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Literacy with an Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest

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Honorable Mention, 2000 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards This book is for teachers, parents, and community organizers who are on the side of working-class children. It's about the resistance of working class children to the kind of education they typically receive, education designed to make them useful workers and obedient citizens. It's about working-class habits of Honorable Mention, 2000 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards This book is for teachers, parents, and community organizers who are on the side of working-class children. It's about the resistance of working class children to the kind of education they typically receive, education designed to make them useful workers and obedient citizens. It's about working-class habits of communication and ways of using language that interfere with schooling. It's about a new brand of teachers, followers of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire who are developing effective methods for teaching powerful literacy in American working-class classrooms. It's about teacher networks where teachers devoted to equity and justice find mutual support. And it's about community organizers who are bringing working-class parents together around education issues and helping them mount effective demands for powerful literacy for their children.


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Honorable Mention, 2000 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards This book is for teachers, parents, and community organizers who are on the side of working-class children. It's about the resistance of working class children to the kind of education they typically receive, education designed to make them useful workers and obedient citizens. It's about working-class habits of Honorable Mention, 2000 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards This book is for teachers, parents, and community organizers who are on the side of working-class children. It's about the resistance of working class children to the kind of education they typically receive, education designed to make them useful workers and obedient citizens. It's about working-class habits of communication and ways of using language that interfere with schooling. It's about a new brand of teachers, followers of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire who are developing effective methods for teaching powerful literacy in American working-class classrooms. It's about teacher networks where teachers devoted to equity and justice find mutual support. And it's about community organizers who are bringing working-class parents together around education issues and helping them mount effective demands for powerful literacy for their children.

30 review for Literacy with an Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Educators, just read it--and grasp the author's understanding of what it takes for students caught in poverty to become real learners. I'm sure you'll find things you disagree with, but consider how the author's experiences may have differed from yours and why you've drawn different conclusions. And, read all the way to the end of the second edition where he chronicles what happened when he put his ideas into action. Educators, just read it--and grasp the author's understanding of what it takes for students caught in poverty to become real learners. I'm sure you'll find things you disagree with, but consider how the author's experiences may have differed from yours and why you've drawn different conclusions. And, read all the way to the end of the second edition where he chronicles what happened when he put his ideas into action.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Robert Bussell

    Finns offers and social and idealogical commentary that can inform teaching practice. You will learn little about the practical business of teaching by reading this book, but this book will help you understand the problems of public education in a way that will orient you towards possible solution, at least within your own classroom. At the same time, you may just rediscover the reason your standing in front of that class in the first place. "Literacy With an Attitude" belongs on every leftist ed Finns offers and social and idealogical commentary that can inform teaching practice. You will learn little about the practical business of teaching by reading this book, but this book will help you understand the problems of public education in a way that will orient you towards possible solution, at least within your own classroom. At the same time, you may just rediscover the reason your standing in front of that class in the first place. "Literacy With an Attitude" belongs on every leftist educator's shelf. But, unlike other education writers who also wear their ideology on their shirt sleeve, Finn manages to steer clear of creating another dreary litany of injustices. Instead, Finn offers us a clear-eyed view of a feedback cycle linking working class cultural views on education to the capitulations made by working class teachers, a cycle that sustains mediocrity in public education. As a teacher, I can relate to this in my everyday experience and I feel the pull of the same feedback cycle. To have it described with clarity helps me understand my situation and how to fix it. When Finn talks systematic injustice, he is disciplined enough to offer a clear example. For instance, the author gives a fascinating account of "correspondence societies" of the last century, groups open to any person that held ongoing political and philosophical discussions via the mail. In a clear case of restricting literate discourse for the purposes of social control, correspondences societies were banned by act of law in England. But, all this talk of cultural context and class struggle just serves to outline the possibilities of effective education. For Finn, to be literate is to be empowered and redistribution of power is the remedy for injustice. Teaching then, should focus on delivering the goods that helps kids find their own means to overcome economic and social inequities. Isn't this why you are teaching anyway?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kia Turner

    Literacy with an Attitude is a well rounded look at the ways in which society, and its imperceptible fingertips come to influence the way that our schools operate, and thus how our children learn. As a beginning teacher who will be serving primarily working-class children, I thought this book gives great takeaways for people who are somehow connected to the world of schools. The things to learn in this book are both tangible - what to teach- and more ephemeral - how to go about thinking how and Literacy with an Attitude is a well rounded look at the ways in which society, and its imperceptible fingertips come to influence the way that our schools operate, and thus how our children learn. As a beginning teacher who will be serving primarily working-class children, I thought this book gives great takeaways for people who are somehow connected to the world of schools. The things to learn in this book are both tangible - what to teach- and more ephemeral - how to go about thinking how and what to teach. I'm giving it three stars because I liked it. I thought it was good. That being said, there were some moments where the book bent a little too socialist for me-- I guess I am one of those fans of "border crossers" that the book deems as unimportant to the larger picture. That being said, I loved the emphasis on progressive education and powerful literacy, and I'm excited to see how I can apply some of the takeaways in my classroom next year!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This helped me understand how important student choice and voice are. The book will help teachers and parents understand how activities such as debate and socratic seminars are useful and empowering. We can teach our children to use their voices in a productive, meaningful way.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Overall a good book, on the theme that children of different classes get educated for their station in life. He first provides lots of evidence of the way that that is done. In the end he provides some examples of how it can be combated. One of those book where I felt it cold have been said in a full length article just as well.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Firaley

    This book has really opened my eyes to how education works in this country and how oppression is maintained in our society. It also provides many ideas for and examples of ways to push back. If you are at all interested in educational reform it is a must read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Juanita Mcclain

    Very interesting information and insight on the literacy challenges faced in today's society. Very interesting information and insight on the literacy challenges faced in today's society.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    What prejudices, preconceptions, policies, and other forces are keeping the rich rich, and the poor even poorer? According to Patrick J. Finn, it all comes down to traditional American education. In this fascinating and subversive little book, Finn outlines the mechanisms and mechanizations that suppress and undermine the voices of working-class children and communities, and at the same time support, validate, and empower the children of affluent communities. It makes so much sense. To ground hi What prejudices, preconceptions, policies, and other forces are keeping the rich rich, and the poor even poorer? According to Patrick J. Finn, it all comes down to traditional American education. In this fascinating and subversive little book, Finn outlines the mechanisms and mechanizations that suppress and undermine the voices of working-class children and communities, and at the same time support, validate, and empower the children of affluent communities. It makes so much sense. To ground his thesis, Finn looks to several studies of urban schools, and how the methods and assumptions of the teachers in working-class communities restrict their students' access to autonomy and critical inquiry, and simultaneously condemn them for not possessing the very skills they haven't been taught: -He examines the roots of English and American schooling, and how public education systems were implemented as a means of suppressing "dangerous literacies" and replacing them with recall, rote memorization, and other literacies that are just fine for shutting up and taking orders, but are inadequate in a democracy. -He examines working class, affluent "gentry," and the middle class, and how their education models reinforce economic categorizations and limit choices (unless you have the money to overcome it). While the children of the world's leaders, bosses, and bullies are free to speak their minds and create knowledge, the middle class is trained to "look up knowledge" rather than create it, and the working class is left wholly disenfranchised from the language and culture of school. -He examines implicit and explicit language, and who is allowed to use which in our public education systems. The poor are not without opinions and value, but they are without the tools to express them to the higher classes that habitually discount their power. -He examines the effects of gentrification, and how the explicit language and influence of more affluent parents still overpowers and oppresses lower classes, even within a single school building. -And, most importantly, he highlights the collaborative, empowering, and "dangerous" literacy strategies of Paulo Freire and other educators that will help working-class communities to believe in themselves and their own knowledge. All of Finn's explorations are engrossing, enraging, and highly recommended for any current or future educators. My one criticism is the lack of (explicitly stated) implications for practice. While this book is so important for highlighting the injustices of standard(ized) American education, it also doesn't give clear guidelines for empowering working-class students; there are examples of good practices, yes, but these only leave me with a few solid teaching practices and a lot of vague ambitions (and maybe some mild and completely reasonable Paulo Freire worship). It would have been nice to have a bit more step-by-step instruction here. Then again, maybe this is only my middle-class "look up knowledge" education coming through. Buy this title from Powell's Books.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Fascinating book. Classrooms of lower, middle, and upper class are taught differently. Basically, if your parents are factory workers, you are also taught to be a factory worker. If your parents are CEOs, you are taught to be a CEO. Working class kids are taught by authoritarian, strict rules. They are to follow directions, copy from the board and memorize for the test. They are required to master the basics of reading and writing before they are allowed to express themselves in the content of t Fascinating book. Classrooms of lower, middle, and upper class are taught differently. Basically, if your parents are factory workers, you are also taught to be a factory worker. If your parents are CEOs, you are taught to be a CEO. Working class kids are taught by authoritarian, strict rules. They are to follow directions, copy from the board and memorize for the test. They are required to master the basics of reading and writing before they are allowed to express themselves in the content of their stories. Rich kids are allowed more freedom to move around the classroom, ask questions, express themselves. Poor kids grow up in a culture of implicit communication, where you know the person you are talking to and don't have to explain everything. Rich kids grow up in a culture of explicit communication, which is the style of academia. In explicit communication, you can pick out the main point and support it with details that an outsider would understand. Finn believes that in order to make people want to learn, you need to make it relevant to their lives. Teaching social justice and relating it to the students' lives is one way to do this. Poor and oppressed people don't want to become like the rich. They want to retain their own culture.

  10. 5 out of 5

    gail

    I had high hopes for this book and for the most part, my expectations were met. I wanted to recharge my batteries and get ideas for charging up the students I serve in my school. Reading the reviews here make me wish I'd gotten the second edition since it seems that edition has additional chapters that give some practical suggestions for putting some of the ideas into practice. I had some issues with the tone of the work - the writer's voice was often overly casual or self-consciously "cool" and s I had high hopes for this book and for the most part, my expectations were met. I wanted to recharge my batteries and get ideas for charging up the students I serve in my school. Reading the reviews here make me wish I'd gotten the second edition since it seems that edition has additional chapters that give some practical suggestions for putting some of the ideas into practice. I had some issues with the tone of the work - the writer's voice was often overly casual or self-consciously "cool" and sometimes smug and self-satisfied, but the message of educating to "liberate" not "domesticate" came through at all times. I was also a bit let down by the overly male-centric nature of the anecdotes and studies in the book. It seems that working-class girls don't really exist in this world aside from a few mentions here and there - maybe someone will write a book that focuses more on the attitudes and needs of working-class girls. This book is a good read if you feel that you're not really serving or reaching your kids.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I use this book in an English Education course that I teach, and it is an especially powerful way for students to understand how principles of social justice can be enacted through literacy and language education. Finn—an articulate and unapologetic advocate of liberal politics and economic, social, and educational equity—supports his arguments and analyses with abundant scholarship as well as his own personal experiences as an educator. He clearly shows how domesticating education perpetuates so I use this book in an English Education course that I teach, and it is an especially powerful way for students to understand how principles of social justice can be enacted through literacy and language education. Finn—an articulate and unapologetic advocate of liberal politics and economic, social, and educational equity—supports his arguments and analyses with abundant scholarship as well as his own personal experiences as an educator. He clearly shows how domesticating education perpetuates social, economic, and political hegemony, and he explains how an understanding of Paolo Freire’s theories of progressive pedagogy must inform any kind of movement to improve the US system of education. Provocative and incendiary in the best possible way, Finn’s book should be required reading for ALL future teachers.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Alright, it's time to finally call this one as DNF. This book has a lot going for it and I hope to finish it someday, but today is not that day. I just can't get motivated to do so because the moment has long passed since I was studying this topic. However, I'm grateful for the insights I've gained from reading half of this book. Finn focuses on the idea that we shouldn't educate working class students to be LIKE upper class people. We should educate them to be able to be however they want to be Alright, it's time to finally call this one as DNF. This book has a lot going for it and I hope to finish it someday, but today is not that day. I just can't get motivated to do so because the moment has long passed since I was studying this topic. However, I'm grateful for the insights I've gained from reading half of this book. Finn focuses on the idea that we shouldn't educate working class students to be LIKE upper class people. We should educate them to be able to be however they want to be, and most importantly, to be able to advocate for themselves. Not everyone has the dream of an ivory tower. Good food for thought.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa P

    Fascinating study for teachers about the need to encourage our children to be active learners, thinkers instead of passive, obedient learners. Several different case studies of progressive and traditional schools are included, and these are rather enlightening. I was surprised, too, to read about how the way we speak to children when they are very young can shape their attitude toward learning. After reading it, I had some very interesting conversations with my students about authority and power Fascinating study for teachers about the need to encourage our children to be active learners, thinkers instead of passive, obedient learners. Several different case studies of progressive and traditional schools are included, and these are rather enlightening. I was surprised, too, to read about how the way we speak to children when they are very young can shape their attitude toward learning. After reading it, I had some very interesting conversations with my students about authority and power.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    For those that have only ready the first edition. I highly recommend reading the 8 chapters Finn added to the second edition. While I read the first part of the book frustrated by the "savage inequalities," I also felt helpless in the face of such challenges. The end of the book however, Finn chronicles many grassroots efforts to take on the inequity and challenge the status quo. Now I have an idea for a dissertation. For those that have only ready the first edition. I highly recommend reading the 8 chapters Finn added to the second edition. While I read the first part of the book frustrated by the "savage inequalities," I also felt helpless in the face of such challenges. The end of the book however, Finn chronicles many grassroots efforts to take on the inequity and challenge the status quo. Now I have an idea for a dissertation.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pauline

    I thought this was an extensive revision to an already amazing text! So thought-provoking about how schools are run, how teachers teach, and how we can infuse our classrooms with a theme of social justice. LOVE this book - every teacher should read this at least once...it will transform the way you look at your classroom & the world.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sukhdeep

    Yes, terrible cover and title -- but it did make me think about teaching and literacy education in ways I hadn't before. I wish there was more discussion of classroom strategies that teachers can use to teach literacy "with an attitude," but there are tons of suggestions for further reading, both in the book and in online reviews. Very interesting book. Yes, terrible cover and title -- but it did make me think about teaching and literacy education in ways I hadn't before. I wish there was more discussion of classroom strategies that teachers can use to teach literacy "with an attitude," but there are tons of suggestions for further reading, both in the book and in online reviews. Very interesting book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aaron J. Clark

    A pivotal book in my understanding of what it means to be in the position of "educator". Moreover, one of the essential pieces in helping me to understand my worldview openly and honestly. In part, my this book helped me to discover my true "voice" as a teacher, and most importantly, how to allow other voices to have power. A pivotal book in my understanding of what it means to be in the position of "educator". Moreover, one of the essential pieces in helping me to understand my worldview openly and honestly. In part, my this book helped me to discover my true "voice" as a teacher, and most importantly, how to allow other voices to have power.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    The cover and title are off-putting, but of all the books I had to read while I was teaching in the Bronx, this was one of the select few that actually could have been useful. Too bad then that I was a math teacher.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This is a workmanlike summary of the way that social class is reproduced by way of public schooling, and is fine as it goes. Mr. Finn cites Paulo Freire at length, and I think it might be difficult to make sense of this book without having read Freire.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    How culture, race, and class impact the education of our future generation...it may tick you off.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ellen

    Yup, Finn's right, working class and working poor children resist instruction in a way that upper and middle class students do not. Yup, Finn's right, working class and working poor children resist instruction in a way that upper and middle class students do not.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Edward Kidder

    A highlight of the fall required reading in my grad program. Into socio-economically determinism in schools? Wonder about "oppositional identity?" Then check it out. A highlight of the fall required reading in my grad program. Into socio-economically determinism in schools? Wonder about "oppositional identity?" Then check it out.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    It was eye-opening in the way that I teach and how students are taught in general. Some of it may be a little out there, but I enjoyed how it challenged me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I am actually cited in this book. Woo hoo!

  25. 5 out of 5

    kate

    If you can get passed the toolish-looking child on the cover, Finn reports on studies & Freirean pedagogy ina useful way. Not much in the way of putting his insights into practice, however.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    I'm not sure why this one wasn't already on my shelf...it's a great book that I use for my Adolescent Literacy course. I'm not sure why this one wasn't already on my shelf...it's a great book that I use for my Adolescent Literacy course.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Heather Edick

    So far this book provides a great background for teachers who are working with working class students. I am enjoying this book very much.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Holly Nusom

    Reading this for my grad lit course. Very interesting...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Very interesting book. Made a difference in how I consider language, especially language of the home. There is not a "natural" way to come into contact with literacy. Very interesting book. Made a difference in how I consider language, especially language of the home. There is not a "natural" way to come into contact with literacy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Great book on literacy.

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