Everybody’s Ignert ‘Bout Some’en: The Influence of Dialect on Education in the Ozarks

In his book, Hill Folks, Brooks Blevins’ historical account of the Arkansas Ozarkers defines the kinship between these mountain people and their Appalachian cousins. Well established as a research genre, Appalachian Studies has hesitated to examine the influence of the region’s culture on literacy practices sustained during western migration. The central Boston Mountain range of Arkansas that Blevins writes about is my ancestral home, and my research focuses on collecting the oral histories of area residents and professionals – their lives, communities, and education, as influenced by this migration.

UC Clermont College, approximately 30 miles east of downtown Cincinnati, historically enrolls under-served students from surrounding rural counties skirting the Appalachian Mountains. Many students share similar backgrounds and skepticisms as those I interviewed. As an educator with strong professional and personal ties to Appalachian influences, I recognize similarities between the two populations, including socio-economical backgrounds and literacy acquisition.

Building on the work of Blevins, Cochran, House, Kelley, Manning, and Reaser, this paper focuses on the cultural influences of dialect and composing as characteristics for discovering and chronicling the literacy practices of a diverse population as a means of adding to the existing conversation about education in rural communities. Bringing these lived experiences will add new insights into the myths and misconceptions that continue to nominalize and constrain similarly influenced populations across this country. Recorded literacy narratives from this research project identifies themes that can lead to better understanding and preservation of the educational values of rural populations as cornerstones of cultural significance.