In this article, Finn argues that the United States has developed two different types of education provided to children in schools, empowering education and domesticating education. He defines empowering education as that which leads to powerful literacy and prepares students for positions of power, while describing domesticating education as that which leads to functional literacy preparing students to be productive and dependable. Finn argues that the result of schooling between rich and poor children is unequal and difficult to liberate due to oppositional identity and the inability of working-class schools to respond to changing attitudes of working-class parents and students.
Finn argues that teachers are in the position to help their students see that literacy and school knowledge can provide them with the power to bring about change and to strive for a better life by connecting school knowledge to the reality of working-class students’ lives. He says that rules can be transformed so that there is greater justice and equality in our country if the students are given the knowledge that provides them with the power to do so.
Finn provides the findings of a study conducted by Jean Anyon to demonstrate the importance of this issue and how immensely the type of education a child receives and the environment in which they receive it in shapes their lives. Anyon found that the students in the working class were in a school in which the dominant theme was resistance. Students vandalized school property and resisted any efforts made by the teachers to teach. There was an immense lack of enthusiasm and effort among these students. The children within the middle class were in a school in which the dominant theme was possibility. The students viewed knowledge as being a valuable possession that could be used to get them further in life. Anyon found that these children were developing skills that were appropriate for working-class and middle-class jobs. The students within the affluent professional school were viewed as having a common theme of individualism and humanitarianism. The teachers valued their creativity and personal development. These students had developed a nurturing environment in which mutual help and concern for one another are important. Finally, Anyon described the executive elite school as having a theme of excellence. These children were taught to be self-disciplined, more was expected of them, more was taught, and they were being prepared to be the best.
I think that what Finn was trying to demonstrate and argue is that the children in our country are not all provided with the same resources and therefore do not have all of the same opportunities. America is said to be the “Land of Opportunities”; but this may only be the case if you come from an affluent background and already have many of the necessary resources to start. If all of the students in our schools throughout the country were provided with the same nurturing, creativity driven, high expectations that some of the students in Anyon’s study were shown to have, then maybe the job market would become a more level playing field for applicants from different backgrounds.