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Producing Good Citizens: Literacy Training in Anxious Times - Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture (Paperback)
  • Producing Good Citizens: Literacy Training in Anxious Times - Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture (Paperback)

Producing Good Citizens: Literacy Training in Anxious Times - Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture (Paperback)

Paperback 216 Pages / Published: 30/03/2014
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Recent global security threats, economic instability and political uncertainty have placed great scrutiny on the requirements for U.S. citizenship. The stipulation of literacy has long been one of these criteria. In Producing Good Citizens, Amy J. Wan examines the historic roots of this phenomenon, looking specifically to the period just before World War I, up until the Great Depression. During this time, the United States witnessed a similar anxiety over the influx of immigrants, economic uncertainty and global political tensions.

Early on, educators bore the brunt of literacy training, while also being charged with producing the right kind of citizens by imparting civic responsibility and a moral code for the workplace and society. Literacy quickly became the credential to gain legal, economic, and cultural status. In her study, Wan defines three distinct pedagogical spaces for literacy training during the 1910s and 1920s: Americanisation and citizenship programmes sponsored by the federal government, union-sponsored programmes and first year university writing programmes. Wan also demonstrates how each literacy programme had its own motivation: the federal government desired productive citizens, unions needed educated members to fight for labour reform, and university educators looked to aid social mobility.

Citing numerous literacy theorists, Wan analyses the correlation of reading and writing skills to larger currents within American society. She shows how early literacy training coincided with the demand for labourers during the rise of mass manufacturing, while also providing an avenue to economic opportunity for immigrants. This fostered a rhetorical link between citizenship, productivity and patriotism. Wan supplements her analysis with an examination of citizen training books, labour newspapers, factory manuals, policy documents, public deliberations on citizenship and literacy, and other materials from the period to reveal the goal and rationale behind each programme.

Wan relates the enduring bond of literacy and citizenship to current times, by demonstrating the use of literacy to mitigate economic inequality, and its lasting value to a productivity-based society. Today, as in the past, educators continue to serve as an integral part of the literacy training and citizen-making process.

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
ISBN: 9780822962892
Number of pages: 216
Weight: 363 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm

"A fitting reminder of the ways higher education has served as a training ground for particular kinds of literacy and citizenship. Using archival research from various literacy training sites, Wan shows that historically, literacy has served as a tool to shape citizenship in response to societal shifts, and by treating the actualization of citizenship as the responsibility of the individual, literacy training risks reinforcing rather than mitigating existing legal, economic, and cultural exclusions."
--Bruce Horner, University of Louisville
"A first-rate work. The topic is timely and Amy J. Wan makes a genuine contribution to composition and writing studies by complicating ideas of citizenship that are floating around the field (the 'ambient awareness' that she notes). Wan has a big and important set of questions that motivates the specificity of her empirical studies."
--John Trimbur, Emerson College

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