Never mind what Harvard thinks : alternative sites of rhetorical instruction in American colleges, 1873-1947
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The experiences of black, female, working-class, and Southern students are mostly absent from histories of reading, writing, and speech instruction in American colleges, which rely heavily on a narrow range of elite, private, Eastern liberal arts schools and large Midwestern research institutions. This study more fully accounts for the richness and diversity of rhetorical practices in American colleges by using archival evidence to examine three "alternative" sites of rhetorical instruction in Texas: Wiley College, a private, black, classically-based liberal arts college; Texas Woman's University, the state's first public senior college for women; and East Texas Normal College, an independent teacher training college. The largely self-determined creation of these schools and their explicit ethos of socio-economic empowerment created contexts in which institutional and curricular features of the era took on new possibilities. The classical tradition, moribund elsewhere, flourished as students studied Latin and Greek and practiced oratory. "Current traditional" rhetoric, criticized elsewhere for narrowly construing the possibilities of public discourse, was either absent or transformed. Institutional separatism and segregation worked to foster community and create unique opportunities for public speaking and writing. Each of these schools also championed intellectual and pedagogical traditions that differed from the Eastern liberal arts model that often serves as the standard bearer for English and rhetoric education. At Wiley, poet and civil rights activist Melvin Tolson combined African-American and classical rhetoric to produce a critical pedagogy that honored students' home voices and fostered progressive political action. At TWU, gender-based vocational education served progressive ends; unlike their peers at many contemporary women's colleges, students were encouraged to participate in public discourse, professional life, and politics. At East Texas, founder William Mayo held that each student had a sacred dignity that schools must honor and that practical universal education was the basis for a democratic society. The experiences of students and educators at these institutions thus challenge the generalizations offered by existing disciplinary histories.