Fleming’s Final Chapter; Schooling City

In his final chapter of City of Rhetoric, David Fleming contends that being part of the city is embedded into human nature, and we should strive to embrace and preserve this while respecting and improving the argumentative comfort zone that is the city within and without each of us. In other words, as humans, we cling to the urban environment more than we think we do. As history proves it, places like ancient Greece were built upon the knowledge that the city defines a people; we really cannot progress much without it (Fleming 196). Our needs for social contact, collaboration, and individual expression have not changed much from ancient Greece. Nevertheless, while knowing that residential spaces should be tailored to the inherent component that is the polis, we still find ourselves in contrasting physical areas where the imperative aspect, namely the city, continues to be neglected. Places like North Town Village, a suburb, and Cabrini Green, a ghetto, both fail to retain the metropolis, since they are spaces that are not designed for the human body. Fleming’s “Cities of Rhetoric” insists that being a part of the city means that social spaces are designed to cater to human needs, inherent human needs.

Thus, the city is a successful construct for the human because its sole objective is to design in consideration of the human body, its physical and mental needs and the social habitat it craves and desires (Fleming 198). The most important of this is that the city considers everybody, from low-income to high class. The genuinely public sphere is a necessity because, as Fleming declared, they are spaces “where we can act and think not just as private individuals… but as citizens who are irreducibly different from one another but equally responsible for, and equally free to participate in, the governance of what we hold in common (198). This speaks volumes about how, obviously, we are all different; we belong to competing public spheres. The real polis brings together completely opposing opinions in a safe space that abides by comfort and inclusion. It is designed to respect all.

In order to evolve further in our argumentative society, Fleming argues that we need to treat the city as a school and the school as a city. This means that, in terms of social contact, we learn from and listen to individuals who are neither friends nor enemies. Besides this, we encourage the stability that exists in mobility and the unity that exists in diversity. Additionally, we develop the language skills to discuss in the public realm. Mainly, we embrace that ever so present multiformity that defines our international community, especifically in America. We, Fleming says, have accepted a superficial manner of speaking and approaching situations that discourages a real public sphere from taking place, even when properly built. Because of this, learning a “language of civic life,” although new and maybe even scary, can really advance us in the rhetorical environment. All of the aforementioned points, Fleming regards, can be taught and ingrained into the school system, to teach us from a young age to be rhetorical and argumentative participants. Being a rhetorical participant means that one is most capable to solve problems because one knows the history of one’s community, which enhances their understanding of the present, makes decisions in a peer group, and develops skills to understand and resolve conflicts (Fleming 209). In other words, the city should be considered an educational tool, while the school should be a civic realm, both working together to make us improved members of society.

Being a real part of the city makes us better individuals since, as Fleming also believes, this solidifies our way of thinking in a fully populated world, with differing opinions and opportunities for learning. Knowing the ropes of the city is the best asset in one’s skill set because humans are one with the city, big or small; there is just no going around it. Humans gain knowledge from the polis. We benefit from the city.

Ricardo Duchesne. “The Greek polis: View of ancient Athens,” October 16, 2014.

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