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Abstract

Our current points of stasis in American politics make clear: we are facing a deep crisis of imagination in public life. Our (in)ability to imagine the interests and experiences of others limits not only how we understand domestic and global citizenship but also how we enact that citizenship with others. In talk and in practice, the inability to take seriously the interests and experiences of others leads Americans – in English Language Arts classrooms and in public life – to cast those who disagree as deeply flawed in character – unpatriotic, ungodly, lazy, irresponsible, or criminal.

In this article, I contend that many of the logics underlying this version of public life are perpetuated – among other places – in our writing pedagogy and praxis. Where our writing pedagogy highlights writing as a critical/interpretive activity over writing as a practical/productive activity, we enact a skeptical view of rhetoric and writing – one that is also skeptical of difference, conflict, and uncertainty. Moving beyond critique of prevailing disciplinary practices, this article casts a framework for re-inventing writing pedagogy first by considering what is at stake with skeptical views of rhetoric that disrupt public life and limit the public work of writing and second, by describing and offering examples of four practices for instantiating a productive writing pedagogy that might support dialogue, deliberation, and collaborative action across difference.