Academic journal article High School Journal

Beyond Economics: Using Social Class Life-Based Literary Narratives with Pre-Service and Practicing Social Studies and English Teachers

Academic journal article High School Journal

Beyond Economics: Using Social Class Life-Based Literary Narratives with Pre-Service and Practicing Social Studies and English Teachers

Article excerpt

In this article, we propose that one way of engaging pre-service and practicing high school Social Studies and English teachers in critical conversations about social class is through the use of life-based literary narratives. By expanding upon Phillion and He's (2004) work around the pedagogical and curricular potential of using life-based literary narratives in multicultural education courses with pre-service teachers, we explore the possibilities of their approach for developing critical understandings of social class among pre-service and practicing Social Studies and English teachers in undergraduate multicultural education courses and professional development book groups. Effective use of life-based literary narratives shows more potential for moving practicing and pre-service teachers toward ah understanding of the complexities of social class than traditional approaches.

Introduction

Class awareness and class language are receding in the United States at a time when the gap between rich and poor in the country has widened. Class distinctions operate in virtually all aspects of American life. Over thirty million people in the United States live in poverty; there is a strong link between students' social class backgrounds and their success in schools; most Americans live in class-segregated communities; and even with all the advances in medicine in recent years, the differences in health and lifespan are widening between the poor and the affluent (Scott & Leonhardt, 2005). In the United States, people are constantly confronted with the widening gap between rich and poor (Anyon, 2000; Sleeter, 2005).

Even with these glaring class distinctions, social class continues to be a taboo subject in American culture. As Ortner (1991) points out: "American natives almost never speak of themselves or their society in class terms. In other words, class is not a central category of cultural discourse in America" (p. 169). Rosenblum and Travis (2003) add, "Because social class is so seldom discussed, the vocabulary for talking about it is not well developed" (p. 22). Without this vocabulary, individuals are ill-equipped to engage in the type of complicated conversation that is needed to understand the elusive nature of social class in their own lives and in the world around them. Influenced by this lack of class language and class awareness of the larger society, it is not surprising that social class is a troubling concept for education. Prominent frameworks for multicultural education used in both teacher education programs and professional development models pay little attention to social class issues (Sleeter & Grant, 2003). Consequently, pre-service and practicing teachers are typically not provided with activities, readings, and strategies that focus on increasing their class language, class awareness and ability to address social class with their current and/or future students.

In this article, we propose that one way of engaging pre-service and practicing high school Social Studies and English teachers in critical conversations about social class is through reading life-based literary narratives that focus on the lived complexities of social class. We expand upon Phillion and He's (2004) work around the pedagogical and curricular potential of using life-based literary narratives in multicultural teacher education. We draw on experiences of using these narratives to address social class issues with pre-service teachers in a multicultural education course taught by one of the authors, Parker. The use of life-based literary narratives to explore social class identities and backgrounds is drastically different from the traditional approaches of exploring social class issues by relying on educational research (e.g., Anyon, 1980, 1981; Bourdieu and Passeron 1990; Bowles and Gintis, 1976; Spring, 1972). These approaches rely on abstract theorizing or economic analysis that has a tendency to largely disregard the social and cultural elements of social class. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.