From Social Class And The Hidden Curriculum

Of Work By Jean Anyon Essay, Research Paper

From Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work

By Jean Anyon

This essay tells of the different learning styles used in different social classes. Fifth grade classes were the groups studied. The social classes researched were: working-class schools, middle-class schools, affluent professional schools, and executive elite schools.

Social class designation

Working-class schools

-Lowest social classes

-Most parents have blue collar jobs (platform, storeroom, and stockroom workers; foundrymen, pipe welders, and boilermakers; semiskilled and unskilled assembly-line operatives; gas station attendents, auto mechanics, maintenance workers, and security guards)

-Jobs of mothers (waitresses, barmaids, and store clerks; assembly-line workers in storerooms and stockrooms)

-During the study, about 15 percent of the fathers were unemployed, and less than 30 percent of the mothers worked

-85 percent of families are white

-Incomes at or below $12,000 (below poverty level)

-Income is typical of 38.6 percent of families in the US

Middle-class schools

-Mixture of several social classes

-Parents occupations are divided into three groups:

1.) Small group of blue collar, “rich” (printers, plumbers, and construction workers)

2.) Working-class and middle-class white collar jobs (office jobs, supervisors in industry, firemen, policemen, technicians and teachers)

3.) Occupations such as personnel directors of local firms, accountants, “middle management”, and capitalists (owners of small shops in the area)

-Incomes are between $13,000 and $25,000

-Income is typical of 38.9 percent of families in the US

Affluent professional schools

-Upper income level of the upper middle class

-Professional jobs (cardiologist, interior designer, corporate lawyer or engineer, executive in advertising firm)

-Ninety percent of school is white

-Incomes are between $40,000 and $80,000

-Income typical of 7 percent of families in the US

Executive elite school

-Majority of families belong to capitalist class

-Fathers are top executives (presidents and vice-presidents of major companies, such as AT&T, American Express, U.S. Steel, and of other top financial firms on Wall Street)

-Mothers predominately do volunteer work (Junior League, Junior Fornightly, or other social groups), or are highly involved in town politics, while a few mothers have high paying jobs themselves

-No minority children attend the school

-Almost all incomes over $100,000, with some in the $500,000 range

-Income typical of 1 percent of families in the US

Types of educational experience and curriculum

Working-class school

-Goal: getting the work finished

-Work is mechanical with children doing very little decision making

-Very little actual thinking goes on. Here are some examples:

1.) While doing division problems in math class, the teacher went over examples, told them the correct procedure, and rarely required them to really think about the problem. The teacher merely said, “Three into twenty seven is seven: do your subtraction and there is three left over.” There was no class discussion of the problems.

2.) For social studies, the teacher copied material onto the chalkboard from a book, which the students then transferred to their notebooks. The teacher did not show the students pictures of the states or were the states were located.

-No creativity is used

1.) In an autobiography the children were assigned, they simply had to answer questions such as, “What is your favorite animal?” on a piece of paper entiltled “All About Me.”

2.) A social studies project encompassed coloring in a ditto and cutting it out to make a stand-up figure.

-The teachers were monotone and staccato, with no excitement for the material that was being taught. They were very much like drill sergeants.

-Teachers control classroom time and space by making decisions without consulting children or explaining to them the basis of their decision

-The teachers are very much into controling all aspects of the children’s schooling. Here are some examples:

1.) The students had no access to worksheets and materials. These were closely guarded by the teacher.

2.) The teachers stressed that everything in the room belonged to them. One teacher said to a child, “Bob, bring me my trash can!”

3.) Phrases such as “shut up” and “shut your mouth” are commonplace

4.) The teachers tried to control the children’s movements by yelling things such as, “Why are you out of your seat?!?”

-Classroom bells were often ignored

Middle-class school

-Goal: getting the right answer (usually words, sentences, numbers, or facts and dates), which the teacher can find in the answer book.

1.) One child commented that he “stores facts up in his head like cold storage-then retrieves it for a test or a job.”

2.) Doing well leads to other good things, like a job or college.

-Some choice, some decision making, and some figuring need to be done to get the right answer. Some examples of this are:

1.) The children must figure out for themselves what the directions ask them to do and how they should get the answer.

2.) The answers are usually found in the book or by listening to the teacher.

-The children are semi-involved in classroom discussions. An example of this is:

1.) A teacher may say; “Please read the next sentence and then I’ll question you about it.”

-Work is occassionally illustrative. Here is an example:

1.) In math, the teacher gives the children a choice of two ways to do the division problems. They may do the problems either way. After the problems are done, the teacher asks the children to tell how they got the answer and what the answer is.

-Little analyzing or looking at why/how things happen is done

1.) Social studies involves reading assigned passages and answering the teacher’s questions.

-Little creativity is used

-Although some of the teachers were strict, they were not anal and followed external rules set by their authority

1.) Many critical topics are not discussed because teachers perceive them as being too dangerous and controversial…parents would complain

-Classroom bells were honored

Affluent professional school

-Goal: creativity, all students work should not be the same

-Students are continually asked to express and apply ideas and concepts within certain limits. These limits are:

1.) Appropriateness (nothing duragatory or uncalled for)

2.) The ideas must pertain to the assignment

3.) Quality of expression

-Assignments are illustrative and hands on. Examples of this are as follows:

1.) Children were asked to take a survey home which asked the number of specific appliances owned by the family. The children compile the numbers as part of a section on collecting data.

2.) To keep the attention of the children, a teacher works on finding averages with her class by having them count the number of chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies. In order to find the correct answer, they must eat the cookies to properly count the amount of chocolate chips present.

-Work involves individual thought and expressiveness, expansion and illustration of ideas, and choice of appropriate method and material (written stories, editorials and essays; murals, graphs, or crafts)

-Not very many workbooks or worksheets are used

-The teacher’s control of the class is based on negotiations. Examples of this are:

1.) A teacher will often make the students think of the consequences of their actions instead of punishing them right off.

2.) The teacher will often ask the students if they understand the material. If the students do not, the teacher will re-teach and review the material before moving on.

Executive elite school

-Goal: developing one’s analytical intellectual powers and reasoning

-Work is illustrative. An example of this is:

1.) The math teacher teaches area and perimeter by having the students devise formulas for each. The ideas are tested and revised until the correct formula is found.

-Decision making is the key to this learning style

-Right answers are not as important as understanding concepts. One example of this is:

1.) One teacher told her student, “I’m more–just as interested in how you set up the problem as in what answer you find. If you set up the problem in a good way, the answer is easy to find.”

2.) In math class, the answers may be challenged by the students. If a child does not agree with the answer, he is to raise his hand. The teacher asks the children to recheck their answers and then if they still disagree, she will work the problem out for the class.

-Classroom discussions are important. Children learn reasoning by talking about their own opinions with each other.

1.) Teachers initiate discussions of current issues and problems

-Instead of being focused on creativity, the teachers focus on research and “hard facts”

-Students have a lot of freedom to grow and become their own person. Examples of this are:

1.) Children were in charge of the office at lunch time.

2.) Students were allowed to get any materials they needed. The materials could be located about anywhere in the classroom, including the teachers desk and closet.

3.) Students were allowed to leave class when necessary, but they new to not be gone too long or they would miss important information.

-Teachers were very polite with no sarcasm or nasty remarks and few direst orders

-Discipline was not a problem as children were expected to behave

-There were no bells to end class

Important information

-Whatever skills and knowledge the community has is what influences the curriculum taught by the teachers

-The differences of class work and atmosphere continue the job cycle with many of the children doing something close to or the same as what their parents did

-Because of the teaching and learning styles in the lower class schools, there is a small chance of them moving up in society. An example for this follows:

1.) Thinking analytically and creatively is not taught in lower class schools, but is a skill that is necessary for most high paying jobs

-Lower class schools don’t promote advancement. Working-class are trained for such professions as fast-food workers, not executives

-A person of lower class standing must work very hard to even get to where the elite class begin.

-In the more affluent neighborhoods there are more resources to aid the learning process (more tax money=more resources=better education).

-In Anyon’s opinion, the government shapes the social classes. They give more money to the schools with the higher grades, which is almost always the richer schools. This makes the elite schools even better than they already are. Because of the way the money is distributed, less money goes to the schools that need it the most. If the same amount of money were given to both schools, the quality of education at the lower class schools would almost definitley rise.

-Anyon believes that this social agenda is put in place for a reason. The government needs people to do the grunt work just as much as it needs others to be presidents and CEOs of big companies.

-Basically, Anyon is saying that, in most cases, despite your educational perserverance, your economic background determines your educational success and future.

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