In the multicultural classroom—which with or without the political connotation behind the word “multicultural” our classrooms are becoming more every year because of the increasing numbers of minorities enrolling in higher education—an expanded discussion of rhetoric such as this is necessary. William A. Covino (2001) tells us that “the mistmatch between a Western Pedagogical tradition aimed at educating privileged males and the promise and challenges of the multicultural classroom” are, indeed, “complicated” (p. 37). Yet, a rhetorical pedagogy “consists in encouraging writing that is not restricted to self-expression or the acontextual generation of syntactic structures or the formulaic obedience to rules but instead keeps in view the skills and contingencies that attend a variety of situations” (Covino, 2001, p. 37). Our students come from and inevitably will go forth to “a variety of situations,” and by making them more aware of the world in which they live we enable them to interact in it more responsibly.
Further, with pressures from the university, we must give students the tools they need to negotiate the remainder of their academic careers. Terry Dean told us in 1989's “Multicultural Classrooms, Monocultural Teachers” (1989) that “how students handle the cultural transitions that occur in the acquisition of academic discourse affects how successfully they acquire that discourse,” and that still rings true in 2007 (p. 23). Dean tells us in that essay that “some would argue that we need to concern ourselves more with providing student access to academic culture, not spending time on student culture. But retention rates indicate that not all students are making the transition in academic culture equally well. While the causes of dropout are admittedly complex, cultural dissonance seems at the very least to play an important role” (p. 23-24). Therefore, giving assignments that make students reflective creators may validate their literacies—and potentially keep them in the university. As they continue their university-level education, they can negotiate between academic discourse and other literacies with which they may be more comfortable with deeper understanding of the material causes and effects of that decision.
In Writing New Media , the impetus for this discussion, Anne Frances Wysocki (2004) says that “If our intentions are to teach so that people in our classes learn possible routes to agency through composition, then . . . we can be most effective in teaching when we see, and so can teach about, how our compositions only ever work within and as part of other, already existing, structures and practices” (p. 8). Our students already have literacies—we are not making them literate in first-year composition —and by allowing them to use the composition classroom as a place where they can create and understand the context out of which those creations have come, we give them a place to see how genre, culture, and media intersect and affect these intersections in the future.