Saturday, December 17, 2016

Oakes and Finn

Argument post

Oakes argues that tracking is an unjust policy that is detrimental to the learning of those placed in lower tracks, and Finn shows that it also plays out on a larger scale in accordance with social class structures, with the children of the elite and wealthy in higher tracks and children of the working class in significantly lower ones. This implies then, as the other texts from this class have already done, that there is little to no mobility for those who start in a lower, more disadvantaged class. Oakes says, for example, that students who are tracked as “low ability” are not exposed to the same materials or given help developing the same skills as those tracked as high ability. In turn, Finn discusses how teachers in working class schools seem to treat all of their students as lower ability, and how “work” and “knowledge” have different meanings in classrooms of different socioeconomic status. Students will never learn what it means to learn in classes other than their own, which affects everything in the classroom, down to the student-teacher dynamic. 
To bring Delpit into the mix, students of lower socioeconomic status are not being taught the rules and codes of power to be successful in a higher class, such as an elite college or career path. This is even exemplified in Finn’s analysis of teachers in the different schools; the only ones who taught above their own level of privilege were those teachers who came from the top ten percent and taught the top one percent. Oakes shows how schools fail when they expect less of students in lower tracks, and never grant them the mobility to move up in their tracking, and Finn takes this even farther to a much grander scale, with the implications that our entire system is failing by expecting less of people in lower socioeconomic “tracks,” and training them to stay there. Since Oakes says that schools need to adopt a new policy, such as classrooms that integrate students of various levels, Finn’s piece could act as support for change such as integration of schools as a whole.

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