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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Mary M. Juzwik

Name: Mary Juzwik, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University.

Presentation Title:“How Religious Faith Complicates Literacy Education for Cosmopolitanism: An Evangelical Christian Writing to Honor God in a Public School Classroom”

Date: October 24, 2013

Abstract

Literacy scholars are increasingly embracing cosmopolitan theory to describe students’ literate lives and to articulate a normative ideal for literacy education in today’s globalized and pluralistic world. But how is this “cosmopolitan turn” complicated by considering issues of religious faith? To what extent, if at all, can cosmopolitanism work as a descriptive label or normative educational ideal for religiously devout students and families in US schools and universities? A collaboratively conducted classroom-based interpretive case study afforded an opportunity to explore these questions. We examined literate practices and interpretations of an evangelical Christian youth, Charlie, throughout a personal belief essay unit in a secondary English classroom taught by an evangelical Christian teacher we call Sam. The interpretation of Sam’s unit, Charlie’s writing, and Charlie’s response to the writings of others who did not share his world view suggested that while Sam’s unit invited students into cosmopolitan engagement, Charlie did not seize that opportunity. In fact, Charlie actively resisted the sort of dialogue across difference advocated by cosmopolitan theorists in an effort to honor God through all that he does, including writing and speaking in class. Framing Charlie’s stance as part of his alignment with the populist wing of the evangelical movement, as opposed to the more cosmopolitan wing represented by Sam; I point to the significance of appreciating the religious diversity within classrooms – even within a religious group category like American evangelicalism – when theorizing literacy education for cosmopolitanism in American schools. I also advance a conceptual argument for banal cosmopolitanism – as opposed to ecstatic cosmopolitanism – as an appropriate regulative ideal for literacy classroom dialogue and writing in U.S. schools.