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Jessica Calles

February 11, 2010

Critical Interpretation of Anyon

The essay titled “Social Class and the hidden curriculum of work” written by Jean

Anyon, describes in detail a study performed in the state of New Jersey with five elementary

schools. The essay describes the differences between the curriculums of work provided to 5th

graders from five different elementary schools in the state of New Jersey. The study was applied

in two working-class schools, one middle-class school, one affluent professional school, and one

executive elite school. The essay targets to explain to the reader the “hidden curriculum of

work” applied to schools all over the country, which prepares students only for the kind of work

their parents participate in. The essay explains how the social class plays a part in the kind of

education a child receives, the way they are talked to by teachers, and the decision making they

are allowed to do. Jean Anyon describes social class as “a series of relationships” and she defines

it as “the way a person relates to the process in society, which goods, services and cultures are

produced, and ones relations to the system of ownership, to other people, and to ones own

productivity” (227). Anyon uses this concept of social class and applies it to the five different

elementary schools in order to portray how social class does ultimately have an impact on a

child’s education. The essay provides support to the theory of the “hidden curriculum” by stating

observations done by researchers, quoting students as well as teachers, and also including a

couple of supportive interviews done to staff members at the school.

Overall the essay written by Jean Anyon states the dramatic differences in the education

provided to students based on their social class. Students in the working-class schools are

allowed almost no decision making, and they follow a very high structured class with no

flexibility and no negotiation. Anyon’s research reveals that “their present schools work is an
appropriate presentation for future wage labor that is mechanical and routine” (247). On the

other hand children on the opposite end of the spectrum, children in the executive elite schools,

are allowed plenty of decision making and plenty of flexibility on the way they want to

accomplish their work and when they want to perform it. Children at these schools feel as though

their opinions are highly taken into consideration and are allowed to make decisions on their

own. The dramatic differences in the schools as you move up the ladder in social class are

extremely alarming.

Children are limited to an education depending on the social class they are born into. This

limits children’s ability to move up the social class ladder and therefore making it harder for

children of a working-class school to one day become part of the Elite class. I found it very

unfair how children in the working-class schools were given no flexibility and were not allowed

to solve problems on there own rather they had to follow a series of steps to get to the answer.

The working class schools also made the children feel as though they had no say in any topic

concerning their education and were not allowed to have their own ideas or opinions. In the Elite

class schools however children are given an overwhelming amount of flexibility compared to the

working class schools. The Elite schools are more about what the students want than what the

teacher decides. Anyon states in her essay that “the executive elite schools gives its children

something that none of the other schools does: knowledge of and practice in manipulating the

socially legitimated tools of analysis of systems” (248). This indicates the clear advantage that

children in the executive elite class have over children in the working class because they are

given more tools to succeed as well as more knowledge over certain topics.

I feel the essay provided very truthful information about the school system in the United

States; however some measures could have been added to better support the structure of the
Anyon’s argument. First I believe the study should have included different states other than New

Jersey to show that it is an issue country wise as opposed to state wise. The study should have

also included observation from higher level of schooling such as middle school and high school

to show how the “hidden curriculum of work” carries on through the child’s educational carrier.

Lastly, a follow up on the children after they graduated high school and entered the work force

would have provided the reader with additional support to better conceptualize how the hidden

curriculum affects the children in the long run. Other than that I found the article to be very

insightful and interesting. Jean Anyon clearly expresses a serious concern the educational system

has here in the United States.


Please be sure to include a self-assessment next time.

Your paper does a good job of showing that you know what Anyon is proposing in her essay and

why these claims are to be taken seriously. What you can focus on in your revision is more

clarity on what your main point is in the paper. What do you want to get across to your readers

here? You state that Anyon’s info is alarming and the situation is unfair. You also briefly

mention how Anyon’s essay could have been more convincing. How do all these ideas tie

together? Once you have that main idea articulated, then read your work aloud to listen for any

awkward phrasing or where your prose could be clearer.

Works cited:

Anyon, Jean. "Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work." Writing Conventions. Eds. Lu

and Horner. New York: Pearson, 2008. 225-51. Print.