The Payne of Confronting Stereotypes about Poverty as Educators

radical eyes for equity

Several years ago, I invited Randy Bomer to speak at my university and then at the annual South Carolina Council of Teachers of English (SCCTE) convention about the flawed but widely used framework of poverty by Ruby Payne.

After Bomer’s presentation at SCCTE, a woman energetically confronted Bomer, offering an impassioned story of her being from poverty and arguing that Payne’s work resonated with her own lived experiences.

I stood there and watched as Bomer patiently walked her through how her own beliefs about poverty were stereotypes that matched the false narratives sold by Payne. This was an uncomfortable and difficult exchange. But necessary, especially for educators.

This experience was brought back to mind when Nancy Flanagan posted Do Teachers Read Professionally?, which included:

In an earlier incarnation of the course, almost half the teachers (from a single state) mentioned Ruby Payne’s Framework for Understanding Poverty, a book…

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Recommended: Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty, Paul C. Gorski

radical eyes for equity

The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”

Aldous Huxley, The Olive Tree (1936)

While working on a piece for The Conversation US rejecting the increased focus on teaching struggling students (mostly poor, black, Latino/a, special needs students as well as English language learners) “grit,” I came across yet another report on poor students disproportionately being assigned to inexperienced and un-/under-certified teachers (including Teach for America candidates) and the inequitable as well as negative consequences of underfunded and poorly maintained school facilities.

Children in the U.S. are increasingly the victims of inequitable social, economic, and educational circumstances not of their making, and mostly ignored by those with power in the country.

Too few educators and academics, I think, are enraged about that inequity; too few are moved to action even if they are enraged.

And that is a large…

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