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O’Neill 1 Lana O’Neill Jan Rieman English 1101X February 10, 2010 The Secret Curriculum in Schools

Jean Anyon is a professor at the City University of New York who has written several books, and is the author of “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work.” This article is a result of an observation of five elementary schools in New Jersey. After observing the interaction of teachers with students and their teaching practices in varying social class communities, it is discovered that there is a “hidden curriculum”. After reading Anyon’s essay, I believe that the middle class schools are the best choice because they are a middle ground between experience and book work. Anyon describes this hidden curriculum as a change in the teacher’s attitude toward students, how they teach the information, and the use of resources based on the social class of the area that the school is located. Anyon reveals that the teachers change to prepare the students for the jobs that they think, based on their social class and the social class of their parents, that they will have in the future. The first two schools were “working class schools” in which the majority of the parents had blue collar jobs, 15% were unemployed, less than 30% of the mothers worked, and 15% of the families were considered to be at or below the federal poverty line (Anyon 230). The third school was considered a “middle class school” where most of the parents had blue collar jobs but the jobs were mostly middle management (230). The fourth school was an “upper class school” and the fifth school is called an “Executive Elite school” (231), where the parents had higher paying jobs and the area in which they were located was of a higher social

O’Neill 2 class. The similarities between the schools were that the teachers asked questions, they had rules, homework, textbooks, and tests (231). Despite the similarities, Anyon found that each school was teaching its children differently. The working class schools students had little decision making or choice, the textbooks weren’t used, the teacher referred to classroom objects as hers, learning wasn’t interactive with the majority of the class being spent copying notes, and following the right steps to find the answer was the main concern (234-235). The middle class school focused on getting the right answer, some choice and decision making was involved, textbooks were used, and the teacher asked more questions to involve the students (236). The upper class school used a lot of independent but creative learning assignments, a lot of explanations and expressions of ideas, more activities instead of just copying notes, and the children’s opinion was very valued (240-241). In the Executive Elite School, children were required to use reasoning to figure out the problems, correct answers were not important, bells are not used to announce the end of class, and the children’s movement was rarely monitored (242-245). Anyon implies that she believes that the different methods of teaching are determined by the area in which the school is located and that as the social class improves, so does the teaching. It wasn’t surprising to learn about this hidden curriculum because it appears to me that the teaching does differ depending on the location of the school,however I don’t think that it is intentional. I think that if the school is located in a less fortunate neighborhood then it probably doesn’t have as much money, therefore it can’t afford the best teachers. Anyon mentions that the children in the working class schools are “developing abilities and skills of resistance” which I think can pose a problem for the

O’Neill 3 teacher if students are resisting the work assigned (247). According to this article, the teachers in the working class schools rarely involved the students and their opinions, which makes me wonder if this is because the students have behavioral problems, or if the students have behavioral problems because they are not being given a change to get involved. In my opinion, the students have behavioral problems because they think that the teacher doesn’t respect them. If the school has the materials needed, such as textbooks, it makes sense to give them to the students, but the lower class schools didn’t. I think that the teachers are afraid to use the books because they think that the students won’t respect the books, which is probably true, however I think that they wouldn’t respect them because they feel the teacher doesn’t trust them. This is the same situation as the movie Freedom Writers. In this movie, a teacher starts working at a very poor school and is told she is not allowed to let the kids use the textbooks because they won’t respect them and the school can’t afford to buy new ones. The school feels this way because the books they have are already torn and the students have a history of being disrespectful towards the school’s property. When the teacher raises the money herself and buys brand new books for the students, they take care of them because they feel trusted and they appreciate the effort that their teacher has made. I believe that if the teacher shows the students respect, then their behavior in the classroom will improve. The best school, in my opinion is the middle class school because it taught the students how to get the right answer but also allowed for some creativity. The teacher explained her decision making process and involved the students when teaching. The teacher and students still relied on bells to change classes, which means that some rules

O’Neill 4 and structure were still visible. Also, the students respected the teacher and the classroom materials because they were given a chance to use them and the teacher offered them respect in return, unlike the working class schools. The middle class school sounds most like the schools that I have always gone to and it seems to have been an effective system. In my schooling experience, my teachers taught using workbooks and textbooks which, although sometimes shared, were distributed to every student. The teachers, also, explained why answers were reached and why decisions in the classrooms were made. Through explaining these things to the students, the students gained an understanding for the decision making process and were able to fully understand concepts. These skills helped to prepare me for my later school years. The middle class schools are a good mixture of rules and freedom; it allows the students to be creative, yet shows that getting the correct answer is still important. I think that the Executive Elite School is too high quality thinking for fifth graders. I wouldn’t want my kids to go to this school because as Anyon said, it is “reasoning through a problem, to produce intellectual products that are both logically sound and of top academic quality” (242). I don’t think that this is an effective way to teach such young children because they aren’t ready for this type of deep thinking. At such a young age, I think in order for them to learn, children must stay both entertained and interested. Also this article mentions that the correct answers are not given by the book or the teacher (243), which I think could pose a problem in later school years because correct answers are going to become important at some point in one’s educational career. At a college level, I think that this teaching method would be appropriate, but until then I think that the middle class school is the best choice.

O’Neill 5 Students are taught with a hidden curriculum that can be explain in Anyon’s essay. It explains that depending on the working class of the student’s parents, different material is taught to them. The different material and different methods of teaching are to prepare the students for the jobs that the teachers think that they will have when they graduate. This is wrong because I don’t think that the working class of their parents should give other kids a better change at schooling and ultimately life. Everyone should have a fair chance to make something of themselves and I think that the middle class schools give people the perfect opportunity that they need.

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Work Cited Anyon, Jean. "Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work." Writing Conventions. Eds. Lu and Horner. New York: Pearson, 2008. 225-51. Print.