Where Foxfire Still Glows

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It’s first period, in late September, and students in the Foxfire Magazine class at Rabun County High School, in northeast Georgia, are doing what many journalists consider the least desirable part of their job: transcribing interviews. It’s time-consuming and tedious, but also necessary. Not just to get the facts right, of course, but to hear the telling tones and rhythms of voices — in some cases, voices not long for this world. Preserving these voices is part of Foxfire’s original mission, which is still playing out more than four decades after its birth here in the once-isolated mountain community where Deliverance was infamously filmed.

A fungus found in the Southern Appalachians that produces a dim glow — and a potent metaphor for ural education — Foxfire has come to mean plenty of other things. First it was an experiential kind of English class in Rabun County, brought to life in 1966 by an overwhelmed young teacher named Eliot Wigginton; then a book series that resulted from the cultural journalism magazines his students made; a museum memorializing the work; a method of instruction derived from it; and, “most importantly,” writes Ann Moore, executive director of the Foxfire Fund, “Foxfire is the living connection between the high school students in the magazine program and their heritage, built through interaction with their elders.”

Foxfire is also a reminder of a terrible thing that happened to some students while the good thing — the learning — was also happening. Sometimes good and its opposite can coexist, even in a single person or place. Even in a teacher. But we must not overlook the good that persists anymore than we should forget the bad. It’s all part of history—all of it important to remember and learn from.

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