Monday, April 6, 2009

Talking Points #8 Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work by Jean Anyon

Anyon argues that, "Differing curricular, pedagogical, and pupil evaluation practices emphasize different cognitive and behavioral skills in each social setting and thus contribute to the development in the children of certain potential relationships to physical and symbolic capital, to authority, and to the process of work. The way teachers evaluate students from affluent backgrounds in classrooms compared to students who are from less fortunate backgrounds is a strong indicator of their placement in jobs because more fortunate students are taught how to succeed and less fortunate students are taught obedience.

1. "Don't cut it until I check it." vs. "Don't cut into your clay until you're satisfied with your design."

I found this strikingly similar to my experience in Roger Williams Middle School. The students have had a "project" that involves simple arithmetic in reducing each body part by one-fourth to create a "mini-me." They have to draw ovals for each body part on scrap paper and then cut out each part. The students who were actually participating in the project could not figure out how to do it. The teacher yelled at the students as loud as he could with step by step instructions and then said, "Don't cut it until I give you permission." This concept is important in showing the lack of freedom for working class students to explore. They are regulated unlike more fortunate students who are privileged and given the opportunity to work things out themselves.
I found another example in the article in how control is another issue that limits working class students and promotes more fortunate students. "While strict attention to the lesson at hand is required, the teachers make relatively little attempt to regulate the movement of children at other times." This privilege is allowed for fifth graders in an Executive Elite School but is not allowed at Roger Williams Middle School with seventh and eight graders. Students are extremely regulated here. They are not even allowed to carry back packs in the school. It disgusts me.
"Social studies projects, for example, are given with directions to "find information on your topic" and write it up. In my experience in Roger Williams Middle School, I found that my tutee had a similar boring project. He had to write a letter to James Madison as if he was someone who was meeting him at a congrrgation. The teacher wrote out simple directions with simple guidelines such as, "Ask James Madison questions like, How was your trip here? and How was the weather?" It barely involved any creative thought and examination. The teacher was very much in control of how creative the student could be with the letter, and at the same time, did not challenge the students as much as it could have.

2. "I want to make sure you understand what your doing-so you get it right." vs. "She discusses two-digit division with the children as a decision-making process. Presenting a new type of problem to them, she asks, "What's the first decision you'd make if presented with this kind of example?"

They are missing the elements of analyzing, questioning, and exploring. I found that this quotation relates to another quotaion in the article. "The products of work in this class are often written stories, editorials, or essays, or representations of ideas in mural, graph, or craft form." I remember many primary sources I read in middle school and then secondary sources about that same primary source. I was taught how to find biases and learned how to make decisions regarding what information I chose to accept and reject. It allowed me to make a decision in regards to what I was learning. I know I have benefited from learning in a decision-process manner. I have had the advantage of learning how to make educated decisions from going to an Affluent Professional school and today I am a young supervisor of a small group of college students. Students from working class schools are being trained to be workers and being eveluated on being right or wrong. In the work force, there are two ways to do a job: the right way, or the wrong way. If you do your job the right way, you get to keep working your working class job and if you do your job the wrong way, you have to find a new working class job. This is my impression of what message is being delivered to students. They need to learn other ways besides being graded right and wrong and learn how to explore their own thoughts and ideas just like important people in society have the privilege of doing today.

3. "By Thanksgiving, the children did not often speak in terms of right and wrong math problems but of whether they agreed with the answer that had been given.

This notion of being right or wrong compared to generally agreeing on something is part of the "hidden curriculm" mentioned in the article. This is an important point because for the executive elite school, they are getting a hidden training for the real world of executives. When important decisions are made, executives and high ranking officicials gather in meeting rooms until they generally agree on an answer. This is how all major problems are handled for politicians too. They vote and argue for and against on different bills and try to come with a majority to agree on something. Just getting it right would be part of the hidden training done in middle school. To go along with this, students are given plenty of training that teaches them to wrestle with difficult concepts and form their own educated and well-thought out opinion. For example, "Social studies also invokes almost daily presentation by the children of some event from the news." In my seventh grade classroom, we had to read the paper every Sunday and report on a world event. We had to put it in our own words, look up words we did not understand, and explain our interpretation to the class. There is training done for fortunate students like me that carry over to the real world.

I'm sure it was not hard for you to tell this was my favorite article. I am very much for equity for students in America. It is not fair that some students still get such an advantage over others in education. I was lucky enough to go to a very nice "college prep." school and I want to use that advantage to help teach less fortunate students the hidden curriculum and the codes of power so they can be successful in the world. I want to constantly work on a curriculm that accomodates all cultures and benefits all students who have the passion to learn.

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