Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Response to Tough's Article on Ruby Payne

Paul Tough, an editor at the New York Times Sunday magazine, has just published “The Class Consciousness Raiser” about Ruby Payne. (The article is in a NYT Magazine special issue on “Inside the Income Gap”.) It is a glowing and uncritical review of Payne’s work, and in many ways an obvious next article for Tough, after his most recent article for the NYT Magazine, “What It Takes to Make a Student.” I see three big points that should be made up front: Payne’s work is an un-nuanced rehash of scholarship 20-30 years old; the immense popularity of her work signals the complete inability of educator preparation to strongly impact future teachers’ (and administrators’) understanding of issues of race and class; Tough’s write-up demonstrates how marginalized foundations scholars are in impacting the discussions around educational policy and, more generally, classroom practices.

Here’s the context: Tough’s previous article highlighted the middle class skill sets necessary for urban youth to become successful. The defining moment for Tough was when he visited a KIPP school and saw such middle class skills being explicitly taught:

Students at both KIPP and Achievement First schools
follow a system for classroom behavior invented by Levin and Feinberg called
Slant, which instructs them to sit up, listen, ask questions, nod and track the
speaker with their eyes. When I visited KIPP Academy last month, I was standing
with Levin at the front of a music class of about 60 students, listening to him
talk, when he suddenly interrupted himself and pointed at me. “Do you notice
what he’s doing right now?” he asked the class.
They all called out at once,
“Nodding!”
Levin’s contention is that Americans of a certain background
learn these methods for taking in information early on and employ them
instinctively. KIPP students, he says, need to be taught the methods explicitly.
And so it is a little unnerving to stand at the front of a KIPP class; every eye
is on you. When a student speaks, every head swivels to watch her. To anyone
raised in the principles of progressive education, the uniformity and discipline
in KIPP classrooms can be off-putting. But the kids I spoke to said they use the
Slant method not because they fear they will be punished otherwise but because
it works: it helps them to learn. (They may also like the feeling of having
their classmates’ undivided attention when they ask or answer a question.) When
Levin asked the music class to demonstrate the opposite of Slanting — “Give us
the normal school look,” he said — the students, in unison, all started goofing
off, staring into space and slouching. Middle-class Americans know intuitively
that “good behavior” is mostly a game with established rules; the KIPP students
seemed to be experiencing the pleasure of being let in on a joke.


Tough had mentioned Payne in this previous article but not gone into depth. His focus had been on attempting to show that low-income urban youth could be successful, particularly within the context of mandated NCLB requirements. So here he goes into depth on Ruby Payne, the most public advocate with a “theory” behind strategies such as “Slant.”

So let me now get to my three points:
First. Payne’s work is a poor rehash of anthropologists of education and educational theorists such as John Ogbu, Lisa Delpit, and Annette Lareau. Delpit most famously wrote about the seeming divide between African-American and white parenting, teaching, and learning styles (Delpit originally framed it as a Black/White divide and later acknowledged the class issues involved). (Tough, by the way, uses much more recent educational psychological research, which, while strong, still lacks the nuanced understanding of the cultural issues involved.) Whereas such authors (yes, even Ogbu) provided context and nuance to the immense complexity of ethnically and racially diverse youth struggling within school cultures that mirror and reward middle-class patterns of acting and thinking, Payne simply makes the standard “deficit culture” move of stating that the patterns and cultures of the poor (and nonwhite) are the sole responsibility of the poor (and nonwhite). She as such advocates that low-income youth apply a type of “code switching” such that they can fit in and be successful (which is what “Slant” formalizes in the school curriculum). This plays nice to large audiences and our American mantra of individual responsibility, but it ignores and leaves hidden (and thus privileged) a school system that only works for youth who have the requisite SES backgrounds that index a host of qualities (quality teachers, access to test prep, parents who expect college success, etc.) The spotlight, as usual in a deficit approach, points back at the individuals least culpable and least able to change their situation.

Second, I have taught such issues to teachers, principals, and administrators across K-12 education in undergraduate and graduate courses as well as workshops for over a decade. Almost always, my students (just like Payne’s audiences) are shocked to learn about such issues. I, in turn, am shocked by their shock. I came into education through an alternative pathway and as such assume I missed a lot of basic foundational stuff that would have made me a better teacher. Yet these are individuals who have gone through the educator preparation system, taking courses where they should have been exposed to such issues early and often. This lack of impact by educator preparation is atrocious. It signals the marginalized status that such issues have become in lieu of instrumental coursework in methods, instruction, etc.

Third, Tough’s article has a back story (or at least one back story that I am familiar with). I belong to the anthropology of education listserv, where a heated discussion has been ongoing ever since Tough’s “What It Takes” article. In addition to writing letters to the editor (which went unpublished) and compiling resources to refute and expand upon Tough’s claims, several members contacted Tough and initiated a discussion about how he had misstated and misunderstood some of the more important cultural issues at stake. The point I want to make is that Tough, in his most recent article, comes down harshly and disparagingly on the academics who have attacked Payne (and why, I wrote at the beginning of this post, his article is uncritical). This is really frustrating in the sense that a large number of excellent academics could not influence how Tough viewed the issue. And Tough is smart. If top academics can’t make a forceful argument to a top editor at the NYT Magazine over an extended period of time, how can we as foundations scholars expect to do better in an even less nuanced landscape of educator preparation? This is a hard nut to crack. Look at Tough’s disparaging comments:

Payne’s work in the schools has attracted a growing chorus of criticism, mostly
from academia. Although Payne says that her only goal is to help poor students,
her critics claim that her work is in fact an assault on those students. By
teaching them middle-class practices, critics say, she is engaging in “classism”
and racism. Her work is “riddled with factual inaccuracies and harmful
stereotypes,” charges Anita Bohn, an assistant professor at Illinois State
University, in a paper on Payne’s work. Paul Gorski, an assistant professor at
Hamline University in St. Paul, writes that Payne’s central text “consists, at
the crudest level, of a stream of stereotypes and a suggestion that we address
poverty and education by ‘fixing’ poor people instead of reforming classist
policies and practices.” […] You would think that Payne wouldn’t fret about a
few angry assistant professors whose collective audience is a tiny fraction of
the size of hers. But somehow, like gnats at a backyard barbecue, they drive her
to distraction. Each time a progressive education journal publishes a detailed
Foucauldian critique of her book (which she wrote, don’t forget, in a single
week), Payne feels compelled to write in with a paragraph or two in her own
defense. It doesn’t work, of course; the author invariably blasts back with
another extended volley of withering scorn. In the pages of the Teachers College
Record, the rich blond-haired white lady from Corpus Christi is never going to
come out ahead.

Tough is referring to the following article by Gorski here and Payne’s reply. (I must say that for someone with a PhD, Payne’s response is worse than weak.) Gorski’s article, by the way, is deeply steeped in critical theory, not Foucault. But I guess it is still OK to put down an academic by smearing him with the taint of using Foucault. (Sigh, I guess I’m doomed.) The point, though, is that Tough’s literary trope is of the underdog overcoming the critique of academic ivory tower gnats to achieve and succeed and help teachers better understand why their low income kids are failing and allow said teachers to get excited that, nope, it’s not the teacher’s fault but that darn poor culture getting in the way.

So, to end this overlong post, it is deeply frustrating, on many levels, that what foundations scholars research and teach seems unheeded in education schools, top education writers, and our own colleagues. And those who ultimately get shortchanged are this nation’s youth who need K-12 teachers and administrators to better understand how to fix a broken system.

54 comments:

Aaron Schutz said...

This is a great post. One comment.

As interesting as the limitations of Payne are, is why educators find her work so compelling. A book she wrote in almost no time has spun into an enormous consulting factory. Why is it that her answers, in particular, are the ones educators want to hear, the ones they choose to pay for? What does this say about our task as foundations scholars?

Jane said...

I'm glad that you took this on, Dan.

I think that Aaron asks the key question: How she has built this enormous consulting factory when she has so little evidence that her work matters and so little substance beneath what she teaches.

I followed various blogs that were writing about this article yesterday, and people were responding pretty positively, but almost entirely at a "gut" level.

Schools would never allow someone this much influence over their staff if they were coming in with math research this outdated, with anecdotes, with so little evidence that kids actually do better with teachers who take her workshops.

So why does it happen with teaching about class?

I've wondered for a long time if Payne gets so much positive press because she frames her messages about those drug-selling, law-breaking, child-popping poor people in the language of "forming relationships with teachers" and "understanding". It's as if she offers people the chance to be empathetic and yet classist at the same time.


My grad students who have had her workshops speak glowingly about her -- about how much they've learned from her, and they talk about this in my classes where we are talking about justice and equity and school change.

And I wonder if one of the differences between Foundations classes and a Payne workshop is that she's talking about particular kids and we're talking about institutions and cultures and political processes, even as I recognize that that's too simplistic even as I write it.


So, short of never-to-be- published letters to the NYT, how do we get into this conversation in schools? Via our Foundations courses? Yes. But what else can we imagine, even within our own schools and colleges?

Jane

Education and Class

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that the academics in education find Payne so offensive. The best critique I've seen to date is the one that Tough summarized -- that Payne essentially stereotypes classes in America. Obviously, buying into this stereotyping is limiting to a wider view of what is going on with the communication gap between the classes.

At the same time, it has been my experience that Americans typically sweep class under the rug and fail to incorporate it into dialogue on politics and the public sphere. That Payne has decided to make class the centerpiece of her book and seminars is refreshing -- I don't doubt that her readers find it gratifying to see their students in a different light. What's nice, it seems, about Payne is that she's not advocating a systemic theory of change -- she's pointing out a blind spot in American viewpoints and describing some ways in which to detour around it.

So much of education is about motivation and Payne clearly motivates. In a field (education) that hasn't provided much by way of answers to pressing issues in the classroom I think it's plausible to suggest that some feel professionally threatened by Payne's success.

Dan W. Butin said...

Hi Anonymous,

No, I don't think faculty feel threatened so much as frustrated. Frustrated that we teach this stuff and yet make minimal impact (as Jane suggested). Frustrated that Payne's work is so stereotypical that educated educators buy into it because there is nothing better out there in professional development land. To paraphrase Payne's beliefs from Tough's article, do you really think it is valid to say that the poor care only about the present, the middle class about the future, and the rich about the past. Talk about cliches that do not stand the scrutiny of a first-year graduate student.

Which brings me to Aaron's and Jane's comments. If New Orleans works only as a presidential backdrop, then it appears that, yes, Payne gives to the American people exactly what they want: a vision of the poor trying to better themselves without too many details and just enough guilt to fit in a 30-second spot.

I have nothing against Payne per se. I don't know her personally and she is but one of many taking advantage of the professional development circuit. What I dislike is the pronouncement of half truths that hide more pressing issues. I don't tell the teachers in my workshops to teach students to code switch. I teach them how to hold parent-teacher conferences in the local church or community center rather than at school. I teach them to visit the students' homes twice a year. I teach them to create ways for tests to be handed in privately. I teach them how to teach the parents about their rights to qualified teachers. I teach them, basically, to learn about cultural differences in order to teach with and for them. Rather than to hide them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response to my comment.

I appreciate the disdain for cliche and stereotype -- I think you can progress even further down the educational food chain and locate students who would spot these characterizations and be offended by them. Some of these folks even made it into the classroom as teachers ...

What Payne seems to do well is give a context (class) and some examples by which one can figure out how class matters. Is it lowest common denominator? Yes. Does it get some people to incorporate class into an analysis of class dynamics and the student-teacher relationship? Absolutely.

It's this latter answer that I think is important. Before Ruby there were teachers that cared for their kids and stereotyped and characterized the heck out of them -- sometimes to the point of doing actual harm. That will continue after Ruby is long gone and we've all forgotten her book and folksy hokum.

In the meantime, it seems like she is helping some teachers broaden their horizons or, at the least, serve as a reminder of a topic (class) that is often under mentioned in America.

I'd love to drive all the snake oil salesmen into the ocean but for better or worse those folks have done some good for some peope.

Atena O. said...

"What Payne seems to do well is give a context (class) and some examples by which one can figure out how class matters. Is it lowest common denominator? Yes. Does it get some people to incorporate class into an analysis of class dynamics and the student-teacher relationship? Absolutely."

But is this actually helpful? Not necessarily. There is a difference between 1) sparking a critical analysis of class issues in education, and 2) helping people realize for the first time in their lives that class has an impact.

Without a critical analysis, Payne is not only reinforcing stereotypes (without any acknowledgment of how potentially dangerous that is), but she is selling stereotypes to teachers as is an effective way to help their students. She encourages teachers to take the path of least resistance, suggesting that their students just need to learn how to act right, implicitly suggesting that there is nothing wrong with the system.

Payne's appeal is just that: a solution that makes teachers feel as though they've had a revelation, which requires little introspection or reflection on how their behavior might possibly contributing to students' lack of success. Any diversity training worth paying for inevitably makes teachers who are white and middle-class (which most teachers are) feel uncomfortable, because they are made to realize that everyone participates, willingly or unwillingly, in the system that prevents certain students from succeeding. People don't like to feel uncomfortable. Ruby Payne promises a kind of diversity training where you don't have to feel so uncomfortable, but still get to solve your problems.

So, Anonymous 2:08 pm, I guess my point is that you appear to be confusing the fact that Payne awakens people to class differences with her actually doing something productive about class differences. Awareness does not equate action.

And the actions that she suggests do not address the disease, but rather, the symptoms. Spreading around flu germs and then selling TheraFlu to people does not equate good medical treatment.


Atena

Duane Campell said...

I came to this blog following a link and I am delighted to find this discussion of the work of Ruby Payne. The intro says some people are using her writing in social foundations courses? Wow. Yes, it does seem to have been written in a week. I wrote a critique of her work in my book, Choosing Democracy, (2004) and will soon be re writing this.
A few notes. She starts her discussion of class with citations to Michael Harrington. Michael was a friend of mine. She does not understand the work of Michael Harrington and her references are not based upon scholarship.
She clearly says in her workshops that she is middle class- and she is. And, like middle class reformers for decades, she has positive intentions.
But, she has re introduced the "culture of Poverty" argument and made it popular-again. Remember, it was popular last time also.
Her writing on Rueven Fuerestein, to my understanding, projects his work far beyond the original work. Using concepts from mental disability research to describe class differences is more than a stretch. She offers no evidence to support this over extension.
Teachers I work with also find her presentations "exciting". How do others de construct her work?

croomdog said...

I just exited a truncated Ruby Payne seminar, and although Ruby herself didn't actually attend, it left a feeling that Googling her could only alleviate. I walked out of the seminar thinking "How can you remedy the classism in public education by perpetuating classist stereotypes?"

You foundations scholars definitely have a point, and it is not lost on young teachers like me (this will be my 2nd semester). It is our jobs as educators to challenge societal iniquities, and Payne's work only seems to reinforce them. On one Powerpoint slide we were shown that if an individual "has not developed the ability to plan," then they "cannot predict," "cannot identify cause and effect," "cannot identify consequence," "cannot control impulsivity," and are therefore inclined to "criminal behavior." This slide was presented in an inservice designed to help us understand the culture of poverty, and in that context, it was completely offensive, not to mention grossly inegalitarian.

Nevermind that none of Payne's work is peer-reviewed; this is standard fare for the field of education. But, without the slightest hints of irony, our presenters made repeated generalizations about poor people and assumed that their audience constituted a "traditional middle-class" environment. All of these efforts superficially hinted at ferreting out ethnocentrism, without even employing the concept, and being very ethnocentric in the process. Moreover, institutionalized racism and the deliberate legal policies that enforce and nurture poverty were never addressed (and of course, nor was founding this country on a history of racism discussed).

From a purely practical perspective, we didn't end up with too many classroom solutions. Our moderators kept telling us there was no "silver" or "magic bullet," and either advocated ignoring patently disruptive behaviors and distracting the other students' attention from the offending student(s)...or figuring out for ourselves what would be appropriate.

But how can you acknowledge these problems without a discussion about institutionalized racism and classism? I never had the chance to bring up that people in poor neighborhoods often don't even have grocery stores to go to, and have to make do with liquor stores stocked with heavily processed, unhealthy foods that lead directly to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes; and that much of the junk food that is readily accessible in lower-income neighborhoods is even funded by our government (anything with high-fructose corn syrup). No one ever mentioned the lack of equal access to healthcare, daycare, lawyers, money lenders, or creditors. I left feeling that this was like covering a smoking crater that has been embedded in our country from the beginning with a band-aid.

Until we motivate social change (which Payne's work is obviously stalwartly against), problems with institutionalized racism and classism will continue to permeate public education. As long as we continue saying "White people do ____," "Black people do_____," and "Poor people do ______," education will be a self-fulfilling prophecy driven only by the stereotypes and lowered expectations that Payne-contrived teacher inservices create.

Finally, remember that there is no biological basis for class, and especially race--human groups always have more genetic diversity within them than between them, unless you're talking about particular families. Antiquated research, I guess, is the least of my concerns when I think of Payne's work. "Deeply insulting to poor people" might be a better way to describe my reaction, as an anthropologist and teacher.

Jerry said...

I am always amazed how it seems that people miss the point of Payne defines poverty by the presence or absence of 8 different resources. She herself states that if a person lives in poverty by simply being financially poor but has resources in the areas of: Physical, mental, support systems, spiritual, positive role models, and knowledge of the hidden rules, then they are less likely to possess the patterns of poverty of which she speaks. As a trainer in the school district for which I work, I can tell you, workshops on cultural diversity often result in anger and frustration. I have called trainers of different organizations to see how they conduct their training. Organizations I have called are, Exxon, YMCA, YWCA, Energy Companies, Best Buy, and some others. My question to the person I talk to is, “When you do presentations on cultural diversity, do you go a mile wide and an inch deep or an inch wide and a mile deep?” (Shallow information vs. deep discussions) The answer I have repeatedly received is, “A mile wide and an inch deep. Cultural workshops are difficult to conduct and Ruby Payne has mastered the ability to discuss sensitive topics. The proof is in the pudding not in the writings of the scholarly few. People buy her book, listen to her words, believe in the message because many of them have been there. Many of them have walked the road of which she speaks. I AM ONE OF THEM. THE SCHOLORS DON’T UNDERSTAND ME OR THE “STEROTYPE” I GREW UP IN. The barrios hand shake will not be accepted at a bank or a five star hotel. That may be classicism, stereotyping, judging, hard to hear or what ever but the bottom line is that the scholars don’t get the look of non-acceptance, I do. “If one argues her validity while using a different definition of poverty, the argument it self is not valid.

Anonymous said...

I think the criticisms are true in as much as people seem to be reading her as trying to "fix" anyone. However, in her books she states that the goal isn't to fix anyone -- it is merely to give kids who aren't exposed to middle class values a chance to succeed in a place where those values are the expectation. Not just school, but our society.

Someone wants to give me the "code" for the wealthy class and let me have a shot at it? I'm down for that! I say, bring it.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at the vitriol directed at a woman who has spent her life trying to make a difference. One simply cannot argue with her assertions - all you have to do is look around at our world. She sees it (thank God) not from an academic viewpoint, but from a common-sense humanistic viewpoint. It's obvious she has not spent her life in pursuit of PhD's but in classrooms, where she actually learned about class, instead of reading it in academic journals.

She is constantly under fire from the academic community for using anecdotal methods in her work.

Indeed Ruby Payne is very anecdotal, a strategy that has been utilized by several fairly well known and respected teachers over the years - among them: Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, Mother Teresa - well, you get the point. As a taxpayer, I am proud to have my tax money go to someone who is spending their life making a difference. It's a shame she has to fight and defend herself from bureaucrats and academic critics to help the rest of us.

When I was a child my Mother taught us that little people talk about people, average people talk about things, & big people talk about ideas. (Notice that Ruby Payne is talking about solving huge problems in our society, and the small people - as most on this blog - are talking about Ruby Payne)

Mom also taught us that it's not hard to separate the big people from the little people: big people are the people who are doing - taking action. Little people are criticizing them for it.

My mother is proving to be a smart woman.

Bob: worldwide teacher (22 countries so far)/human being/ student of humanity

Luke said...

Ruby Payne's work seems to portray people in poverty as monolithic and stereotyped - poor people (she seems to mean african americans when she says this) speak in casual register with a 500-800 word vocabulary, and have twisted and tangled familial relationships, etc. I do not believe this to be intentional, however. Nor do I believe she means to portray those in poverty as being completely responsible for their own situation. (They don't value education, their time frame ignores the future, etc.) It is very easy to interpret her work as such. I simply find her book to be a clumsy and unimaginative portrayal of the issues and limitations faced by those in poverty. She sees trends among such people (fighting ability is valued, money is shared when you have it, etc) and I believe takes liberties with her extrapolations. It seems, however, that her critics take their own liberties with their own extrapolations, attributing much more to her than I believe she is deserving - both positively and negatively. Essentially, I feel that Ruby Payne's work is worth reading, but is probably not deserving of the attention it has gotten.

Mr. Heller said...

As a teacher of students with behavioral/emotional disorders, almost all of whom come from poverty, I constantly struggle to figure out who they are and how I can help them. Ruby Payne's books are not only helpful and insightful but comforting as well. After 16 years of teaching this population I long for rebirth through understanding. Payne give me a litte of this.

If I could sit down and have a conversation with Ruby Payne, I would ask her how do we get students to break out of generational poverty when there seems to be no desire to do so. My students see how hard I work. I explain to them that what my family of four budgets for food is about half what they recieve from the government for food in a given month. If I have to go to the emergency room, it is followed by a bill because I don't have a state provided medical card. I explain to them about student loans (so that everyone can go to college)and how you have to pay them back.

My students think I am foolish for working so hard for so little. It is the middle class value set. Why would my students want to switch classes? And if I am not trying to help them break out of poverty, then what am I doing?

CPaige said...

I'm currently taking a class where the main text is Ruby Payne's "A Framework for Understanding Poverty," and we have been asked to review the side of Payne's critics. In reading Payne's book and the posts on this site, it is hard to state that someone is right and the others are wrong. When I read Payne's book, I would read something and think, "Wow! How insiteful!" Then, in reading this, I would read something that one of her critics had to say and think, "Wow! That's a valid point!"

I am an ESL teacher, and worked for 4 years as an ESL teacher in an inner-city school before getting an ESL job in a suburban district. In either job, I still am working with the same kinds of students. While I saw a lot more poverty in the inner-city, my students here are still the impoverished students in the district. In both instances, I could apply some of what Payne states and some of what her critics are saying in my teaching.

No matter what I read, I refuse to think that there is a simple solution that will help every student to be successful. I think if that were the case, we would have found it already and NCLB wouldn't be such an issue for so many schools. In the end, I ultimately believe that a truly good teacher takes the time to know her students and figures out what will work to help them. With this belief, I think that Payne's work can be used as a reference to helping students living in poverty, but I do not think that it should be seen as the cure all for all the issues of students living in poverty; nor should any other resource or educational theory. Some of her ideas may work for some students and not for others depending on their situation. It is the teacher's responsibilty to figure out what works in order to help her students perform to the best of their ability.

Beetle Juice said...

There are some thought provoking posts about Payne's work and while I disagree with some of them, there are others that I believe are right on. I question how black or white Payne makes poverty and middle class appear. Is it really that simple to say if you are poor you believe and value these things, and if you are middle class you believe and value those? How is a teacher supposed to teach a student how to navigate the middle class world without making him think the world he lives in is bad or wrong? While I appreciate Payne's work and her desire to improve the education of students of poverty, I will continue to research the topic looking for more research-based ideas.

Beetle Juice said...

There are some thought provoking posts about Payne's work and while I disagree with some of them, there are others that I believe are right on. I question how black or white Payne makes poverty and middle class appear. Is it really that simple to say if you are poor you believe and value these things, and if you are middle class you believe and value those? How is a teacher supposed to teach a student how to navigate the middle class world without making him think the world he lives in is bad or wrong? While I appreciate Payne's work and her desire to improve the education of students of poverty, I will continue to research the topic looking for more research-based ideas.

Mrs. Sims said...

I disagree that Payne is a racist or classist. In the first chapter of her book, she defines the terms she uses and clears up any miscommunications or oversimplifications. I agree with Payne’s definition of poverty as an “individual without resources.” Especially since she goes on to say those resources are financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, having support systems, positive relationships/role models, and the knowledge of hidden rules. Had she classified a resource as color of skin, then I would agree she is a racist, but she lays a solid premise for her beliefs and provides helpful advice for educators trying to educate students who don’t have access to resources. I don’t agree she is a classist because her entire mission is to help educate those students in poverty to move them out of it.

I believe Payne is willing to put herself on a limb to say the things that need to be said (there are class systems and people who are in poverty rarely move out of it). I understand the academic scrutiny, but for those of us in the classroom, with students living in situations that are unimaginable to most of us, anyone who offers hope for those kids and strategies to help them should at least be given some credit.

janine said...

If we truly want all of students to be successful in today's society of higher education, we need to recognize that Payne's work is not racist or demeaning to our students, but rather a tool to help our educators guide our children to be successful. If our society demands the use of and comprehension of formal register (as Payne stated when discussing the language used in standardized tests in the United States in her book, "A Framework for Understanding Poverty") then we need to make sure that our students are able to understand and use formal register regardless of socioeconomic status.
Are those of you that suggest reforming our system rather than educating every student suggesting that we write our SATs and GLEs in casual register? If we hope and expect our students to carry on to college and graduate school, we need to make sure that they are leaving with a foundation to support them-whether it coincide with the Hidden Rules of the Middle Class or not.

micheleh said...

As I read through the postings, I found several worth commenting on.
Atena said of Payne;
"She encourages teachers to take the path of least resistance, suggesting that their students just need to learn how to act right, implicitly suggesting that there is nothing wrong with the system."
Atena- Payne encourages teachers to try rather
than just throw up their hands. She offers concrete methods to try.
Anonymous said and I agree-
"she is helping some teachers broaden their horizons or, at the least, serve as a reminder of a topic (class) that is often under mentioned in America."

Additionally, Payne acknowledges there is much wrong with the system. She argues that the deficit theory and the fix it policies that imply there is something lacking about people of poverty do not serve the community as a whole. She feels that by using the additive model, we will reach a point that "individuals will no longer believe poverty is inevitable."

Croomdog said of his experience at Payne workshop-
"No one ever mentioned the lack of equal access to healthcare, daycare, lawyers, money lenders, or creditors." I was sorry to hear that the workshop lacked this key component of Payne's Framework. Payne points out that families in poverty lack equal access to basic services and that this is part of the hidden rules among the classes.
Croomdog also said
"Until we motivate social change (which Payne's work is obviously stalwartly against), problems with institutionalized racism and classism will continue to permeate public education."
As I mentioned above Payne, aspires to the kind of social change that envisions a day when poverty in not an inevitable state. I feel Payne's analysis of classism is very realistic. It does not place a value on one class over another but acknowledges that the rules of the middle class are the rules by which public education takes place. It is not classist to teach those rules, while accepting the rules of the class in which the children live.
I think Jerry said it most clearly-
"The barrios hand shake will not be accepted at a bank or a five star hotel. That may be classicism, stereotyping, judging, hard to hear or what ever but the bottom line is that the scholars don’t get the look of non-acceptance, I do. “If one argues her validity while using a different definition of poverty, the argument it self is not valid."
Well said, Jerry.

micheleh said...

Wow! I love the dialogue going on here. I have been reading Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” for a graduate class. I have found it to be very insightful. Some of it, I already knew and have put into practice, but other parts were definitely “aha” moments for me. A few thoughts on the ideas shared here:
Anonymous said, “She's pointing out a blind spot in American viewpoints and describing some ways in which to detour around it. It is merely to give kids who aren't exposed to middle class values a chance to succeed in a place where those values are the expectation. Not just school, but our society”
I do agree she is pointing out a blind spot in American viewpoints, one that as Anonymous suggests “Americans typically sweep class under the rug and fail to incorporate it into dialogue on politics and the public sphere.” I however disagree that she is not advocating systemic change, in “A Framework…” Payne says “We fervently hope that by 2100 individuals and society at large will no longer believe poverty is inevitable. It is only by applying this additive model (so nice explained by anonymous) that we will understand and address both poverty and the underlying factors that have perpetuated it.”
Jane writes:
“And I wonder if one of the differences between Foundations classes and a Payne workshop is that she's talking about particular kids and we're talking about institutions and cultures and political processes, even as I recognize that that's too simplistic even as I write it.
They talk about this in my classes where we are talking about justice and equity and school change.”
I think the exciting thing about Payne’s work is its goal is to effect change one child at a time, with the long term goal of changing institutional and cultural views of poverty and its inevitability. Jane, I believe this is why your students get excited about Payne.

Dan writes:
“I teach them how to hold parent-teacher conferences in the local church or community center rather than at school. I teach them to visit the students' homes twice a year. I teach them to create ways for tests to be handed in privately. I teach them how to teach the parents about their rights to qualified teachers. I teach them, basically, to learn about cultural differences in order to teach with and for them. Rather than to hide them.”
Dan, I applaud you for these practical solutions. I think these are just the sort of ideas Ruby Payne is advocating when she talks about building relationships with our students and their parents.
Croomdog writes of his experience at a Ruby Payne seminar:
“No one ever mentioned the lack of equal access to healthcare, daycare, lawyers, money lenders, or creditors.”
Croomdog, I am surprised to hear that facilitators at a Ruby Payne workshop would not incorporate the inequity of services to the poor. Payne addresses the lack of resources available to the poor in her discussion the eight necessary resources; financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, support systems, relationships/ role models, and knowledge of hidden rules.

Finally, I have great admiration for Jerry’s comments, particularly:
“The barrios hand shake will not be accepted at a bank or a five star hotel. That may be classicism, stereotyping, judging, hard to hear or what ever but the bottom line is that the scholars don’t get the look of non-acceptance, I do.”
That as Jerry put it “is the proof in the pudding.”

Heather and Ben said...

It has been very interesting to read all of the comments. I was pleased to read comments made by classroom teachers and special education teachers. I am a special education teacher working with children with emotional behavioral disorders. All of my students live in poverty. I myself grew up in a home that was in poverty.
Someone mentioned that those in poverty only think about the present. It is not that we don't want to think about the future; it is not the focus. You are living day by day to make ends meet. You don't think about what you will be doing in a month or a year from now. You think about what we will eat for dinner today, how will I feed my children, will we have heat tonight.
As a teacher, I see this in many of my students. Payne's book offered many insights to their backgrounds. The hidden rules-yes, we do live in a middle class society. If a student comes from a family with generational poverty, they may not ever be exposed to those rules. I found the formal register vs informal register as my biggest "aha" moment. After reading about the way a student in poverty may tell a story it makes sense. The thoughts are disorganized and the stories go in circles. I have witnessed one of my students telling stories like this.
I am not saying others aren't right as well, but I am agreeing with those that say Payne offers insight. She helps us develop an understanding of the life these students may live and the resources that they may have been exposed to. Our job as teachers is to accept everyone and teach everyone. We need to learn their backgrounds to be effective teachers.

LF said...

After reading Payne's book and doing some reflecting on her work, I looked at some of the opinions offered by her critics. While I can see some of the points that the critics are trying to make, I have to say that I think that they are missing the overall point of her framework. I don't think that she wants to stereotype or promote classism. I think that she just wants to make us think. If we can try to be more understanding, we can avoid being frustrated and bringing that with us to the classroom. I think that if the critics could take a closer look at her additive model instead of focusing on "stereotyping" people into classes, it could be helpful. We need to focus on the things in her framework that serve to help those in poverty. Whether we like it or not, the SAT's, GRE's, job interviews, etc....are in the formal register. If we don't do everything that we can to "add" in some skills to help our students be successful in those realms, then we are doing them a disservice. If we sit back and say "change the system", then we will be waiting a very long time. Some of the critics seem to indicate that looking at the causes of persistent poverty blames the victim. I don't get any sense of blame from Ruby Payne's work. I think that she does look to understand, not blame. In fact, I think I had the opposite reaction when reading her book. I think that after reading her work, I understand more and blame less. With understanding about attitudes, comes additional compassion. I think that this understanding is what Ruby Payne's work is about.

Janette said...

I am taking class in which we have used Ruby Paynes’ book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, as our text. Before reading this book, I had my own biased view of those in poverty. Since I grew up in a middle class family and went to Catholic schools from K- 12, I had very little interaction with those in poverty until I began teaching. I saw these students as unmotivated, disrespectful, not caring about school, and having parents that were uninvolved in their child’s education. This book was a huge eye- opener for me. Once I began teaching in a public school, I began to realize that not everyone grows up like I did, but I saw it as a choice. I never took into consideration the lack of resources. Where some feel that Payne stereotypes those in poverty, I found her explanations of behaviors that you may see in these students to be very helpful. I had many “aha” moments while reading her book, and it helps me now to look at every student as an individual and take into consideration what resources they bring (or are lacking) when they walk into my office. Her suggestions that she gives in her book like “code- switching” to move from casual register to formal register and needing mentors/ role models are concrete things that we can do in our school to help these students. Teaching students formal register and having role models/ mentors will help students from poverty learn the “hidden rules” of middle class, and in essence help them be successful in school and the workplace. The fact is that schools, and frankly the nation, work from a middle class view. Where is would be nice to say that those in poverty do not need to learn the middle class “hidden rules” and we need to fix the whole system, the reality is that this is not going to happen anytime in the near future and we can’t let these students fall through the cracks because the system is broken. Instead, to help students that don’t have the resources that the middle class students have, her suggestions are very helpful for those in education who were before frustrated and at a loss of how to help these students. One thing that I recognized as I read everyone’s comments was that many people have differing opinions of Paynes’ views, but we cannot deny that the book has at least drawn attention to a topic that badly needed to be addressed to help ALL students in schools. Whether you agree or disagree with Payne, hopefully this book and all of the discussion around it will be catalyst enough to begin to change the whole system.

rbergquist said...

I have enjoyed reading the enthusiastic responses to how the framework created by Ruby Payne opens minds and rejuvenates educators to look from alternative angles at meeting students needs. I myself have incorporated more humor as a direct result of what I have read and already notice improved rapport with my students. I also maintain strict boundaries, but appear to be more approachable. The students enjoy and relax with a little humor while acknowledging and understanding high behavioral and academic expectations. I see the validity in Ruby Payne’s framework, some areas more than others and I would be interested in more research and evidence that supports her observations. I am disappointed in the people who dismiss the work altogether and even criticize that it is stereotypical. I am disheartened to hear educators feeling so jaded. Maybe this is why Ruby Payne’s framework seems refreshing and enlightening. There are generalizations that sound evil when labeled inaccurately as stereotypes, but I would encourage people to keep an open mind when considering the hidden rules, put them in your tool box, and adapt to some awareness that just might benefit learners

Scrump said...

I too am taking a graduate class in which Ruby Payne's A Framework is the main text. She does have some great insights for working with students. The discipline chapter and using the "adult voice" could apply to any student. As I read, I found things that I said, "yeah, I could use that to better relate to my students."

However as I read the book some things didn't sit right with me. First off, her book assumes that those from poverty need to learn "middle class" rules to get out of poverty. I think it's true to an exent, but it's overdone. A person can survive in the middle class without knowing how to get children into piano lessons or how to set a table. Just as someone thrust into "wealth" could survive without knowing how to read a menu in French. On the other hand, someone thrust into poverty might have to learn very quickly how to survive without a car or running water. It just importance of all the rules don't seem to jive.

Some of the hidden rules of class are important though. For example, learning to use Standard English is important if one wants to get into college or a "middle class" job. Payne does however simpify the "casual register" a bit. She says it's the language of "survival" and that it doesn't have significant "vocabulary," "syntax," or "sentence structure" (p.28, 4th ed). Linguists have found in the studies of dialects of English, Black Venacular English, in particular that "informal" English actually has complex syntax and sentence structures. The problem is that is still non-standard and not the language of Academics. The thing is the structures of the "informal" language can be a jumping off place for teaching "formal" language. I don't think the "casual register" needs to be dismissed. (See "Becoming Adept at Code Switching" by Rebecca S. Wheeler, Poverty and Learning, Vol, 65, no. 7).

Finally, I might be cynical but the Fourth Edition seems to advertise her "aha process!" a great deal. I couldn't help but think I was being sold something.

I didn't mean to ramble on or to bash Payne. I did, like I said, find useful material from the book and I agree with rbergquist if you find something useful, use it.

Kara said...

I found as I read through this article and the subsequent posts that there were many points that resonated with me. I agreee that Payne's "rules" are a little simplistic and realistically many families that we consider to be in poverty in fact have many skills attributed to the middle class. As the author of the post above mine points out, Payne ignored the fact that black dialect is recognized by linguists and does have defined rules.
I do however find that overall her work has benefitted me as an educator. I better understand my students and their attitudes. I understand the need to overtly teach my students the formal register and appreciate Payne's approach that there is nothing wrong with casual register (her critics would say otherwise) - it is just not the language of school and work.
Payne's work is a starting place for dialogue for educators. It opens up in an honest and non-judgemental manner the topic of class in America and how it impacts education. For that, it deserves a look and dare I say, respect.

JennK said...

I just finished reading Ruby Payne's book. I find that she is very courageous in stating that classism does exist and there are hidden rules to each class. Lack of success is always blamed on the educational system. If the system is unaware of all the hidden rules that exist within each class, how in the world are we supposed to help? Being aware of these rules, can only help educators know what to teach. If society, as a whole, runs on middle/upper class values, then those are what we need to teach these children, so they have a chance to experience success. Moving from one class to another requires certain skills. If one wants to attain certain things in life, they need to know how to go about doing such. This book has helped me as an educator. It has taught me rules exist that I didn't even know about. Now that I am aware of the various rules, I can help students from all classes to achieve their goals.

KarlaM said...

I have just finished the Ruby Payne book on "A Framework for Understanding Poverty." I was shocked to read various blogs to see that Payne has numerous critics. I have been teaching childen living in poverty for 23 years. I found the book very insightful. The "hidden rules" section will be very beneficial to me as a teacher. I know she has many critics because her research is limited. I also know that she feels that people in poverty rarely "get out" due to lack of resources. I also read Eric Jensen's, "Teaching with Poverty in Mind." I came away with many new strategies to try in the classroom. I feel both books have useful information for me to use in the classroom.

Mrs. Steinke said...

Payne's book on "Understanding Poverty" has left me with far more understanding of the people of poverty and their circumstances. It is quite a revelation that her book has had such an enormous impact in educational circles considering she uses anecdotal evidence, not conducting typical research.
As a teacher, I do believe that many things can be learned, and regarding ways to be successful in the classroom, those steps can be taught, too. They just may take longer to be acquired by some students than others, but that is true of almost anything. Students coming from homes that do not value education, know where to obtain resources, pay attention, complete homework, and so on, can be taught these things. Perhaps it is a form of classism, since these are concepts normally valued by the middle and upper classes. However, if these are the steps needed to be successful in the world, it would seem that educators would want to teach these to all their students.
Payne does not make any distinctions among students from different cultures, and today's classrooms are dotted with children from all over the world. Different cultural norms also can have an impact on students and their success in the classroom.
Other authors have also written about some of the ideas Payne proposes, one example being "Teach Like a Champion" by Doug Lemov. He also emphasizes building trust with students as key to successful learning. He promotes teaching students to learn to think critically; he expects the best from his students, and "sets the bar high." I feel these and many more techniques are vital to being successful in the classroom, and are strategies teachers can learn to use if they are not currently doing them. (Lemov also feels that excellent teachers will lead to the best learning.)
While Payne's book taught me many things about poverty that I had never thought about, my challenge will be to educate my fellow teachers and administration about the lives and expectations, or rules, known by persons of poverty. Most of my colleagues are as ignorant as I had been, and exercise middle class values and expectations with their students. Examples include the assumptions that all students have a quiet home life and place to complete assignments, the desire to complete assignments, a parent to support their children in learning, getting to a library, and so on. It will be an uphill process for me to enlighten fellow educators about the obstacles many children in my school must overcome, if in fact they ever can overcome them.

lerubin said...

It seems to me that much of Payne’s work addresses the symptoms of poverty rather than poverty itself. Her ideas seem to state that middle class/ wealthy ideals represent the “ correct” way to live and that we as educators should attempt to get people in poverty to endorse and succumb to our way of living. She seems to ignore many salient issues, especially in her view on academics. She does not acknowledge our limited resource, the problems of limited parental involvement and the struggles teachers face to adequately meet our students needs. Payne often refers to teachers as role models and she places a huge responsibility on the teachers to build social skills in children. However she neglects one important detail – most children love their parents, regardless of their parents faults or mistakes and most children are therefore much more likely to imitate the actions and behaviors they see at home. Most children still view their parents as role models, whether they engage in appropriate behavior or not. For example, I work with my students frequently on alternatives to fighting. Through this work, often times I can help the student to see why physical fighting is an inappropriate emotional response. However I have seen countless situations where the advice that the student receives at home directly counters the approach I took at school. Often times parents will encourage these students to fight. We then have to examine the situation and figure out who the student is more likely to look up to and listen to – their teacher or their mom? The majority of the time the student follows parental advice, no matter how wrong or dangerous it might be. Therefore as powerful as our role is, we cannot replace the parent.

Furthermore, I think it is a mistake to pretend that classism does not exist – our society is governed by “ middle class rules”, if one defines these rules as respecting adults, taking responsibility and seeing the value in education. In order to be successful in life all students, whether growing up in poverty or not, need to conform to certain societal rules. I think it is a mistake to assume that schools should change their focus to accommodate misbehaviors. Instead I think our role is to help all of our students develop the necessary skills to succeed in this society, no matter what the hidden rules are.

Lindsay R

lswan said...

I just finished reading Ruby Payne's book "A Framework for Understanding Poverty" for one of my graduate courses. I can honestly say that as I was reading this book I had a lot of eye opening moments. The most eye opening moments for me were when I was reading through the table of hidden rules among classes. As I was reading through the table I kept saying "yes, that makes sense" . It really helped me understand people living in poverty and what they have to go through every day. Most of all it helped me understand the children growing up in poverty and what struggles they face everyday. I think it's important to remember how big of an impact we as teachers have on children and their futures. I agree with Lindsay R when she states how important it is for us to teach children all of the necessary skills they need to suceed in this society, no matter what the hidden rules are.

Lauren S

Janie said...

As many of you stated, I too just completed reading Ruby Payne's, "A Framework for Understanding Poverty" for a graduate course I am taking. I was not offended by Payne's description of the classes. I don't believe any attribute applies to all poor people except that they are poor. Payne says her work is based on patterns and that all patterns have exceptions.
I work with many poor students and have some understanding of the obstacles they face. Payne draws attention to many points about poverty that can enable educators to better understand students and provides useful strategies such as code-switching. It is important to value what the child brings but it is also important to help them learn to function in a country with middle class values.
Her critics, which seem to be many, say her teachings represent a deficit model; this implies she sees poor students as needing "fixing". I didn't get this impression at all. In fact, the forth edition which I read has a detailed explanation of the additive model which the aha! Process, Inc. utilizes. She states that "nobody likes deficit labeling" and that she can not defend such a model.
Payne has also been criticized for her lack of research. She does not claim to be a researcher, however she does include some statistical information in her book. It seems Payne is about building awareness an d providing options. Critics say she is advancing real ignorance about poverty. While some of her statements seem simplistic, I do think she provides some insights useful to teachers.

Steve said...

I agree that Ruby Payne’s book was very enlightening. Teaching in a school where more and more of our students are coming from poverty, the book really shed some light on why some of my students may act the way they do. I certainly do think it is fair to assume that all students in poverty act the same way because of their current situation. However, many of the things Ruby talks about in the book I see in some of my students. I think the way Ruby Payne generalizes the different classes warrants some criticism. I actually learned a lot about what it is like to live in poverty and have a greater empathy for my students. I think the book can be used as a good tool for educators to understand the mind-set of students who live in poverty. It reinforced to me how important it is for me to build real and meaningful relationships with all my students. It is very important that I learn as much as I can about the experiences and struggles of all my students so I can use that knowledge to better educate them. Ruby Payne’s book is not an end-all, but it is just one more tool educators can use when trying to meet the needs of all our students.
Steve

Michelle said...

Payne believes we need to spoon feed people in poverty. That it is not their fault. But they need to take some of the responsibilities for their actions, not always V]Whoa is me. Michelle Podolsky

Anonymous said...

I would define Payne as a realist. She offers realistic ideas from someone who has worked in the classroom setting for many years and doesn't promote her ideas as the result of having earned some fancy degree. She offers explanations that are practical to the classroom teacher.

While her definitions of poverty, middle class, and wealthy class living are not as black and white as she makes it seem, her critics are far too easily offended. Are the hidden rules she describes not mostly accurate? I believe so.

Anonymous said...

I find it thoroughly amazing that in this day and age Ruby Payne's theoretical framework to cure the ills of poverty is so widely accepted. Especially since at no time does she address the causes of poverty and continues to blame the victim. How can we as educators, who claim to be advocates for all children allow the status quo to be maintained? With all of the work done on classism, and critical race theory available there should be a major paradigm shift taking place.

Anonymous said...

I find it thoroughly amazing that in this day and age Ruby Payne's theoretical framework to cure the ills of poverty is so widely accepted. Especially since at no time does she address the causes of poverty and continues to blame the victim. How can we as educators, who claim to be advocates for all children allow the status quo to be maintained? With all of the work done on classism, and critical race theory available there should be a major paradigm shift taking place.

Erin said...

Payne's book was very educating in the way children grow up in poverty. In working with children every day, it has opened my eyes to the daily sturggles they may have. It has also helped me to have a better understanding of them. I can be more aware of how to educate them and help them be successful.

Erin said...

Payne's book was very helpful in educating people on how children grow up in poverty. I work with children every day. It has been a resource in understanding the children I work with. I have a deeper understanding of how to educate them and help them to become successful.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently taking a class on poverty and I finished reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty. After reading all the negative and postive comments about Ruby Payne, I'm not sure what to believe. Ruby believes that students will do better if they learn how to speak the "formal register" as the middle class, but teaching students of poverty how to speak and write formally is hard. Most of the students have parent who don't speak the "formal register" to their children.

I have more reading to do about Payne and her theories.

Anonymous said...

For a teacher who is middle-class Ruby Payne offers many ideas for input strategies, designing lesson plans, and conceptual frameworks for a teacher who is attempting to learn more about students who live in poverty. I;m not completely convinced that the idea of "hidden rules" holds merit but as a teacher I'm going to benefit from the concrete strategies she suggests for addressing specific problems.

David said...

While I understand the concerns about Payne's work, many of her points hold merit when looking at our students. It seems that anyone who is successful gets attacked. In her book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty she emphasizes the need for understanding by all people no matter socio-economic status. How can one argue with that?

Anonymous said...

People argue with it because the woman has based her ideas on outdated data. Data that comes from a time period of prejudice and racism.

David said...

Whatever data it is based on, I find her ideas and suggestions to be accurate often and do not see the prejudice at all. Much of her work suggests increasing sensitivities toward others. If we are increasing our sensitivity and understanding of others, that will lead to more positive teacher-student relationships.

teacher21 said...

I have just finished reading the book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty and it was a real eyeopener for me. In the school district I work for, we only have a handful of students living in poverty. However, those families are using the resources available to them. I find Payne's work to be slightly stereotypical. Families living in poverty are not all the same. However, her ideas are beneficial for those teachers working in high poverty areas.

teacher21 said...

i just finished reading the book A Framework for Understanding Poverty and it was very insightful for me. Working in a school with only a handful of students at the poverty level has not allowed me to understand poverty fully. I understand the attacks on Ruby Payne's work, however, overall her goal is to help students living in poverty to reach their full potential. It is a fact that our country runs at a middle-class level and in schools it is a necessity to educate students to that level.

Erin said...

Gorski and additional critics on Payne do have merit because the stereoptying limits our wider views of what is taking place in the lack of communication between classes. Stereotyping is what causes the bias in the classroom and as a result discrimination in some aspect. We as teachers do not have the same level of expectations for those students. If you have high expectations for all your kids and they will rise to meet the challenge if there are certain things in place. The stereotyping is where the critics have a point. Gorski believes poverty is the result of gross inequities in “systemic conditions” such as health care, high-quality schooling, access to living-wage jobs, safe and affordable housing,etc. Payne believes poverty results from personal deficiencies in poverty level people. As a result, people living in poverty have a higher rate of unemployment, work for low wages, live in lower income housing which may be substandard. When I was reading Payne, I could place some of my families in similar scenarios as were described. Although it was helpful to apply/evaluate the different resources, and to read the different descriptors or examples, they had a negative connotation to me. I know how hard some of my families work to improve "things" in their lives and they are still in poverty. This idea gives merit to the critics of Payne.

Anonymous said...

Gorski and additional critics on Payne do have merit because the stereoptying limits our wider views of what is taking place in the lack of communication between classes. Stereotyping is what causes the bias in the classroom and as a result discrimination in some aspect. We as teachers do not have the same level of expectations for those students. If you have high expectations for all your kids and they will rise to meet the challenge if there are certain things in place. The stereotyping is where the critics have a point. Gorski believes poverty is the result of gross inequities in “systemic conditions” such as health care, high-quality schooling, access to living-wage jobs, safe and affordable housing,etc. Payne believes poverty results from personal deficiencies in poverty level people. As a result, people living in poverty have a higher rate of unemployment, work for low wages, live in lower income housing which may be substandard. When I was reading Payne, I could place some of my families in similar scenarios as were described. Although it was helpful to apply/evaluate the different resources, and to read the different descriptors or examples, they had a negative connotation to me. I know how hard some of my families work to improve "things" in their lives and they are still in poverty. This idea gives merit to the critics of Payne.

Pedsnurse said...

Just finished "a Framework for Understanding Poverty" by Ruby Payne and found it very informative. As far as Payne v. Gorski they each make a lot of valid and interesting points in regards to poverty. I especially like how Payne explains the differences using the hidden rules among classes. In the book she uses many scenarios that help you see faces of poverty in different situations. I feel that I have a much better understanding of low income children and their families after reading Payne.
Working in a small rural area I feel Gorski's "Myths of the Poverty Culture" do not cross over as well. His myths on the culture of poverty make sense but seem to be more appropriate to a large urban area. I feel Gorski's most important fact is not to use deficit theory by teachers.
Back to Payne, the use of formal register is so important no matter what class a child is from. If they want to be successful in school and the work place formal register is a must.

Anonymous said...

As I read through the many comments listed here, I realized that whether for or against Payne's views, everyone brings up valid points based on their perspective. Like lswan, my eyes were opened as | read through the book. Not because I necessarily agree with everything Payne writes but because she is just putting it out there. Is it classist? Maybe, but I don't think she means harm. Is it racist? Could be, if the reader assumes things based on their own perspectives and experiences. As educators we have to acknowledge (not believe) the trends we see in front of us. We all gather information and perspective from our experiences and use those experiences to help our students. Realistically, what are we helping these students do in school? Are goal is usually to help children survive in the society that we live. Payne didn't create those societal rules we teach, but she does put what some people are thinking down on paper. Some of these things Payne points out may be true for 90% of the students that sit in front of you each day. Some aren't true for any of them. Isn't it better to be exposed to various opinions and possible truths? Personally, I like to absorb as many theories, opinions and perspectives as possible. It's all relative. What's important is that you use the information to make this world a better place.

Anonymous said...

As I read through the many comments listed here, I realized that whether for or against Payne's views, everyone brings up valid points based on their perspective. Like lswan, my eyes were opened as | read through the book. Not because I necessarily agree with everything Payne writes but because she is just putting it out there. Is it classist? Maybe, but I don't think she means harm. Is it racist? Could be, if the reader assumes things based on their own perspectives and experiences. As educators we have to acknowledge (not believe) the trends we see in front of us. We all gather information and perspective from our experiences and use those experiences to help our students. Realistically, what are we helping these students do in school? Our goal is usually to help children survive in the society that we live, right? Payne didn't create those societal rules we teach, but she does put what some people are thinking down on paper. Some of these things Payne points out may be true for 90% of the students that sit in front of you each day. Some aren't true for any of them. Isn't it better to be exposed to various opinions and possible truths? Personally, I like to absorb as many theories, opinions and perspectives as possible. It's all relative. What's important is that you use the information to make this world a better place.

Anonymous said...

Ruby Payne's critics certainly have valid perspectives. Her work is largely observational, true. It is more comfortable to base our practices in science and change our beliefs based upon tried and true research. I'm not entirely sure, though, that discounting her work based upon lack of scientific method is advisable. Very little worthwhile day-to-day human interaction is rooted in research, after all.

Like many past posts, I believe every student (person) is an individual that will never fit perfectly into a pre-established framework. Paynes "hidden rules" cannot possibly apply to each person in their respective class assignment. I do think, though, that these broad generalizations are thought provoking and upon reading them I found myself relating these rules to individuals I've previously taught or known. Her rules simply provide a different lens through which one can consider individual behaviors and values.

I, too, found her work reflected those in poverty negatively. It seemed insulting to suggest that something about a person in poverty was "broken" or required repair. I'm not convinced that impressing upon a person the "rules" of the middle class improves them in any measurable way. The idea of available resources being integral to a person's growth, however, does resonate.

Her focus on the teacher-student relationship is central in her approach to teaching those in poverty. The sentiment that a person can help shape a person is a driving factor for many professions, teachers included. I believe her work can promote understanding and may encourage teachers to present alternative methods and behaviors to help students in poverty further succeed.

CrystalG said...

Of course there is always someone out there to play "devil's advocate". Sure Ruby Payne's work is based off of a lot of observation, but does this make her wrong? I could relate to a lot of situations that Payne talked about in her book "A Framework for Understanding Poverty". Of course all of the hidden rules don't apply to each and every person, but I feel the accuracy of them is incredible. It all makes sense especially when I think back to some of my students living in poverty. I love how Payne emphasizes that these students need positive role models and emotional support. She wants educators to understand where these kids are coming from. In my eyes, Ruby Payne is trying to put the needs of students first and what can be done so they can learn to their full potential. How can you argue with that?

JJensen said...

After reading Ruby Payne's book "A Framework for Understanding Poverty," I am left with a better understanding of my own students. Many critics of Payne's work argue that she stereotypes children in poverty and "blames the victim". This was not my impression at all. Having been in the classroom for 15 years, it goes without saying that I have taught students who, from the outside, appeared to simply lack motivation and know-how. Payne helped me to realize that because of the hidden rules of middle class, I was projecting my own middle-class mores onto my students. Ruby Payne also offered ways to counteract the negative situations that many of our low-socioeconomic students are forced to face on a daily basis. It now makes sense why many of my students do not respond to the "usual" (middle class) motivators of receiving a good grade, maintaining a promising GPA, or preparing for college. Some lack the knowledge of how to achieve these accomplishment; they need us, their teachers, to guide them toward success.

Ruby Payne provides quizzes that test the reader's ability to survive in each socioeconomic class were particularly eye opening for me. When taking the quiz for surviving in poverty, I only checked three boxes; I ticked zero boxes in surviving wealth. I did, however, check every box of the middle-class quiz. These quizzes do not attempt to categorize all people into quiz questions, per se, but they do offer insight into why some people from varying financial backgrounds respond differently in similar situations. These prompts do not impact or explain every student in poverty, nor does Payne indicate they do. They simply offer a “jumping off point” for staff discussions and teacher self-awareness.

Payne's book also forces the reader to ponder an important societal conundrum: How does America eliminate poverty? Education equality is one of many solutions this issue, but, ironically, school districts inadvertently reward kids from higher social classes. If this book can positively impact the way a teacher or school district connects with students, why vilify it? In 2014, it is naive to think that class disparities do not exist, or that a strong standardized test scores will fix the future. We also cannot solve problems that we refuse to honestly address. The gap between the rich and the poor is a glaring American issue today. Education provides the necessary tools to free students from the grips of poverty, but only if we can reach these kids who need us the most. Ruby Payne reminds teachers of the positive influence they can have on their students' lives. One good teacher can foster a child's "future story", which, essentially, changes the course of that student's life for the better.