Being written in the seventies about the sixties, the book's thesis drew attention. It described the difference of these "slum" schools in a new way. From reading Lauer and Asher, I can graft onto this the language of variables. Rosenfeld's purpose was to describe them. L & A would add that descriptions raise questions for future research. While this more precise definition of case studies fits with Rosenfeld, I remember, also, the highly rhetorical nature of his questions. He was clearly invested in them, in a different way than say Flower, Hayes, and Swarts, whose "provocative question" wonders how widely we should apply their "scenario principle"(a revision method that relies on a human-centered network) (56). I don't mean to undermine questions proposed in either study; rather, I too am attempting to describe the variable of their difference.
For Rosenfeld that seems to be his sense of advocacy. His audience needs to take notice of his question. Whereas Brandt's descriptions of Midwestern dairy farmers are rich with detail, Rosenfeld's descriptions are designed to evoke an emotional response. One gets a sense of this strategy simply from his title. He will reveal an injustice, an atrocity. Part of his commitment emerges from his involvement as a teacher at the school being studied. Brandt, Flower et al. have much more apparent critical distance; but, then again, perhaps not. Flower is, likewise, a teacher of the subject she studies.
We have been asked to reflect on both the appropriate purposes of case studies and the kinds of generalizations possible. Rosenfeld, paired with the readings we were assigned, has led me to these questions for future study:
-Is the kind of description that belongs to narrative—one which does not seek to submerge the signifiers of its rhetorical design—appropriate for case study?
-How much can a case study appeal to pathos before the study becomes something different, something we must seek another label for? When does it disqualify itself?
-Is an author's complicity in the case being studied inversely proportionate to the level of generalization possible?
-To what extent can social justice be a part of one's purpose? Does a case study become inappropriate with this as its starting point?
Brandt offers a perspective that seems to be important when approaching these questions. His close analysis, he claims, is not, like Flower and Hayes, to "predict particular outcomes, but to understand better the struggles that economic transformations bring to the pursuit of literacy. With this knowledge, educators might be in a better position to find ways to compensate for tears in the social fabrics that these transformations leave behind" (377). The passage is remarkable for two reasons: first, it is a naked call for empathy; second, it would deploy this empathy as a restorative tool, as a means of achieving social justice. If this is an acceptable purpose for case studies, perhaps, then, the questions that remain are just a matter of language.