Paper #1: a critical Look at Education English 102 Fall 2004 Chabot College Instructor: Katie Hern Choose any of the following options as the focus of your paper I came up with the first two options myself



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Paper #1: A Critical Look at Education

English 102 Fall 2004 Chabot College Instructor: Katie Hern

Choose any of the following options as the focus of your paper. I came up with the first two options myself, and I chose the other options from questions you came up with in class.



  1. Analyze the “hidden curriculum” in one of your classes

Several of the authors we’ve read have dealt with the idea of a “hidden curriculum” – lessons students learn that are different from the stated goals of a class. Anyon writes about students being prepared for the same kinds of jobs and economic class as their parents; Orenstein writes about the hidden lessons about gender that students receive. And though Sizer doesn’t use the phrase “hidden curriculum,” he’s writing about the real lessons students get in high school that are different from the official goals of high school.
In this paper, I want you to practice being a social scientist. Pick one of the other classes you are taking at Chabot (not this one) and conduct a short study designed to answer the following main question: What is the “hidden curriculum” of the class? (It is also possible to study a non-Chabot class – talk to me if you’d like to do this.)
In your research for this paper, you will need to take extensive “field notes.” Do at least one close observation of the classroom environment in that course, similar to the ones Anyon and Orenstein did for their articles. Attend the class and take detailed notes about what you see. What is being said? Who is speaking? What kinds of activities are being done in class? What kinds of interactions does the teacher have with the students? What are the students doing? What does the classroom environment look like? What kinds of materials are being used (handouts, texts, audio-visual, etc.)?
After the class is over, review your detailed notes and look for patterns. What do you see? What seems to be going on beyond the stated goals of the class? You might see hidden lessons you think are positive and lessons you think are negative. The main thing is to analyze the unstated lessons that are coming through. As part of this analysis, I want you to look for connections to the readings we’ve discussed in class. For example, do you see Freire’s banking model or problem-posing model? Do you see any of the ideas Mike Rose discusses? Or Anyon?


  1. Define and describe “real learning”

Sizer criticizes high schools for their emphasis on having students move from class to class collecting disconnected pieces of information. This approach to learning was also part of the “working class” schools Anyon studied. In this paper, I want you to come up with an alternative to this kind of “collecting.” Thinking about the issues we’ve discussed in class and the readings we’ve done, create your own definition of “real” learning. In developing your paper, I want you to use examples from the readings and, if relevant, your own experience.


  1. How does American culture influence U.S. education?

In your Anthropology class, you’ve discussed the meaning of the concept “culture,” and in the article about the “Nacirema,” you explored some aspects of American culture. In our English class, you’ve read a lot of articles that critically examine education in the U.S. In this essay, I’d like you to bring these two areas together and discuss how you think American culture shapes U.S. education. For example, do certain elements of American culture cause (or at least influence) the economic differences Anyon found? How does American culture contribute to the gender dynamics Orenstein observed? How does American culture influence the issues Sizer, Freire, and Malcom X discuss?





  1. How can education make you free?

Many of the readings we’ve done discuss the theme of inequalities in education (such as Anyon and Orenstein), and others have explored the related theme of how education can liberate or oppress students (Rose, Malcom X, Freire). In this essay, I want you to build on class readings to discuss how you think education can make a person free. To develop a really rich answer, you’ll need to talk about what you think education can free a person from. Also, I’d like you to describe how the education should (and should not) look if it is going to be truly liberating. (For example, do Freire and Anyon give you any ideas on this?)


  1. Why haven’t these problems been addressed?

Many of the readings we’ve done so far have discussed serious problems in the educational system. If we know about these problems, why haven’t we solved them yet?


  1. How can we solve these problems as a society?

Many of the readings we’ve done so far have discussed serious problems in the educational system. Pick a couple of problems that you think are particularly important from the readings, and discuss how we might begin to solve them, as a society.


  1. What can an individual student do?

Many of the readings we’ve done have discussed oppressive and/or discriminatory environments that a student might encounter in the classroom (such as what Anyon, Rose, Orenstein, and Freire describe). I want you to use your paper to discuss productive ways that an individual student might deal with these situations. (The student who came up with this question entitled it: “Can I Just Learn in Peace?”)

Requirements for All Papers:


  • Length: at least three full pages (feel free to write more!)




  • Sources: your paper must integrate material (ideas, quotes, information,

and/or examples) from at least two of the readings we’ve done


  • Audience: should be written for readers not in our class – assume your

readers have not read anything we’ve read and have not been part of our conversations in class


  • Quotes: if you use an author’s exact words, you must put those words

inside quotation marks (“ “) and tell your readers the name of the person you are quoting


  • Format: typed, double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12 point font,

all prior drafts and brainstorming attached beneath your final draft


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