Literacy with an Attitude
By: Patrick Finn
In these chapters of Finn’s book, he shares a study that was completed by Jean Anyon who observed five schools in New Jersey that were of different social classes. Anyon compared these schools based on how the teachers taught and how the students learned in the classroom. It was interesting to read these comparisons and to think about how they were similar or different from my school growing up, and the school I am doing my service learning at.
At the end of chapter 2, Finn said, “Anyon’s study supports the findings of earlier observers that in American schools children of managers and owners are rewarded for initiative and assertiveness, while children of the working-class are rewarded for docility and obedience and punished for initiative and assertiveness” (page 20). Why should the social class of students, and the jobs their parents hold, determine what kind of education they are getting? This article I found explains how social class affects children. As discussed in Finn’s book, children of working class families are typically behind those students who grow up in affluent families. Families of high-paying jobs can afford to send their children to expensive schools, and buy their children extra things that may help them succeed. They may even have more time to spend helping their children with homework. On the other hand, students who grow up in working class families may not be getting that same support from their families, sometimes just due to lack of resources. Finn argues that these students need to be taught in a way that will allow them to bring about change in the world.
Another point that Finn brings up is the way teachers and students communicate. In the more affluent schools, students are invited to find answers themselves, and do problems their way. The opposite is true in schools with working-class students. When one student made a suggestion for a different way of doing something, the teacher responded, “No you don’t. You don’t even know what I’m making yet. Do it this way or it’s wrong” (page 10). There are definitely differences in the ways in which teachers communicate with their students and vice versa. This article gives an explanation behind this. The author shared a study that found, “…middle-class parents were more likely to coach their children to assert themselves in class. They were also more likely to get involved in classroom problems. Working-class parents, on the other hand, were less likely to encourage their children to ask questions and more likely to emphasize obedience and deference to teachers”. This reminded me of when Delpit discussed the differences in how people of authority ask questions and talk to students. As Delpit explains, children from working class families are more often told rather than questioned, and they learn to obey right away, while children from middle-class or upper-class families share their opinions and are also asked their opinions.
I found more connections in this piece than just Delpit. In the beginning, Finn talked about the haves and the have-nots. This is something that Kristof touched upon. He talked about how the haves usually grow up to be haves and the have-nots similarly continue to be have-nots. Finn talks about how the have-nots struggle when the haves are getting the better opportunities. I also found connections to McIntosh. The students in the middle-class and upper class schools may or may not realize that they are privileged over those students in working-class schools. They have more resources available to them, and they are being taught a completely different way. However, this may not always make them privileged because maybe the way in which working-class students are taught is really the better way for them.
Point to Share:
I think it’s obvious that it’s inevitable that students will group up in different social classes, and that they will attend different schools. However, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be given the same opportunities at a quality education. How can teachers help students learn to their fullest potential in the environment they live in?