Games The Poor Can't Play


Wednesday Bonus Cartoon Fun: GOP Policy Guide Edition

Wednesday Cartoon Fun: Let's Watch The News Edition

Doug Noon On Ruby Payne

Reframing Ruby Payne

i want change

I read Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty before our day-long professional development meeting, and like Anita Bohn, writing for Rethinking Schools, I didn’t know whether to laugh at the stupidity or to rage at the offensive stereotyping of people in poverty. For example, a few of Payne’s 18 “hidden rules” for surviving in poverty (p. 38):
  • I know which grocery stores’ garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food
  • I know how to get someone out of jail.
  • I know how to get a gun, even if I have a police record.
  • I know how to live without electricity and a phone.
Mostly, I was irritated that I would be required to spend a day listening to comic book scenarios, stereotyped bad guys, and make-believe solutions to real problems. In her Rethinking Schools piece, Anita Bohn remarked, “I am still hard pressed to understand why ideas like this have made Payne the hottest speaker/trainer on poverty on the public school circuit today.”

I’d suggest, simply, that Payne’s appeal for teachers and education reformers is the same as Batman’s mythical superhero storybook appeal: A community faces extraordinary challenges which regular institutions fail to address, and a hero steps forward promising to restore order and harmony for the general good. It’s very simple! Find a villain, characterize the threat by deploying stereotypes that ring true for a worried middle-class person’s biases, and suggest a few self-evident solutions. BAM! BANG! A modern myth.

I voiced my frustrations with the book at our meeting before the presenter arrived when we were doing a brief book talk, jigsaw style. My group was chosen to summarize chapter one. All of the people in my particular group had read the book and found it offensive in various ways. We had a pretty animated discussion, and they asked me to be the spokesman. “I’m speaking for the (otherwise all women) group,” I said, because I am a man, and we are better at public speaking than women. Men have more physical resources with our louder voices, and we have more emotional resources due to our assertiveness. We are also more accustomed to being in charge. We have a culture of leadership, you might say.” I had everyone’s attention, mostly smiling.

Payne builds a case for poverty being about more than just economic need, I said, because she wants teachers to take a measure of responsibility for remedying their condition. She presents us with several case studies of supposedly real people in order to exemplify the problems that poor people face, and along the way she tosses out numerous gross generalizations about what she calls a “culture of poverty” and the moral failures inherent in this entire class of people. As in, “The poor simply see jail as a part of life and not necessarily always bad” (p. 22). Or, “And one of the rules for generational poverty for women is this: you may need to use your body for survival” (p. 24).

It disturbed to me that this so-called training was required as part of our professional development. As far as the hidden rules go, I said, what we really need to think about is whether we want to try to fit kids into a sick society or whether we want to work to make the world a better place for them to live.
Ruby Payne on her website and in her workshop handout, describes the research base for her book:
A Framework for Understanding Poverty is a cognitive study that looks at the thinking or mindsets created by environments. It is a naturalistic inquiry based upon a convenience sample. The inquiry occurred from being involved for 32 years with a neighborhood in generational poverty. This neighborhood comprised 50–70 people (counts changed based upon situation, death, and mobility), mostly white. From that, an in‐depth disciplinary analysis of the research was undertaken to explain the behaviors. It does not qualify as “research” against university standards because it does not have a clean
Translation: Ruby Payne made all of this up. It isn’t worth a damn thing, and nobody with any credibility pays any attention to it.

Even with the disclaimer, I cringed when the presenter, who enthusiastically called herself The Billy Graham of Ruby Payne quoted this mind-boggling little hypothetical chain of causality regarding language and cognition as if it was gospel, from Chapter 8, Instruction and Improving Achievement:
If an individual depends upon a random, episodic story structure for memory patterns, lives in an unpredictable environment, and has not developed the ability to plan, then …
If an individual cannot plan, he/she cannot predict:
If an individual cannot predict, he/she cannot identify cause and effect.
If an individual cannot identify cause and effect, he/she cannot identify consequence.
If an individual cannot identify consequence, he/she cannot control impulsivity.
If an individual cannot control impulsivity, he/she has an inclination toward criminal behavior (p.90).
Outrageous! With all of those italicized phrases, I should mention something about what is known as the deficit model. Payne explains (p. 169-176 ) why her approach does not employ a deficit model, even though she says, “When individuals in poverty encounter the middle-class world of work, school, and other institutions, they do not have all the assets necessary to survive in that environment because what is needed there are proactive, abstract, and verbal skills.” She uses the glass half empty/half full metaphor, and calls her “framework for building resources” a way to fill up the glass (p. 173). Even though she calls her approach, The Additive Model, she nonetheless tries to create a rationale for becoming a glass-filler, to implement what Martin Haberman called the Pedagogy of Poverty, which merely preserves the status quo.

Ironic, isn’t it, that “standards-based education reform” applies to curriculum and testing, but not to staff development? “Accountability” is for teachers, I suppose, and not for hired consultants.What we’re seeing is a good example of regulatory capture, in which private interests have hamstrung public institutions with crippling rules, encouraging businesses to contaminate the environment with worthless and even harmful products. Ruby Payne’s framework is a toxic waste.

Many thanks to Paul Gorski for his critical perspective on issues of poverty and social class in education.

Note: this post was slightly edited from an earlier version.


An Anomaly Occurred At Students First!!

(Cross-posted from Students?First)

From Stephanie Rivera, who thought twice after reading about our concerns about StudentsFirst. Stephanie is a great example of someone who actually does the work before forming an opinion. Good for her.
Phew. That was intense.
It’s currently 3:04AM and I just spent the past 2 hours trying to understand why people were attacking  StudentsFirst’s (an educational reform movement) Facebook Page. I discovered SF a few days ago and briefly reading its purpose, I immediately thought–this is exactly what I need to take part of. I was planning to send in my application as a Campus Director tomorrow. Then this happened.

To begin, StudentsFirst was founded in 2010 by Michelle Rhee who is now the CEO. She’s done some fantastic and inspiring work for education. She taught with Teach for America, “created a Youth Cabinet to bring students’ voices into reforming the DC Public Schools,” and founded The New Teacher Project (TNTP).  Evidently, I found her phenomenal, how could anyone attack her and this movement?
So when I was just skimming through SF’s facebook page,  a comment by user “Tee Eff  Tee,” (Acronym for The Frustrated Teacher) caught my eye.
“Wow Amy, with so many silly statements, and erroneous ones, you’d think you would want to learn about the topic before posting.
SF is NOT a good cause. They are causing damage. Damage you don’t see, for some reason I will refrain from speculating on.”
I immediately thought, this guy doesn’t have a real name, he’s just a guy with no life attacking an incredible cause. Yet, then I saw more posts from him. They weren’t anything thoughtless either, there was clear effort. It caught my attention when one SF supporter wrote, “And what do YOU do to make an education change in our system?” And TFT replied: “I left the classroom. I started a blog. I helped with the SOS March. I work with kids with special needs the schools won’t or can’t work with. I interview people on internet radio about education reform.”
Obviously I do not have real proof that his statement is legit, but he does in fact have a blog.
Anyway, these lashing outs from supporters and non-supporters went on for over 55 comments on almost every post on SF’s wall. I was questioning to myself, “Is all I know a lie? There’s no way, this guy is just a fraud. But what if he’s not? I can’t apply or support something I have misconceptions about.” Then finally I decided, enough is enough of these biased opinions. I’ll do the research myself and make my opinion on that.
I watched her “Save Great Teachers” video which I think had a lot of great points. Yet, of course, comments stating her statistics were wrong and other attacks were not hard to find.
I read their Mission Statement, Michelle’s Bio, basically everything that could give me a clearer idea. I downloaded SF’s Policy Agenda. Read the first two pages and was ecstatic she was pushing for better training of teachers and better evaluations. Finding the flaw was a puzzle, I just kept thinking, “I don’t understand, where are these people finding a reason to attack her?” I went back to the FB wall in an attempt to find a more clear reasoning, but this time it wasn’t an attack from TFT, instead a teacher. Take a look for yourself:
 (I know it’s lengthy, so in a nutshell, he is basically questioning where in SF’s movement do they address critical issues in our education system)
There are about 50 more comments like these that address issues that StudentsFirst fails to address such as     the problem with our nation’s emphasis on test scores, he writes,
“The current environment in public schools has devolved to a test-score grind-house…Consequently, students are missing important experiences that…would give students a window onto the world around them thereby informing them and giving critical life experiences that are foundational to developing an ability to evaluate, discriminate, and critically think about problem solving.”
In addition asking how this will fix the achievement gap between those in lower socio-economic statuses. Although I understand this topic can get one with a lot of passion heated, this one made me say “ouch” out loud in this attack to George, an Ohio State Campus Director for StudentsFirst.
The question to you, George, is why you support predominantly low-income children of color being taught by TFA (Teach For America) teachers when research shows they would be better off if those teachers had more training before they’re put in front of that particular classroom. Consider that that middle class white school districts and elite private schools probably wouldn’t hire someone unproven and with only five weeks of preparation you must consider there’s a reason why TFA teacher are in Compton, California, and not in Beverly Hills. In our society it’s OK for low-income black and Latino children to have inexperienced teachers with only five weeks of training. That would never fly in wealthier and whiter school districts.
With about 20 more comments by others and 3 days later, Dave wrote:
George – Do you have any answers to my questions? Are you reading the posts? Or is it that you can’t reconcile the conflict in your heart.
Personally, I think that statement may have taken it too far.
So my final say on StudentsFirst? I’m not too sure yet. I will say it has excellent intentions, but it fails to address serious and primitive issues we have continued to ignore for too many years. Moreover, this  definitely open my eyes and made me realize I cannot take on reform in such a simple manner. Looking back now, I can’t believe I was about to apply for such a serious position without completely researching the facts. I just thought, “Oh, educational reform? It must be legit then!” I guess it’s good I learned this lesson now than later, though.
Of course I am excited that so many people are taking action and care for better education. But I am still new to the complexity of reforms and social change. I can’t rightfully make judgement on something I do not fully understand, so for now I will just continue to advocate the issues I believe need to be addressed. Because in the end, were all fighting for essentially the same thing.
What are your thoughts on this reform?


The State In Which...

Dave Russell on "The Status Quo"
David L. Russell
Status quo, a commonly used form of the original Latin "statu quo" – literally "the state in which" – is a Latin term meaning the current or existing state of affairs. It has become the ubiquitous slogan of the corporatist reform movement to refer to anyone who disagrees with the – “defenders of the status quo.” It is the perfect word for their agenda because in and of itself, it has no meaning. How silly does this sound: ““defenders of the state in which.” But, oh, the images it conjures! Failing schools, destructive union supporters, ineffective old timer’s who drool while sleeping in class, rubber rooms, dances of the lemons, low achievement – all are images set forth and lumped under the slogan “status quo” by the PR arm of the reform movement. So the beautiful people and everyone who agrees with them are “reformers,” while anyone who disagrees with them are “defenders of the status quo.” But, come on folks – who has ever come out to defend failing schools, destructive union supporters, ineffective old timer’s who drool while sleeping in class, rubber rooms, dances of the lemons, or low achievement.

Here is the “status quo” as I see it. No Child Left Behind (test-based-accountability-as-reform that has been the existing state of affairs (status quo) for a decade, and the research continues to show that it’s not working), compelled teaching to the test, excessive test prep, elimination of the arts from schools, unfunded mandates, blackmailing states to adopt unproven changes, inequitable funding between richer and poorer districts, Mile wide – inch deep curriculum, incorrect, incompatible and inconsistent across and within grade level textbooks, and the list goes on.

So who is really defending the “status quo?” In spite of a decade of glaring evidence of it being an abysmal failure, Arne Duncan, refuses to shut this program down, but instead announced last summer plans to grant waivers from NCLB mandates – none have been granted. In August, 2011, Florida reported that 89% of its schools failed to make required Federal NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals. The threat of punitive Federal funding sanctions has compelled districts to force more teaching to the test and eliminate arts and electives from schools and replace these with test prep. Textbook and curriculum writers are not held accountable for much. Although states will place textbooks on their adoption list that demonstrate evidence that the state’s standards are covered, there are no guidelines whatsoever designed to prevent publishers form creating a product that is not a mile wide – inch deep, incorrect, incompatible or inconsistent across and within grade level textbooks, and the list goes on. And the list goes on.

So the next time you hear someone toss out the term “status quo,” remember they are tossing out a name calling propaganda label designed to demonize the opposition and create scapegoats who supposedly defend failing schools, destructive union supporters, ineffective old timer’s who drool while sleeping in class, rubber rooms, the dance of the lemons, or low achievement. But, what they are really describing is the current or existing state of “NCLB, high stakes testing, punitive sanctions, mile-wide inch deep curriculum, and schools devoid of humanities” affairs.

Monday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Hypocrisy Edition

Monday Cartoon Fun: There's A Pony In Here Somewhere Edition

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