STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Social class, curriculum and Jean Anyon

user alamosbasement

I'm a little late to the game. I only just heard of Jean Anyon a week ago. She's a leading researcher and education professor, and her study, "Social Class and School Knowledge" is a staple for education majors around the country. In fact, it was a U of M School of Education professor who suggested I read Anyon's study.

A little about the study. In the late 1970s, Anyon spent a considerable amount of time in 2nd and 5th grade classrooms in five schools in New Jersey. She chose the schools based on social class: two working-class schools, one middle-class school, one affluent professional school, and one executive elite school. In each school, she documented what the students learned and how the curriculum differed among the schools. Through her research, she argues that schools teach a kind of hidden curriculum, one in which schoolwork is tailored to students' social class. 

The study piqued my interest immediately because I'm currently working on a State of Opportunity documentary about school comparisons. By the time I had finished reading her study, which I had printed out, I had a dozen or so questions scrawled in the margin. I hurried over to my laptop and immediately Googled Anyon's name to see if I could score an interview with her. My heart sank when I read that Jean Anyon passed away just over two weeks ago. I would have loved to hear what she had to say about my findings in classrooms here in Michigan. 

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV in the Bronx.