The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 II. Setting the Context: My Intentions A. Focus on Payne’s work and positionality in relation to that work, not on Payne, the individual person B. Assume positive intentions in Payne’s work, but don’t assume that positive intentions lead to positive impact C. Raise sometimes-difficult questions in the pursuit of deeper understanding and the elimination classism and racism from schools and society
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 II. Setting the Context: Starting with What We Know A. Decades of documentation on systemic class and race inequities in and out of schools B. Growing concern over Ruby Payne’s work among activists and educators (many people engaging in this critique) C. Increasingly conservative education system – high- stakes testing, standards movement, prescribed curricula, NCLB, growing cost of higher education; socioenomically disadvantaged students and students of color are most adversely affected D. Increasingly conservative public policy, cutting programs for socioeconomically disadvantaged families
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 II. Setting the Context: Starting with What We Know, Pt. II “Poor children bear the brunt of almost every imaginable social ill. In disproportionate numbers, they suffer hunger and homelessness; untreated sickness…; lead poisoning and other forms of environmental pollution…
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 II. Setting the Context: Starting with What We Know, Pt. III “… These same children are assigned, again in skewed numbers, to the nation’s worst public schools—schools in the worst states of disrepair and with the lowest levels of per-pupil funding. Not surprisingly, therefore, poor children as a group lag far behind others in educational achievement” (Books, 2004).
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 III. Introducing Payne’s Framework: The Hidden Rules “Economic realities create ‘hidden rules,’ unspoken cueing mechanisms that reflect agreed upon tacit understandings, which the group uses to negotiate reality” (Payne, 2002, p. 1). Payne establishes her understanding of these hidden rules as they pertain to various values and relationships for people in poverty, the middle class, and the upper class.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 III. Introducing Payne’s Framework: The Purpose of the Framework (1) to help educators better understand the culture that students from families in poverty carry into school with them, and (2) to instruct educators on the importance of and techniques for teaching students in poverty the hidden rules of the middle class—values upon which the public school system is built.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 IV. Conservative Frame: Conceptualizing “Conservative” Aimed at conserving status quo rather than facilitating substantial shifts in consciousness or policy Inconsistent with philosophies of education equity, multicultural education, etc. Consistent with and supportive of a variety of other conservative social and educational policies (NCLB, high-stakes testing, assimilation)
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Conservative Frame: The Critical Context, Pt. 1 Ruby Payne has written in uncritical support of No Child Left Behind. Four-part series for Instructional Leader From part 1: “Do We Really Need the Legislation No Child Left Behind?... The short answer is yes” (2003, p. 3).part 1 This, despite living in Texas, where NCLB’s precursors led were devastating to socioeconomically disadvantaged students and students of color
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Conservative Frame: The Critical Context, Pt. 2 Ruby Payne cites extreme right-wing sources in her work. Staying with NCLB series, she cites: Staying with NCLB series Thomas Sowell (who she also identifies as her “hero”), fellow of the right-wing Hoover Institution and a leading conservative critic of any progressive school reform Thomas Sowell Hernando de Soto, right-wing economist Hannity and Colmes of Fox News
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Conservative Frame: The Critical Context, Pt. 3 Follow the money. Payne has contributed thousands of dollars to the Bush/Cheney campaigns. This, despite the fact that Bush’s policies have been at best negligent toward socioeconomically disadvantaged people A tool: Federal Election Commission Web site (web)Federal Election Commission Web siteweb Note: Not a judgment of intent, but an attempt to understand Payne’s work in context
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Conservative Frame: The Reframing of Poverty, Pt. 1 Conservative Reframing 1: Blaming poverty on what are outcomes of and not reasons for poverty: “Poverty is caused by interrelated factors: parental employment status and earnings, family structure, and parental education” (2001, p. 12) These don’t cause poverty. They reflect the impact of poverty (Rank, 2004).
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Conservative Frame: The Reframing of Poverty, Pt. 2 Conservative Reframing 2: “Culture” or “mindset” of poverty But, “Research has repeatedly demonstrated that those who fall below the poverty line…hold the same fundamental aspirations, beliefs, and hopes” (Rank, 2005, p. 48) as wealthy or middle class people. In other words, research shows that the “mindset” or “culture” of poverty DOES NOT EXIST. Such a focus diverts attention from classism.
Part V: Failure to Address Classism “The principal subject of poverty research…ought to be the forces, processes, agents, and institutions…that decide a proportion of the population will end up poor.” (Gans)
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Ignoring Systemic Classism: The Data Compared with low-poverty schools, high-poverty schools have: More teachers teaching in areas outside their certification; More serious teacher turnover problems; More teacher vacancies; Larger numbers of substitute teachers; More limited access to computers and the Internet; Inadequate facilities (such as science labs);
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Ignoring Systemic Classism: The Data (cont’d) More dirty or inoperative bathrooms; More evidence of vermin such as cockroaches and rats; Insufficient classroom materials Less rigorous curricula; Fewer experienced teachers; Lower teacher salaries; Larger class sizes; and Less funding.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Ignoring Systemic Classism: The Question Ruby Payne doesn’t mention a single one of these “savage inequalities” in A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Can we understand the relationship between poverty and education without considering the ways in which the education system contributes to classism and the cycle of poverty?
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Ignoring Systemic Classism: The Other Question What is the problem?: a) That students don’t know the “culture” of the middle class; or b) That the education system is designed to privilege middle class and wealthy students at the expense of socioeconomically disadvantaged students? Addressing the former without addressing the latter is an expression of privilege.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Ignoring Systemic Classism: No “Power and Privilege” Context Avoids discussion of class power and privilege as they relate to: High-stakes testing Tracking Re-segregation of schools Curriculum Expectations All issues that uphold classist power and privilege structure in schools
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Ignoring Systemic Classism: Agents of Assimilation? What does it mean that Ruby Payne is asking teachers, most of whom are white and middle class, to teach socioeconomically disadvantaged students the “culture” of the middle class? By not addressing systemic classism, is she asking us to assimilate students into the very system that oppresses them?
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 V. Ignoring Systemic Classism: The Effect Allows people from middle and upper classes—people privileged by the education system—to avoid responsibility for classism Can never effectively serve the needs of socioeconomically disadvantaged without understanding systemic classism The “Taco Night” effect
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: What Is It? Explains discrepancies in achievement by pointing to “deficient” cultures and behaviors in a group of people Draws on stereotypes—usually those already socially established So, we address poverty by “fixing” poor people instead of fixing the conditions that maintain poverty Justifies continued oppression
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Stereotype 1 People in poverty are bad parents: “The typical pattern in poverty for discipline is to verbally chastise the child, or physically beat the child, then forgive and feed him/her” (p. 37).
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Stereotype 2 People in poverty are criminals: “Also, individuals in poverty are seldom going to call the police, for two reasons: First, the police may be looking for them…” (pp. 37-38)
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Stereotype 4 People in poverty are violent and “on the streets”: “If students from poverty don’t know how to fight physically, they are going to be in danger on the streets” (p. 100).
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Stereotype 5 People in poverty are unmotivated addicts: “And for some [people in poverty], alcoholism, laziness, lack of motivation, drug addiction, etc., in effect make the choices for the individual” (p. 148).
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: The Invisible Reality Most people in poverty are responsible, hard-working, drug- and alcohol-free, and not “on the streets.” (Also, a majority live in rural communities and are white.) Where are these people in A Framework for Understanding Poverty? Critical consideration: How do we conceptualize “violent”?
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: The Scenarios Most egregious examples of stereotyping and deficit thinking found in Payne’s Scenarios.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: First Scenario Features John, an 8-year old white boy with an alcoholic single mother.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Second Scenario Involves Vangie, an African American woman who dropped out of school, had a kid at 14, three more by the age of 18, and now collects welfare. Her boyfriend has been arrested for assault. Her sister is being beaten by her boyfriend. She just “beat the fool out of” her son, Otis, because he was misbehaving at school.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Third Scenario Oprah, another African American woman, leaves her daughter, Opie, in the care of Opie’s “senile” grandmother and unemployed uncle. Oprah is 32 and has 5 children.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Fourth Scenario Noemi, a Latina who left school after sixth grade, married at 16, then had five kids in eleven years. Neither she nor her husband, who works sporadically, is familiar with the term “encyclopedia.” She doesn’t speak English.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Sixth Scenario Ramón, a 25-year-old Latino drug dealer and gang leader, cares for his nephew, Juan, whose father was killed by a rival gang. Juan’s mother is in jail for gang- related activities. Ramón can’t go to a parent-teacher conference because he’s hiding from police.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Seventh Scenario SueAnn has been married and divorced twice. She’s 33 and a high school drop- out. Her older daughter is pregnant (she had this daughter in high school). Her third husband is unemployed and irresponsible, not wanting to take care of the kids. He was just arrested for driving while intoxicated.
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VI. The Deficit Perspective: Summarizing the Scenarios Do these scenarios represent most people in poverty? Why are 5 out of the 7 scenarios about families of color when most people in poverty are white? How do these scenarios play into the stereotypes people already have about people in poverty and People of Color?
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VII. The Deficit Perspective: Linguistic Deficit Language of students seen as the reason for achievement level Mocking “discourse pattern”: “beat[ing] around the bush”; “circling the mulberry bush”; “meander[ing] almost endlessly through a topic” (pp. 43 & 45) Underlying assumption of linguistic superiority—racist overtones
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VII. The Deficit Perspective: Linguistics: The Reality All language varieties contain formal and informal registers—Payne connects these to specific classes Payne’s simplistic analysis of language registers ignores enormous diversity among people of different classes
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VII. The Deficit Perspective: Other Examples Students need “classroom survival skills” (p. 96) Recommends “training” for parents (p. 95)
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VII. The Deficit Perspective: Implications Reinforces middle- and upper-class notions of “undeserving poor” (Rank, 2004)—as morally deficient Deterioration of public support for effective and systemic anti-poverty social and educational policy Relieves middle- and upper-class individuals’ of responsibility for dealing with their own classism
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VII. The Deficit Perspective: Implications (Cont’d) “… it is all too easy to assign the primary onus of responsibility to parents in [high-poverty] neighborhoods… In a nation in which fairness was respected, children of the poorest and least educated mothers would receive the most extensive and most costly preschool preparation, not the least and cheapest…” (Kozol, 2006, p. 54)
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VIII. Other Points for Reflection Failure to connect poverty and racism Shift from Kozol to Payne
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 VIII. Other Points for Reflection “There is something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds an inner-city child only eight years old ‘accountable’ for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years before” (Kozol, 2006, pp. 53-54)
Part IX: Authentic Framework for Understanding Poverty and Eliminating Classism
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 IX. Authentic Framework: Key Principles Based on understanding of classism in the context of a society hostile toward people in poverty Based on understanding of power and privilege Based on understanding of intersections of oppressions (racism, sexism, etc.) Critical of the “war against the poor” Shift of policy and consciousness as well as practice
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 IX. Authentic Framework: In Practice Know your classism Never make assumptions about students or their parents Address invisibility of the poor and working class and their concerns in the curriculum Make parent involvement affordable and convenient
The Pitiable Poor - WPC 2006 IX. Authentic Framework: In “Bigger Picture” Practice Eliminate structural inequities De-track Challenge NCLB Eliminate high-stakes testing Challenge consumer culture Fight vouchers and choice programs that further privilege the privileged
Discussion Paul C. Gorski gorski@EdChange.org http://www.EdChange.org