Sunday, February 21, 2016

Literacy with an ATTITTUDE


“When rich children get empowering education nothing changes. But when working-class children get empowering education you get literacy with an attitude” (Preface 11). Such a powerful and truthful statement about how knowledge=power. By being educated you have more power.  

In class, we have been focusing on exploring injustices through the realm of color. Literacy with an Attitude by Patrick Finn focuses on looking at injustices based on social class primarily towards working class children and using the teaching method of Paulo Freire. The reading contains a study by Jean Anyon who looked at five public elementary schools in rich and not so rich neighborhoods in northern New Jersey. The schools consisted of mostly all white students and were subjected to the same state requirements. They all used the same arithmetic book and same language art course of study. However these schools had some appalling differences. She looked at an executive elite school, an affluent professional school, a middle class school and 2 working class schools. In each of the schools, Anyon asked the students about knowledge, observed a dominant theme and discussed the relationship of what she observed to the role in economy. It is interesting to look at this and then look at the children who attend the schools. Its sad to think that a theme of  a place of educating young minds is resistance. The word resistance to me has such a negative feeling to it and education should be positive.   

Working Class School
No real answer
prepared for wage labor
Middle Class School
learn, remember, facts, intelligent, school, study brains
white collar working class and middle class jobs
Affluent Professional School
figuring stuff out, you think up ideas
artists, intellectuals, social power, high salaries
Executive Elite School
tradition-expected to learn it
achieve, excel and prepare for life at the top.

In the reading, Anyon talked about a teacher's guide of a textbook at the working class school where it stated that it intended for “educationally deficient students”. She wrote that this was not intended for special education but rather the entire school. This made me think back to Delpit when she talked about the issues of power in classrooms and “the power of the publishers of textbooks….the power of a group to determine another’s intelligence” (24). At this same school, teachers talked negatively about the students  and one teacher said, “they’re lazy. I hate to categorize them, but they’re lazy.” (11). Unfortunately I have heard this comment before from  my colleagues and other teachers I have come into contact with. I believe a student is not lazy...they need to be motivated and find relevance to what they are learning.
The reading also explored the idea of using literacy as a method/strategy to conquer injustices and look at oppression. This idea is based on Paulo Freire who connected literature to everyday life...the idea of teaching powerful literacy. Peterson, Bigelow and Christensen all used this method to teach their classes. Peterson’s teachers cultural journalism. His approach “lies in the connections it builds between the topic at hand, the students’ lives and the broader world around them.” He connected what they were learning to current events. He showed them real life examples of oppression. He taught the students to understand oppression and how to act upon it. What I appreciated about Peterson in the article is that “he created a classroom through activities that stressed self-affirmation, mutual respect, communication, group decision making, and cooperation because he knew these values and skills are associated with gentry... he believed that if his students didn’t have these values and skills; it was his job to teach them” (175). He taught more than textbook knowledge-he taught real life knowledge...he connected the two. He was a true examples of “teachers are supposed to teach, not blame children for what they don't know how to do” (175). Bigelow and Christensen connected the curriculum to students lives. They had open dialogue where they learned about oppression and then connected the main idea to their lives. By connecting the ideas “it helped them to see that they can create knowledge from their own lives. It helped them to reflect not only on their individual lives, but on their society and how society ‘makes and limits who they are.” (180).  I wish I had more teachers like this in high school that connected what we learned to our lives. We learned about oppression in the past but we never talked about how it still existed. I wonder if we never talked about real life oppression because I went to a predominately white affluent professional/middle class school.  

In conclusion,  “we are here to consider how we can best serve the whole child in each of our students.” (24). It would be interesting to see how schools would be if all teachers took this approach instead of lumping students together based on certain factors such as race,class gender etc.


  1. Alicia, what do you mean when you say, "It would be interesting to see how schools would be if all teachers took this approach instead of lumping students together based on certain factors such as race,class gender etc."?

  2. Hi Alicia!
    I love the quote you opened up with and thought you had a great connection with Delpit. I do have the same question as Lindsay though. I don’t think the teachers are the one’s lumping the students together. I think the teachers just need to work harder to provide quality edcation and instuction (Delpit) to the oppressed and that those of privilege need to recognize the educational inequalities. The oppressed groups “… can’t do it on their own, because they don’t have the power to change entrenched systems of privilege by themselves” (Johnson, 10).

  3. Great job this week. I am really glad that you approach your classroom with the approach that no student is lazy as some of the teachers in the reading. This is a huge problem in education where the issues are put solely on the student and not on the teachers themselves. Your students are very lucky to have you