Friday, April 8, 2011

Literacy: Dangerous, with Attitude, and Changing Society


This weeks reading was called Literacy With An Attitude by Patrick J. Finn. Even though we were required to read the Preface along with chapters 1,2, and a bit of 13 and 14. I'll be focusing on mainly the preface and chapter 1 because they impacted me the most!

There was one quote that stuck out to me that COMPLETELY related to Delpit and her rules about the codes of power. Finn stated how he was very direct in the way that he taught his classroom and when he "had work assignments on the board when the students entered the classroom, and so there wasn't a moment when they didn't have anything to do, [he] didn't say to an errant student, 'What are you doing?' [he] said, 'Stop that and get to work.' No discussion. No openings for an argument." I look at this as Finn having complete control over his classroom. He new how to maintain a wonderful working environment for his students. Finn talked about how he started off teaching the classrooms of the 8-7's, 8-8's, 8-9's, and 8-10's which just meant that he had the second to last "slower" / troublemaker's classrooms while he taught. The other teachers who had seniority over him had been teaching the 8-1's, 8-2's and 8-3's which were clearly the upper-level learning classes. By Finn's third year, he had the lowest of these classes (8-11, 8-12, 8-13, 8-14, and 8-15's). He was the one that was viewed as able to handle the trouble makers better than anyone else. Finn stated that he "was a huge success". I firmly believe that he was because he was everything Delpit wanted in a teacher: direct, set the rules out, and there to explain. 

The second text that I think connects really well to this would be Allan G. Johnson and his talk about privilege, power and difference in order to work towards a more just world!  Finn got the title of his book from a man named Paulo Freire who worked in Brazil as an educator to those who were "classified" as illiterate poor.

"Before he started to teach reading and writing, he asked his students to reflect on the concept of justice--a radical and dangerous thing to do in a country where a huge divide separated a small number of very rich and a vast number of very poor. He asked his students what they might do to secure justice and suggested that literacy would make them far better able to engage in the struggle they would certainly face if they tried to get a better deal. Then he was ready to talk ABC's, and so were they."

The thought is that by educating those who are illiterate, there won't be a "poor" but only the rich, richer, and richest. "When rich children get empowering education nothing changes. But when working-class children get empowering education you get literacy with an attitude." This I believe is what Finn wants. If we learn how to empower education, "if people can become conscious of injustice and inequity, be disciplined, focused, and strategic action, they can bring about change. Such action both requires and promotes powerful literacy in those who struggle for justice and equity." 

In class, I would like to talk about how privilege and power CONTINUES to be such an impact on the way that society works. Also, think about how education can be empowered to create better people, not just smarter ones. I think it's so important to realize how the fortunate are fortunate, and how to make those who seem to be the "born losers" in society, fortunate, rich, and powerful as well.


  1. The other day I was talking to another teacher and she made a comment about how she has some kids who come into school hungry or wearing the same clothes every day, and it makes her upset to see this. She finished her very long conversation by saying that we don't realize how fortunate we all are, not just in the area of money, but in education too. Your last remark made me think about what she said and how its true. We are all fortunate and it is important for us to find a way to spread it to others.

  2. Emily this was the only way I could figure out to contact you guys! I am really sorry I didn't make it to class this morning...long story unfortunately, but you can email me and we can figure something before next class or just wait until Thursday! My email is I'm really sorry! hope you get this.