By | January 5, 2009
Recently, I read a post by Dr. Scott McLeod at Dangerously Irrelevant on destructive and ineffective consultants.Â I found his post to be a refreshing take on the racket that can be consultants in the school system.Â While there are plenty of great consultants with much to offer, there’s a whole industry of soundbyte educational shills using the system to its detriment.Â One consultant who he had special distaste for is Ruby Payne, a consultant who promotes her beliefs about poverty and how to address it in the classroom.Â I don’t really know her work, although she’s infamous for her assumptions about poor people.
After responding to his post I found myself in a discussion with another commenter and getting clearer about my views on poverty and how to help students who are struggling with poverty.Â It was the commenter’s contention that the why of poverty is more important than the what of poverty, and that society is deliberately keeping poor people poor.Â It seemed to me to be a distraction from the main issue of how to help poor students become successful.Â WHY to me seems like an axe to grind, a meaningless exercise (for the educator) inÂ the blame game.Â Â Â The important thing for the educator isÂ WHAT barriers to success do students bring with them into their experience in the classroom and HOW can we assist them in removing those barriers?Â My response to his comments follow.Â I think it begins to get at what I think is important in educating the poor and why we do it so terribly.
I appreciate your concern for the social causes of poverty. I disagree with your conclusion that “we as a society are purposely (re)creating it.” Focusing on the WHY rather than on the WHAT is actually one sure way to reinforce poverty. It distracts from our mandate as educators, which is to educate and to create opportunity. Our job, as educators, is neither to indict nor excuse maladjustment. Whether we feel badly for children in poverty, whether we think it their fault or ours, whether we think that we should feel a measure of social guilt is irrelevant. Our purpose is to socialize and educate children for success. When that means resocializing because the socialization that the child has received is inadequate, then resocialize… and don’t waste any time about it. The people who can’t do that, should remove themselves from the classroom and school system. They provide better service elsewhere. Sociologists and policy wonks may spend as much time as they like bemoaning society for failing poor people. The educator has a more immediate job… not failing them
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