Chapter 1, “Marginality as the New Orthodoxy” began with an introduction to the 1975 NCTE goals which advocate for greater, more explicit incorporation of public texts into composition and rhetoric curriculum and situates rhetoric and composition, as a field, as a discipline that should “foster civic literacy” (p. 5). Lazere concluded that the college classroom should be a place for students of all backgrounds to go beyond their local, enclaved cultures to better understand the complexities of the world outside of their geographic regions (p. 21).
Though he goes on to heavily criticize the theories of Min-Zhan Lu, Lazere dedicated the entirety of Chapter 2, “My Teaching Story” to recounting his life experiences and discussing the ways they have influenced his understanding of political literacy, composition, and the role of education—much like the shorter contributions found in Lu and Richard H. Haswell's Comp Tales: An Introduction to College Composition through Its Stories (2000). Still laying the groundwork for later chapters, Lazere unpacked his time at both Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, specifically citing his experiences with these institutions' predominantly white, middle-class students as inspiration for this work. Lazere argued that their limited interaction with other cultures (including races, ethnicities, and classes) prior to their time in higher education has placed them in ideological echo chambers that often reflect unfounded, conservative-based values that lead to resistance of other, valid, more progressive views.
Chapter 3, “Critical Thinking for Political Literacy” stresses the need for the resurgence of critical thinking-focused curriculum. As a nod to his experiences described in the previous chapter (Chapter 2, “My Teaching Story”), Lazere argued that interaction and dialogue with differing perspectives is key for making well-rounded decisions. One means for achieving this synthesis is through recursive reading and writing, during which students are asked to analyze texts and add layers of complexity with each iteration (p. 54). This approach has become lost, he lamented, with the emphasis on testing and memorization rather than thoughtful and meaningful engagement with content (p. 58).