Adult Literacy and American Identity: The Moonlight Schools by Samantha NeCamp

By Samantha NeCamp

The free up of U.S. census facts in 1910 sparked rhetoric mentioning the country had a literacy problem and proclaiming illiterate electorate a probability to democratic lifestyles. whereas newspaper editors, industrialists, and officers within the federal govt often positioned the blame on newly arrived immigrants, a smaller yet no much less vocal team of rural educators and clubwomen highlighted the numerous variety of native-born illiterate adults within the Appalachian quarter. writer Samantha NeCamp seems to be on the academic reaction to those unique literacy narratives—the founding of the Moonlight faculties in japanese Kentucky, taken with native-born nonliterate adults, and the institution of the Americanization stream, devoted to the schooling of modern immigrants.

Drawing on own correspondence, convention court cases, textbooks, and speeches, NeCamp demonstrates how the Moonlight colleges and the Americanization circulation competed for public consciousness, the curiosity of educators, and personal and governmental investment, fueling a colourful public debate in regards to the definition of literacy. The very diversified pedagogical practices of the 2 movements—and how those practices have been represented to the public—helped form literacy schooling within the usa. examining the Moonlight colleges and the Americanization circulation on the subject of each other, Adult Literacy and American Identity expands the background and concept of literacy and literacy schooling within the usa. This publication could be of curiosity to students in literacy, Appalachian reviews, and rhetoric and composition.

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The Moonlight Schools were unique, however, in attempting to teach basic literacy skills to native-born adults. The Conference on Education in the South and the country life movement both advocated improved education systems, but these improvements were directed at childhood education and at agricultural education for literate adults. Adults who had not attained basic skills were viewed as essentially uneducable. Stewart created the Moonlight Schools on the premise that adults were, in fact, easily taught and, more important, that the act of teaching adults would ultimately further the goals of improving childhood education.

In her guidebook, Stewart provides an illustrative example of an elderly illiterate woman who had refused all encouragement to attend school.  . Illiterates 50).  . Illiterates 51). The census gave local teachers the information they needed to make personalized appeals to students, but the proto-ethnographic methods also suggested to students that Moonlight Schools teachers took their students’ interests and material conditions seriously. Students were not dismissed or harangued for failure to attend school—instead, teachers sought to meet students on common ground and search for opportunities for mutually beneficial teaching relationships.

That the law was finally passed over Woodrow Wilson’s veto in 1917 speaks both to increasing anti-European sentiment sparked by the war and, perhaps more important, the success of campaigns to paint illiteracy as a national threat. Despite its significance in signaling a new federal outlook on immigrants and immigration, the literacy test did relatively little to actually exclude incoming immigrants. 2 A wide variety of Literacy, Crisis, and Educational Responses 35 exceptions were built into the law, including immigrants avoiding religious persecution and immigrants arriving to join family members in the United States.

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