Patrick Finn's major argument is that two types of literacy/education have developed in the United States: empowering education and domesticating education. According to Finn, empowering education, which leads to the best literacy, is reserved the upper classes. Domesticating education, which leads to only functional literacy, keeps the lower classes productive and quiet.
One of Finn's main points is that when upper-class children get empowering education nothing changes--after all, they are expected to get the best education. However, when working-class children get empowering education, it is "literacy with an attitude." Finn makes the argument that historically, the poor were kept illiterate so that they could be dominatated by the wealthy. Interestingly, Finn claims that this has not been some huge conspiracy by the wealthy--he says that the beliefs and behaviors of the poor have also contributed to the present state of affairs. In other words, the poor have simply learned to accept the way things are.
Finn offers an example of this two-tiered system. He says that in one working-class school, a social studies textbook was described by the publisher as being meant for "low-ability students." He further states that the teacher's guide repeatedly referred to "educationally deficient students," in other words, the audience for whom the book was intended. However, the combined IQ of two working-class classrooms was actually over 100, while eight children had IQ's that were over 125. Also, these textbooks were basically filled with "drill and kill" problems. Finn claims that this kind of thing is the rule rather than the exception in working-class classrooms across the country.
In contrast to the working-class classrooms, according to Finn, middle and upper-class classrooms were giving students enriching educational experiences. Finn says that there was much more discovery and hands-on experience in these classrooms. For example in one math class, students measuring the perimeters of the classroom and collecting data from surveys--in other words, they were thinking and problem-solving.
The above scenarios illustrate Finn's major argument, which is that the rich are educated to enter the best professions, whereas the poor are educated to go into the lower-paying jobs. As a solution, Finn proposes that once teachers understand this disparity, they will be in a position to ally themselves with their working-class students and give these students the rich education that they deserve.
In contrast, according to Finn,