Sunday, March 30, 2014

Literacy with Viv's attitude

FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

In the preface of this week’s reading, the author Finn states that “in America from colonial times universal literacy (except for slaves) has been the aim”.  And on p. 2 he offers, “Over time, political, social, and economic forces have brought us to a place where the working class (and to a surprising degree, the middle class) gets domesticating education and functional literacy, and the rich get empowering education and powerful literacy.”  We do not have universal literacy.

And once again my humor gets the better of me. . . (no disrespect towards anyone intended)
In “Privilege Power and Difference”  Alan Johnson speaks of the power of the privileged.  Rich, white, healthy and handsome america.  SCWAAMP.  My question to Johnson was, if asked, do those with the power want it to change?  Finn states (I am still in the preface) “The status quo is the status quo because people who have the power to make changes are comfortable with the way things are.”  I’m glad this came up again. 

Finn defines “literacy as a powerful right of citizenship. . . ”  But the educational system in our country does not reflect a true social democracy.  Education is not created equal.  Being presented with such a large amount of material on what leads to this discrepancy, and possible solutions, I am choosing to focus on the work of Jean Anyon that Finn sites.

In 1978, Anyon looked at 5 classrooms in New Jersey.  Her research revealed shocking disparities in how students were being taught based on their family’s socio-economic status.

“…she discovered that the working class children are being prepared for mechanical and routine wage-labor. The middle-class children are being prepared for white-collar jobs where success comes from not rocking the boat, but in being able to problem solve and find the right answer. The professional children are being prepared to follow in the footsteps of their parents and become professionals - with highly developed linguistic, artistic and scientific expression skills. And finally, the executive children are developing the skills necessary for the “ownership and control of the physical capital and the means of production in society.” 

You can read more about Jean Anyon's work here:

I graduated High School in 1975.  What interested me the most was the Professional High School.  In this environment, students were taught “highly developed linguistic, artistic and scientific expression skills.”  The Theme was “Individualism and Humanitarianism”  This was my high school.   Most of my 600 classmates pursued careers in Government, Medicine, Education, Research, and the Arts (: .   The student body was very involved in school politics.  Anyon's description in the quote above sounded like my school.  In this format, Anyon was only allowed to take “copies” of the student work, not the originals.  When I ran my studio, licensing my artwork allowed me to keep my originals.  That was EXTREMELY important to me.

What is frightening about all of this, is that Finn included Anyon’s work from 1978 because current research reveals almost identical results.  One might conclude a solution could be desegregating economic classes.  We did not talk about it in class, but desegregation in Brown vs. the Board of Education led to bussing white and black kids to other communities and schools.  It was enormously controversial.  As a little kid, I was aware that there were a lot of people angry about bussing.  And these children do not look happy.

This site goes into some detail about the issues of bussing for desegregation.

But the other solution that is put forth in the rest of these chapters is to create a community in the classroom that mimics the community of those in schools where students are being taught powerful literacy, or what Finn coins,  “Literacy with Attitude.”

We need teachers to be committed to affording empowering education and powerful literacy to every child.   As teachers, we are being taught the techniques that support this.  (Just wait for SED 406, and 407).  And we are being taught to engage and challenge our students in a safe place.  How we teach needs to encourage critical thinking, problem solving, with literacy, no matter what the discipline.  Every thing needs to support everything.  So how great would it be if the education that we provide, created possibilities for everyone.  

I hope that as future teachers, we can discuss the idea of how you create a powerful community in the classroom.  It seems that so much of what we’ve been reading is leading up to this.

And then there's this. . .  . . . 


  1. Hey Viv, I really enjoyed this post. Your detail is very interesting and it clearly supports your understanding of the reading. And I totally agree when you say that education is not created equal, as unfortunate as that is. Nice work.

  2. Such a great post, Viv. I feel all the other readings echoing here...