|Abstract||As we shift from an industry to an information-based economy, headlines proclaiming a skilled worker shortage abound. In response, workplace literacy programs are hastily sprouting up at community colleges and in the backrooms of corporations. In order to respond ethically to the literacy crisis at hand, however, this project argues that we must first understand the communities, the history of crises, and the contexts for which literate skills are to be applied. In that vein, this project looks back at history to see how people before responded to similar literacy crises and uses their responses to help us ethically proceed during this current climate of educational and economic crisis.Through ethnography, this project tells the stories of Italian immigrants who sought entry into the United State's booming industrial economy and who were falsely told that English-language literacy was a necessity for employment and cultural acceptance.^By exploring Italy's history, educational structure, and the impact of WWII on the participants' literacy practices, the first part of the dissertation focuses on the education these immigrants brought with them, showing that literacy sponsorship is not always economically determined nor sought for social mobility. Analyzing popular rhetoric regarding the arrival of Italian immigrants, the second section focuses on the creation and perpetuation of the literacy myth and its ethnocentric underpinnings.The third section compares the adult education programs created for immigrants within Cleveland, OH with the participants' accounts of their development of literacy skills and strategies within the same city, revealing that most of the immigrants' learning took place within their own community, rather than in the schools.^Further, it illustrates that the participants limited use of the English language did not exempt them from social mobility nor stem from ignorance or false consciousness, but was an act of cultural resistance. The final section uses the conclusions drawn in previous chapters to call for composition and rhetoric scholars to engage in working class issues through activist ethnographic research, rhetorical analyses of claims of literacy crises and portrayals of the working class as illiterate, and the development of ethical pedagogical strategies for adult learners.