting rural, suburban, and urban communities in opposition, the sustainability metaphor allows us to see the ways literate practices can connect those communities to ensure a stable future for all. How, then, can rural literacies be incorporated into the curricular and pedagogical practices that reach students at American colleges and Toward a Sustainable Citizenship and Pedagogy 156 universities? The composition classroom is the primary site in which undergraduate students negotiate their relationships with disparate forms of literacy, from those they bring with them to college, to those of their classmates, to the teacher’s, to the institution’s. Many first-year students need to look no further than the books they carry to class to see the traditional images of rural literacies perpetuated. These textbook readings are worth considering in some detail; they model rhetorical strategies and ways of thinking that our students are likely to emulate, particularly if they are unsure of their own thoughts on the issue at hand. Three common types of composition readers that can shape impressions of rural literacies are those whose readings focus on identity and diversity, those that deal directly with literacy as a topic for inquiry, and those that interrogate particular issues, such as the environment . In the first category, the majority of textbooks omit placebased identity—one of the few exceptions is Writing Places (Mathieu, Grattan, Lindgren, and Schultz), which directly encourages students to explore identity in terms of “where I’m from”—or they include it in indirect ways, as in Gary Columbo, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle’s Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing, which includes readings on “the myth of frontier freedom” (v). Still, in a text whose goal is to “encourage students to grapple with the real differences in perspective that arise in a pluralistic society like ours,” Rereading America does not explicitly deal with differences in urban, suburban, and rural viewpoints. Many first-year composition readers that take the “diverse perspectives” approach still work within the trinity of race, class, and gender or deal only with race and ethnicity. While these anthologies do valuable work, identities tied to region, place, and geography are often left out, aside from some environmentalist writing that celebrates or interrogates our relationship with nature. Literacy-focused readers are hampered by the availability of depictions of rural literacy that push beyond the standard rhetorical frames. Susan Belasco’s Constructing Literacies represents rural literacies with essays by Andrea Fishman on the Amish and by James Moffett referencing the censorship battles of Storm in the Mountains. Both depict rural literacy as deeply religious with a fundamentalist Toward a Sustainable Citizenship and Pedagogy 157 bent and therefore resistant to engaging in critical interpretation. Linda Adler-Kassner’s Considering Literacy also uses the Fishman essay. Granted, the stated goal of Belasco’s and Adler-Kassner’s textbooks is not to represent a diversity of perspectives, as in Rereading America. Instead, they have gathered thought-provoking pieces...


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