ERIC Number: ED346428
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1992-Mar-20
Reference Count: N/A
Literacy and Regional Difference: Problems with the Invention of Appalachia.
Mortensen, Peter L.
The Appalachia that many metropolitans claim to know was discovered or invented between the Civil War and World War I. The idea of the Appalachians as impoverished, illiterate, and in desperate need of moral, economic, and educational uplift disseminated during those years was, in fact, a creation of the urban imagination; hence, discourse on Appalachia reveals more about urban preoccupations than about social conditions in the mountains. Local color fiction about turn of the century Appalachia is premised on the myth that literacy is a basic human right necessary for productive citizenship and fulfilling lives. After 1890, popular monthlies used "official" illiteracy rates to stigmatize the South. To attract Northern capital, Lexington, Kentucky's growing middle class needed to appear to be addressing illiteracy. A program of adult education and a Kentucky Illiteracy Commission were created. Newspaper coverage of those developments and of a statewide "Illiteracy Week" designated in 1914 to promote the commission's initiatives was phenomenal. The commission ceased to exist in 1920, without achieving its goal of ending illiteracy in Kentucky by that year. The experience challenged the literacy myth. Throughout the campaign, Lexington had used Appalachia as an example of the harm of illiteracy. Appalachia did, in fact, become more literate through industrialization, but that increase in literacy did not produce greater prosperity for the region's residents. (Twenty-one references and three exhibits are attached.) (SG)
Publication Type: Historical Materials; Reports - Evaluative; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Kentucky