By Samantha NeCamp

The unencumber of U.S. census facts in 1910 sparked rhetoric mentioning the kingdom had a literacy problem and proclaiming illiterate electorate a risk to democratic lifestyles. whereas newspaper editors, industrialists, and officers within the federal executive usually positioned the blame on newly arrived immigrants, a smaller yet no much less vocal staff of rural educators and clubwomen highlighted the numerous variety of native-born illiterate adults within the Appalachian zone. writer Samantha NeCamp seems on the academic reaction to those targeted literacy narratives—the founding of the Moonlight colleges in japanese Kentucky, fascinated about native-born nonliterate adults, and the institution of the Americanization circulation, devoted to the schooling of modern immigrants.

Drawing on own correspondence, convention complaints, textbooks, and speeches, NeCamp demonstrates how the Moonlight colleges and the Americanization stream competed for public realization, the curiosity of educators, and personal and governmental investment, fueling a colourful public debate concerning the definition of literacy. The very varied 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 stream in terms of each other, Adult Literacy and American Identity expands the background and concept of literacy and literacy schooling within the usa. This booklet might be of curiosity to students in literacy, Appalachian reviews, and rhetoric and composition.

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Extra resources for Adult Literacy and American Identity: The Moonlight Schools and Americanization Programs

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Brandt explains that two different versions of the text existed: “the Alpha (a standard pencil-and-paper test) and the Beta (a combination of pictures, oral instructions, and gestures)” (“Drafting” 490). One-third of enlistees took the Beta test, and seven hundred thousand signed by mark (“Drafting” 491); in Kentucky, thirty thousand men signed by mark (Baldwin 109). Moreover, a great many of these men were native born. These figures shocked the nation and particularly its educators—the National Education Association’s (NEA) Journal of Addresses and Proceedings for 1917, 1918, and 1919 are filled with references to the “army tests” and the failure of the education system that the tests (supposedly) illustrated.

Another argues, “[I]‍‍lliteracy must be obliterated, ignorance must vanish, before the people can constitute a real democracy” (Driver 65); and yet another claims, “Insisting that our democracy shall be kept safe for the world, we demand resolute, sustained measures that shall eradicate illiteracy from all sections of the country. The complete Americanization of all native- and foreign-born residents is the paramount duty of the hour” (Department of Superintendence 489). Perhaps not surprising, the outbreak of World War I in Europe and the depiction of immigrant education as a matter of national “safety” spurred governmental agencies to take a more direct role in creating and sustaining Americanization programs.

Although Stewart calculated that 130,000 of Kentucky’s 200,000 illiterates had learned to write through the Moonlight Schools, the 1920 census found that 155,004 illiterates remained in the state. We have no way to accurately document how many people “became literate” through Moonlight 26 Literacy, Crisis, and Educational Responses Schools education: teachers often varied in the criteria used to designate students as “illiterate,” and not all schools reported to Stewart. Nor can we rely on census data to determine the number of illiterates, because the system used by census officials to determine illiteracy was equally vague and unreliable.

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