In “Cities of Rhetoric” in City of Rhetoric David Fleming concludes that perfect cities of rhetoric, or cities in which civilians can come together to hear each other out fairly and talk through disagreements, are difficult to create, but not impossible. Furthermore, Fleming argues that as part of our human nature, we keep striving to create these “strong publics.” In other words, Fleming ends his book by reflecting on the types of publics that thrive, such as “the urban district, a public with (prototypically speaking) a medium-sized population (50-100,000), settled in a medium-size space…” (201) compared to previously mentioned publics that survived but ultimately failed in creating successful spaces of rhetoric. More specifically, Fleming focuses on how we can try to, or even hope to try to, build strong publics; Fleming believes that by teaching “civic education,” or city-based education with a focus on community interactions, in public schools is the first step on changing the way our cities function. Essentially, the conclusion is that the physical space of cities can influence interactions between its civilians in ways we don’t think about, but we can teach our kids to think in ways which we do not. For example, Fleming says, “just as we need to make our schools more civic… we need to make our cities more educational…” (209). As Fleming states, we have the power to change how future generations view public spaces, and we also have the power to change our public spaces to educate us.
In a broader context, I believe that Fleming is onto something with his ideas in his final chapter. While we may not think about it that much, our cities do teach us a lot. Fleming uses Chicago in his book, but that’s not a city I’m overly familiar with. Instead, I’ll look at Washington D.C.. The nation’s capital is supposed to be a place where rhetoric occurs. It is supposed to the the place where all major national matters get hashed out. However, there are clear divides within the city. Georgetown, for example, has no metro stop to keep the lower class out. If we change this, we can change the message that sends to the public. Furthermore, if we take the time to educate our young on relevant matters such as civic discourse, we can look into the future at least hoping that younger generations will be able to create what we couldn’t.
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