what British Columbia’s educational decision-makers can learn from Jean Anyon

In its perpetual rush to spurn broader education for narrow job training programs, the BC government would do well to consider Jean Anyon’s words in her foundational work, Ghetto Schooling:

In the working-class schools, [Anyon] found, work entailed the rote following of procedure, with no analytical thought encouraged. In the middle-class school, she wrote, “work is getting the right answer.”

In a more affluent school, Professor Anyon found, work emphasized creativity. In the wealthiest school, work meant “developing one’s analytical intellectual powers.”

These differences, she concluded, helped recapitulate existing class divisions. The children of blue-collar families, for instance, received “preparation for future wage labor that is mechanical and routine,” while those of wealthy families were taught skills that would help them assume leadership positions.

We are not doing students favours (at any age) by funnelling them into programs where they learn a very narrow set of non-transferable or limited-transfer skills. It’s more effective by far to provide a well-rounded education in the sciences, literature, math, rhetoric and composition, and logic, and then focus on specific training. People who learn to think critically and logically become more active, integrated citizens of Canadian society. They also contribute in a more sustained way to our economy. Who wouldn’t want that?

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