Monday, April 20, 2009

The hidden curriculum

Students in my Sociology of Ed course are reading Jean Anyon's compelling research on "Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of work." Anyon, who chairs the Dept. of Ed at Rutgers, finds that curriculum varies depending on the social class of the students and of their community. She finds, in other words, that classroom work in predominately working-class schools differs from those with mainly middle-class, upper middle-class, or those from executive elite families.

I'm thinking about Anyon's work while reading Terry Savage's piece, "Chicago kids learning to earn"in the business section of Monday's Chicago Sun-Times. It's all about a Chicago school winning the statewide Economics Challenge competition sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank and the Goldman Sachs Foundation. I'm glad a city school has won.

But it should be no surprise that the top finishers were an elite selective-enrollment Chicago school, Northside College Prep and an executive elite suburban school, Adlai Stevenson in upscale Lincolnshire. Economic theory is rarely taught in neighborhood inner-city Chicago high schools and these schools are seldom found in competitions such as this one.

The hidden curriculum is also embedded in the kinds of questions kids are asked during the competition. For example:

What's the most efficient way to solve the problem of pollution?

Correct answer: Tradeable pollution permits. (Among the wrong choices: environmental standards or outright bans.)

Gee, that was easy. To win, all you have to do is spit back this "correct answer." It's a win-win for the students and the corporations and the pollution problem is solved--efficiently.


  1. Just more proof of why we need to get away from bubble tests and lecture. More problem solving, analysis and discovery learning is where we should be headed.

  2. Hidden curricularistApril 22, 2009 at 11:29 AM

    While those kids are learning macro economics, Ron Huberman is pushing dumbed-down "financial literacy" for inner-city kids. He's even worse than Duncan.,chicago-public-schools-finances-curriculum-042109.article


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