In this article, Jean Anyon studied fifth grade classrooms at five different elementary schools in North Jersey during the 1978-1979 school year. She looked at course work and student/teacher interaction at elementary schools of communities with varying levels of socioeconomic class. Through this, she tried to show how public schools provided different types of knowledge and educational experiences to children of different social classes. She split her schools into four categories: The working class, middle-class, affluent-professional, and executive-elite schools.
The working-class schools were more focused on having students follow a set procedure and rote memorization with no explanation as to why the assignments are given. Parents had unskilled blue-collared jobs and were at or below the federal poverty level. Student grades were not based on having the correct answer, but whether or not they followed the correct steps. Creativity was not encouraged and writing assignments included prompt questions for assistance. The middle-class school was more focused on students getting the right answer. They had little chance for creative writing, and more focus was on writing business letters. Students were being prepared for white collared jobs but not taught to be leaders.
The affluent-professional schools consisted of students in the upper middle class. Students were exposed to more critical thinking and analysis. Teachers often explained the reasons for the assignments. Creative writing is encouraged and students are taught to follow the footsteps of their parents as professionals. The final school, the executive-elite, is focused more on developing analytical intellectual powers. They are taught to reason through problems and to think on their own. Students learn not only the process of how to solve a problem, but also the fundamental concepts behind it and practical real-world applications. Here students are trained to develop skills for success in our capitalist society.
In conclusion, the details of the investigation revealed that all of these schools prepared student for life within their respective socioeconomic class. Anyon concludes that the different classroom environments create a system of different social classes in our society and it will continue to maintain this cycle of division between the rich and the poor.
In her article, Anyon shows how students of different economic backgrounds get very different types of education. In our American society, it is evident that children are not being equally educated. As I read this article, it seemed clear to me that the education system is set to favor one class over the other. And we can see proof of it everywhere; just take a look at our national and state test scores. Lower social classes are not being taught the same as the higher-class students. Our public education is supposed to lead us to the path of opportunity and success. Students who work hard in school should be able to land good jobs and climb the social ladder. Yet evidence shows us that our democratic system is not only failing to overcome inequality, but it also seems to reinforce it.
While reading this article, I did find Anyon’s case study a bit outdated. Maybe in the 1980s it would be possible to see the concrete differences in the hidden curriculums enforced at each social level. Today, I think it varies from school to school and teacher to teacher. This article did get me thinking on how teachers are teaching based on the socioeconomic status of the students. What is the teacher’s role in creating the…