There is an obvious correlation with the “racial divide” article by msnbc and Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty. A lot of teachers are taught that this is the end all be all. So, if you adopted, even subconsciously the idea that poverty and being nonwhite are related and that these groups do NOT value education then perhaps you are quick to deny them your best as an educator because you think they don’t deserve more?
Confessions. I never read Ruby Payne’s book A Framework for Understanding Poverty in its entirety while in college. To be honest, I had to put the book down, forgot about it, and I had cleansed it from my memory for several reasons. It’s funny and ironic that several years later an article from msnbc would have jogged my suppressed memories. I chuckled to myself recalling the sarcastic comments I made to myself and fellow soon-to-be-teachers. One comment in particular was the characteristics Payne ascribed to poor people sounded a lot like the characteristics of the extremely wealthy actors and movie stars that society worships like idols. For example, in the book, poor people are painted as dysfunctional. Dysfunction, abuse, alcoholism, laziness are not simply characteristics of the poor. Those same problems are quite prevalent in the middle and wealthy classes . . . but with money it’s easier to hide.
However, even though, I didn’t finish reading the book (thoroughly) as a reader and a writer, I do have some thoughts about the book and they came from correlations I have found in the recent article published on msnbc writers et al, “The Racial Divide: Minority Students Face More Discipline, Studies Show”. The article focused on the “racial divide” in education and discipline. The article presents a lot of soul searching and questions for educators and society alike: How do I treat my students or other people? Do my stereotypes or bias reflect in the way I discipline students or other people?
Another question, (primarily for educators): What does the effect of Payne’s book A Framework have on the way teachers treat their students?
The book is quite popular and used as a tool to address poverty. Granted, it is a book that is unfair in the way it addresses poverty because it does not show the underlining reasons for poverty in a country that used to preach of “dreams of success, pursuit of happiness”, but now resembles the caste systems of India. In India, there is a group called the “untouchables”. The way the poor are described in Payne’s book is reminiscent of the untouchables. For those of you who have read Payne’s book and believed and/or agreed with her ideology, take a step back and ask yourself why you did. Take a step back and wonder why Asians (Koreans, Indians, et cetera) thrive and exceed in school while other nonwhites (Latina/o, Blacks) do not. Stereotypically, Asians are said to be smart in math and sciences and overachievers. Stereotypically, Blacks are said to be on welfare, ignorant, drug dealers, gangsters, and lazy. Stereotypically, Latina/o are into appearances (females – looking beautiful and males virulent “machismo”). Stereotypically, Whites are said to be ignorant to the burdens of nonwhites.
In Payne’s book, majority of her “scenarios” are minorities and the stereotypes abound. Could it be that these stereotypes have been accepted as the truth by unsuspecting teachers and administrators and that like some terrible self-fulfilling prophecy we act accordingly? For example, based on Payne’s book, if a student comes from a poor family it’s expected based on their “culture” that he/she never does their homework and that as a teacher we shouldn’t push for expectations? Or if a student “shuts down” or is “easily angered” it’s expected and just a part of being poor or “black” because that’s how THEY act?
I’m going to say it and I will have no regrets: Racism is still alive and well in our country. It is in our classrooms, it is in the hearts and minds of teachers, parents, and students alike. Moreover with the use of the internet it is much easier to act upon racist thoughts and ideas than it was 10 years ago and yet still appear as if you’re not a racist. In lieu of the Trayvon Martin case, (murder of James Anderson, assault on Allen Goins) no one can deny that there is something . . . wrong. Myriads of ugly comments have been posted on blogs, news article feeds, et cetera because the offenders can hid behind their keyboards and computer screens. For example, why should a father (black) have to teach his son The Black Male Code? And instead of answering the question through analysis and reflection, most people choose to blame the victims. WHAT?!
I don’t have the sole answer as to why schools are failing in our country or in general why there is a decay in values, equity (for all), and justice in a country that once stood for these jewels of civilization. But at least addressing these issues is at least a beginning . . . and the beginning is a wonderful place to start.
Start with this: edchange.org/publications/Savage_Unrealities.pdf