Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Literacy With an Attitude-by Patrick J. Finn Quotes

First off, I want to say that writing this week's blog was a challenge for me because there are so many important and interesting concepts that Patrick J. Finn mentions in Literacy With an Attitude. I can go on and on about all of his ideas, but I don't want to bore the living daylights out of you, so I am going to try to abridge my blog by selecting and explaining three quotes that stood out to me in this week's text.

"All of us-teachers and students-were locked into a system of rules and roles that none of us understood and that did not allow for much in the way of education." (pg. 5)

In the 1960s, Finn was an eight grade teacher who worked in a dominant impoverished black school in the south side of Chicago. The students had to follow the teachers' orders and the teachers had to follow the codes of power in the classroom. Finn is frustrated that working class students are not getting the same literacy skills as students from higher class. Finn thinks that the school still runs like that today and he is not happy about that.  Unfortunately, many schools throughout the United States follow Lisa Delpit's aspects on the culture of power so seriously, to a point where students lack creativeness and freedom of expression. Someday, I hope I work at a school where the rules are reasonable and don't take away students' rights and privileges.

"Anyon's study supports the findings of earlier observers that in American schools children of managers and owners are rewarded for initiative and assertiveness, while children of the working class are rewarded for docility and obedience and punished for initiative and assertiveness." (pg. 20)

Jean Anyon did an eye opening study on schools of different classes. The results were shocking. The higher the class, the more creativeness and the more real knowledge students gained in the classroom. The teachers from high class schools were more laid back and let the students do more of the speaking and teaching. What really disgusted me was that the teachers in the working class school treated their students like animals. Awarding a student for obedience is like telling a dog to sit, shake, roll over, etc. and giving him a treat for listening to your commands. If the dog barked even once or if a working class student said if, and, or but about an assignment, they were punished. I feel bad for these working class students because if they are conditioned to not speak up, they will have a harder time getting a job because they will be too afraid to say what they actually think. I find it sad that so many good teachers prefer to work with higher class students and because of this, the impoverished students get "the leftover" teachers that do not know how to actually teach. In a way, it is like how the wealthy people of Manhattan traveled all of the way to Mott Haven to dump their trash in Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace.  Don't they know that they could have given impoverished students hope if they had educated them instead?

"Teachers are supposed to teach, not blame children for what they don't know how to do." (pg. 175)

I absolutely agree with this quote one hundred percent and am glad that Finn mentioned this in his article. According to the article, it seems that high class schools do more real teaching than working class schools, where the teachers make more commands than actually teach. What I find really annoying is that the working class teachers can't even tell their own students how their assignments connect to the real world! I'm sorry, but if a teacher can't even explain that, they shouldn't have the right to teach. Even as a middle class student, I had witnessed moments when my teachers would blame my classmates for not understanding concepts. I remember having the urge to say to those teachers "Hello? you are getting paid to TEACH us, not watch us work on packets that you give us on useless things that will never help us in the real world. You are supposed to teach us instead of babysit us!" Of course, I never said those words because as Finn would say, I was and still am "an obedient student."  In my own words, teaching is educating concepts that students can connect to the real world.

Points to make: I found an article from The Guardian about how parents' jobs affect the academic work of their children. Jean Anyon did a study on fifth grade classes from schools of different class. I loved how Finn described the main themes of each school of different class in one word. For example, the theme of the working class schools was resistance and the theme for the upper elite schools was excellence. In one word, how would you describe the theme of your fifth grade class? Why do you think the best teachers choose to work in higher class schools than working class?


  1. great analysis of the text! you did a great job of picking the quotes, and i think you did a great job explaining them, really in depth and insightful.

  2. You have a great connections with the article. I really liked the pictures you chose as well!

  3. after reading your blog, I feel that you raised very important questions. The one that I like the most was, the one about why some teachers preferred teaching on higher class schools rather than teach at a lower class schools? I can't wait for class tomorrow to discuss it.