Although English scholars can pursue collaboration with colleagues in foreign languages to begin creating a multilingual rhetoric and writing pedagogy that encourages Womens Shoes students to use languages to promote understanding across lines of difference, they also need to write these values concerning languages and language study into the documents that shape everyday activities in their colleges and universities.
Institutional critique as an analytical, action-oriented method can usefully inform such work. Scholars can draw on this method to engage the current national language policy debate from within the local spaces of their home institutions. Micro-level policy writing, informed by institutional critique, should be Wholesale Shoes seen as an activity through which literacy educators can create substantive, sustained change that challenges the implementation of a national language policy that is based solely on national security concerns and instead builds on the nation’s linguistic diversity as a means to strengthen U.S. public life.
Working with the methodology of institutional critique, scholars identify micro-level policy texts that give their local institution its rhetorical and material shape and that govern the daily activities of its members.
Of course, the extent to which shared governance among faculty, administrators, and trustees marks the policymaking process varies significantly across the range of academic institutions in which scholars work, and scholars must clearly understand their school’s established policymaking structures as they work to pinpoint “places where writing can be deployed to promote change” (Porter et al. 631).
In short, language scholars must identify points of leverage through which they can compose broad-based appeals to the institution’s key policymakers that make commitment to language diversity a core element driving the school’s research, teaching, and service activities.
A few examples here can illustrate how compositionists might use institutional critique to create a deeper disciplinary and communal commitment to linguistic diversity, in the name not only of a more efficient military but also of a more robust democracy.
As Pratt has noted, public schools and universities might use federal funding from the NSLI to develop programs in Mandarin Chinese or Arabic when the surrounding community faces a more pressing need to develop professionals who can serve the local population through bilingualism in English and Vietnamese.
Institutional critique prompts scholars to identify policy texts within their own universities and colleges that, through either top-down or bottom-up writing and revision, could redirect institutional practices toward valuing local language resources and addressing local language needs.
A university’s strategic plan and their trustees’ public agenda could be two such texts that shape institutional activities in top down fashion.
Among their many rhetorical functions, these two texts, particularly at land-grant and metropolitan institutions, articulate how the school fulfills its responsibility to serve the public interest. English scholars can work with their colleagues in the foreign languages to argue for the school’s strategic plan and the trustees’ public agenda to be written in ways that define “the public” not as an assumed linguistically homogeneous population, but rather as a heterogeneous community reflecting the linguistic diversity present within it.
To appeal to the range of values held by faculty, administrators, and trustees involved in the policymaking process, scholars could define local linguistically marginalized communities in terms not only of their unmet social and political needs, but also of the resources that exist within them for economic, cultural, and intellectual development.
Changes in institutional culture can also happen from the bottom up, of course, and English scholars employing institutional critique can identify rhetorical strategies for prioritizing departmental programs and faculty activities that build on the community’s linguistic resources to develop the school’s intellectual strengths. For example, scholars might compose arguments within their faculty development grant applications or their annual faculty evaluation narratives to legitimize multilingual-ism as an important skill for academics to possess.
Depending on one’s department and institutional contexts, these arguments might range from the intellectual benefits of expanding one’s cultural and linguistic frameworks for research to the opportunities to create teaching and service activities that connect faculty to the local communities within which they live and work.
The goal would be to use these texts to circulate, through formal institutional channels, arguments about the interests and concerns of local linguistic minority communities, whose existence is often not acknowledged when universities talk about the “public” that they serve. Advocacy for linguistically diverse communities should entail incrementally changing the values that guide daily practices within our schools.
English scholars can strategically leverage the rhetorical resources that are available within their school’s policymaking networks in order to shape public ideas about the need for linguistic diversity and the civic values of serving, unifying, and building on the strengths and resources of local communities.
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