Rewriting the Rules: Economic Inequality, Writing Classes, and the Value of Electracy

Kate Hanzalik, Clemson University


“Rewriting the Rules: Writing Classes, Inequality, and the Value of Electracy,” underscores the importance of equity and inclusion in and beyond the university by calling attention to the national endemic of economic inequality. Over the past four years, excellent scholarship in rhetoric and composition has emerged to address how social injustice is perpetuated in writing classrooms, most notably through racist assessment practices and tacit assumptions about superior and inferior ways of thinking, writing, and speaking. However, a gap exists in understanding how or if such practices and preferences are implicated in the rules that authorize economic inequality, specifically the ideological, legal, and social structures that ensure extreme wealth for some at the expense and exclusions of many, especially racial and ethnic minorities. My project fills this gap by drawing parallels between the rules of the American economy, the rules of the increasingly commercialized world of higher education, and the pedagogies, practices, and tacit values that students are expected to consent to in writing classrooms. Taking a Freirian problem-posing approach, this project brings together theories about economics, higher education, linguistics, and the teaching of composition in order to look critically at the texts that set the rules for students within the walls of higher education. The first chapter expands upon the scope of this project. The second chapter provides literature to show that the ideologies authorizing inequality in the economy at large permeate higher education writing classrooms. The second chapter problematizes widely held beliefs about what constitutes good writing, arguing that not only are these rules discriminatory, but they sustain racialized economic inequality. The third chapter problematizes the rule-oriented texts—institutional mission statements and first-year writing course syllabi—at two different kinds of learning regimes in South Carolina. The chapter concludes that despite the pressures institutions impose upon writing classrooms, educators can intervene in the logics that legitimize inequality by helping their students to see that writing is a social construct that determines networks of power, wealth, and poverty. The final chapter analyzes a writing course that intervenes in the logics legitimizing inequality by integrating critical pedagogies and post(e)-pedagogies that engage students and teachers critically and perfomatively.