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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Literacy With An Attitude

When first reading Patrick J. Finn's Literacy With An Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest, I found myself thinking back to the Normandy schools that were discussed in the last week's audio.  I feel like Finn is the prototype teacher that should have been teaching in the Normandy school district when they began attempting to reform and improve it. The way he talks about motivating and educating the students in terms of "control" is perfect and logical.  "I had work assignments on the board when the students entered the classroom, and so there wasn't a moment when they didn't have anything to do.  I didn't say to an errant student 'what are you doing?' I said, 'stop that and get to work.' No discussion. No openings for an argument" (4).  This is simple, but a seemingly effective strategy with children; when there is opportunity for boredom, there is usually opportunity for poor behavior.  Likewise, including extra credit assignments is always motivating for such students as well; the work is not required or forced, so if they attempt it, it cannot hurt, but it there is a major chance it will help them.
I found the few pages dedicated to Anyon's studies of the working-class, middle-class, and affluent professional schools rather interesting, but not unexpected.  It seemed to be almost as I would expect from experience or observation myself, unfortunately.  I wonder what would come of the working-class and middle-class students if some educators from the affluent professional schools were placed in them.  "In the affluent professional school, work was not repetitious and mechanical, as it was in the working-class school; it was not knowing the correct answers, as it is was in the middle-class school; it was being able to manipulate what Anyon termed symbolic capital" (17).  The children in this school were able to answer what 'knowledge' is, make choices on their own, and think as an individual.  They understood answers and context of the material presented to them because it was taught in a passionate way, rather than "because the book says so".  One step further, the executive elite school was academic, intelligent, and rigorous. "In the executive elite school the children were developing a relationship to the economy, authority, and work that is different from all other schools. They learned grammatical, mathematical, and other vocabularies by which systems are described. They were taught to use these vocabularies to analyze and control situations. The point of school work was to achieve, to excel, to prepare for life at the top."
I couldn't agree more with Finn's argument that when students begin school in such different systems, the odds are set for them.  A student in the working-class school is not likely to excel in the same way as a student from the excel or elite schooling.  It is very sad, because many children in the working-class schools probably possess the necessary tools and skills to excel, but do not have the opportunity with such poor educators.  My favorite quote from this reading may very well be when Finn states, "I'd like to hope that a child's expectations are not determined on the day she or he enters kindergarten, but it would be foolish to entertain such a hope unless there are some drastic changes made" (25).
I thought Finn's writing was full of knowledge and information, however, it was definitely not as 'spicy' as our previous readings.  While I enjoyed the information he presented, I found it much easier and more engaging to read more opinionated and casual texts such as last week's audio, or such as Johnson's piece.

1 comment:

  1. Amanda good job this week. The quote that you used at the end also impacted me a great deal. It is crazy to think that children's chances at a better life can be determined on where they are born, its just the way that it is being in a school system that from kindergarten the students are at a disadvantage