Reading Analysis 1
City of Rhetoric Chapter 9 Reading Analysis
In chapter nine of his book City of Rhetoric, David Fleming counters the idea which states that simply manipulating one’s surroundings is the only thing which is needed to change the way a city interacts with itself. Fleming says that while placing community services (such as schools, restaurants, and libraries) within walking distance is beneficial, what creates change is public spaces which allow people to come together as equals (p.197). However, this ideal city cannot just be created through a single set of criteria. Fleming argues, that instead, what is needed is an entirely new way of how we think about cities and how residents interact with each other.
Fleming believes that the older way of thinking does not work. It fails to bring people together. A new way of thinking which promotes a “new public philosophy,” instead, is needed. “Public philosophy,” Fleming believes at its core, pays attention to “our plurality and our unity,” “our undeniable bonds and our inevitable conflicts” and allows people to appreciate “our commonalities even as we confront our differences.” Combined these core pillars come together to create a new city which is not only diverse but is so diverse that the mere idea of such a thing is utterly natural. (p.202)
Fleming states the obstacles which hinder the general adoption of this ideal way of thinking are the result of three points. The first is that we need to stop placing social mobility over stability. Fleming believes, that while this way of thinking is good for economic, it is not suitable for creating an overall sense of community as it promotes a social detachment from the local community. The second point is that we must stop associating political position with self-interest, but instead political stance should represent a “large number of diverse people unified by a single commonality despite their differences.” (pg. 204). The final obstacle is that there lacks a language which deals with conflict but does not involve assimilation and separation “which privileged depth over mobility, and publicity over self-interest and conflict over harmony. (pg. 204).
Finally, Fleming concludes that it is possible to overcome these obstacles. Specifically by starting at the school level, because according to him schools can produce a “great deal in democratic community-building” (pg. 206) which can give children a new way to view their community and change the overall rhetoric. These lessons teach via four distinct projects, each designed to tackle one of the four obstacles. The first is a memory; Before any change in their community or learn about the city’s present makeup, people must first learn about their past, this project focuses on teaching their past, and the past of their community. The second is mapping; By encouraging students to map their local communities, we are helping them to uncover what usually goes on unseen and then they can develop a hypothesis on it and account for what they see and hear. The third project deals with judgment. In this project, students receive the ability to judge and debate real cases in the classroom, and then after doing so, they can create a collaborative judgment and then reflect on how they reached that point and their practices. Through this method, we are teaching our young generations/students how to have effective rhetoric. The final project which Fleming proposes involves design. Students should work together to discover problems and produce feasible, and creative solutions to them, which they then as a community would implement.
In short, Fleming states that if one wishes to change a city for the better, they must change how people think, and to do that, one must start at the schools. Emphasizing the idea that students are the easiest to influence as their minds are still malleable they have not been exposed to other ways of thought and the public schools provide an excellent location to provide students the political skills, knowledge and dispositions necessary for this “new public philosophy”
Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany: SUNY, 2008. Print.