Poverty, Values, and Why I Don’t Like Ruby Payne

I have training as a philosopher, but I pay my bills through my employment at a Community Action Program, working with the homeless.  Unsurprisingly, working on the practical side of a field in which one has lots of theoretical understanding can be as frustrating as it is rewarding.  I certainly wouldn’t expect any of my coworkers to be able to summarize Rawls’ Difference Principle (let alone trace the connection between A Theory of Justice, Johnson’s Great Society, and the subsequent CAPs that were a result of the Economic Opportunity Act), but their lack of interest in foundational issues in economics, politics, and ethics sometimes shocks me.  Recently, I had an especially polarizing experience with my co-workers when I was required to sit through the Bridges out of Poverty workshop, based upon the book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, by Ruby Payne.

If you are not involved in social work, you may be unfamiliar with the work of Ruby Payne, which is primarily based upon anecdotal observations about the "hidden rules" of social class.  Despite the fact that Dr. Payne’s "research" is widely dismissed even by sociologists for its lack of methodological rigor, the revelation that poor people have different attitudes about food from rich people appears to be profoundly enlightening to some people, at least if anecdotal observations of my co-workers is any in indication (maybe I should write a book).  To be fair, the Bridges Out of Poverty program is well-intentioned, at least as far as I can tell.  Though after a seven-hour workshop I was still unable to identify a single explicit foundational principle or specific directive, the implicit theme seemed to be that people in different classes see the world differently, and the general directive seemed to be that we should be sensitive to that fact in our work with the indigent.

The polarizing moment came when talk moved to values. After spending the better part of a morning listing less-than-revelatory observations about how poor people view violence, bedtimes, school performance, and other aspects of everyday life, the speaker cautioned us that these views were not good or bad and the program was only meant to inform us about the different ways in which people in different classes view the same issues.  I raised my hand and commented that this seemed like a bit of an exaggeration.  "Surely," I said, "we can appreciate that a person living in the inner city has reasons to fight or sell drugs, and we can still make a value judgment about why that behavior is bad."  I was met with polite nods, but nobody seemed to appreciate that my comment was a subtle criticism of the myopic relativism of the program.  I tried again after lunch.  The speaker said explicitly that we were not there to make judgments about the values of the different classes, only to learn something by observing their differences.  This time I was more explicit.  "But, surely," I blurted out, "we all know that this program and the work that we do is biased toward the values of the middle class.  I mean, we may understand why poor people don’t value education the way middle class people do, but we still make a judgment that education is valuable, and we push that value to our clients."

This time I was met with blank stares.  Several of the other participants volunteered less-than-useful responses which belied the fact that they really didn’t understand my point.  Each response was some version of,  "But, poor people really do want the same things as middle class people, they just don’t have the tools/knowledge/resources to achieve those things!"  After succeeding in annoying everyone in the room, I waited until break to take up the issue privately with the speaker who nodded sympathetically when I explained that debate about the empirical effectiveness of different means to the same end is not the same thing as a genuine difference of values.  "Insofar as there is a genuine disagreement about values, I don’t think that any reconciliation is possible," I said, "But, don’t get me wrong.  I think most people value similar things, which is why outreach programs are useful.  We aren’t teaching people to value different things, we’re teaching them better means to their ends."  Again, I was met with a blank stare, but, perhaps believing I agreed with her, she nodded and walked away.

As I tried to explain to my coworkers, my objection to the Bridges Out of Poverty program is not an objection to the implicit middle-class value judgments that give social work its motivating force.   For the most part, I share the same values as my coworkers, and I share the intuition that most of the practices that we push through education and outreach are attractive to our clients precisely because they share those values as well.  (Of course, this is another way of saying that I don’t really believe that class plays a major role in determining values in this first place.)  My objection is to the absurd and contradictory combination of explicitly stated relativism and implicitly assumed objectivity that is pervasive in the work of Ruby Payne and the people who follow her.   And, it maddens me that so many people in social work seem to miss this rather simple point:  Either values are objective, or they are not.  If values are objective, then they are not relative to class.  Also, if values are objective, then there is a fact of the matter about how people should behave, and we absolutely can and should make judgments upon people who fail to promote objective values.  If values are not objective, then it is silly to argue about them.  The only discussion worth having is about which actions are more efficient means to the promotion of values, not about the values themselves.

Though I find the contradiction between explicit relativism and implicit value objectivity worrisome, I have a pretty good guess about why it is so pervasive in my field.  On almost every level, education and outreach work is based upon the assumption that the poor have some control over their poverty.  Political activists can organize strikes, mobilize voters, and publicly denounce economic policies that create and maintain class disparity.  Social workers take on clients who have very few resources and try to improve their condition by giving them information alone.  We may privately believe that poverty persists because of huge variation in the distribution of political and economic power which will never be altered by changes in individual behavior, but our job is to reassure people that they will be able to get out of poverty if they work hard, follow the rules, and take advantage of the meager resources provided by public welfare programs.   Unfortunately, the belief that hard work and education will get you out of poverty implies that individuals who aren’t getting out of poverty are either not working hard enough or are ignorant about the resources available to them. It’s a hard truth, and nobody wants to admit it, but discussions about why different classes value different things are pointless.  The discussion we need to have is about why different classes have different things.  Community Action Programs like mine were founded upon a very simple, value-driven principle:  Poverty is a bad thing.   We don’t need a framework for understanding it.  We need practical strategies for ending it.

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77 Responses to “Poverty, Values, and Why I Don’t Like Ruby Payne”

  1. CW Says:

    Read your blog post twice. Wow! First time I’ve read about the topic. Enjoyed reading this very much. I’d be interested in knowing more about specific values & worldviews as it relates to class. What other theories or philosophies exist, and your view of them. I’ll definitely be pondering this for awhile.

  2. James Gray Says:

    After arguing on the net, teaching, and tutoring philosophy, I can honestly say that it can be very difficult to get a point across. People aren’t used to thinking about philosophical issues like this, so they usually have no idea what is going on even if you try to explain it to them. “Relativism” and “objectivity” aren’t incompatible in most people’s mind. They just think “relativism” requires us to be tolerant. I think that was the main point that they wanted to give everyone.

    Of course, relativism could lead to inappropriate tolerance and strange beliefs and behavior, so it could be perfectly rational to try to point out the absurdities involved.

  3. pekein Says:

    poor poor liza..trying to argue philosophy with social workers… keep tilting at those windmills buddy;) love ya.

    • Tsitra McKay Says:

      I am SW who just had the misfortune to read a chapter of BOP for a research project to see if it is a viable model to Toronto high priority neighborhoods and I am appalled as are my colleagues. For me , it is not a matter of arguing philosophical beliefs like “revivalism” and “objectivity” it is about morals, ethics,classism and bias. It is about perpetuating oppression through “middle class values” and top down paternalism. It is about placing the onus of responsibility of poverty on the individual and not addressing the systemic causes. I actually feel ill from reading BOP and look forward to my first “workshop” as part of my research so I can challenge and expose this “training model” for what it really is. I hope I can manage to get through the next few pages…

  4. Clouser Says:

    Paragraph 2, sentence 2: “…even by sociologists….”

    Ha!

  5. Marcia Says:

    I would be very interested in learning just what Liza believes would be “practical strategies for ending it” (poverty). Haven’t the effects of the government’s programs (Welfare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, WIC, etc) really just created a culture of co-dependency?
    When wrestling with this whole notion of poverty, I keep thinking that education is the key. But as an educator, I don’t feel that our current educational system is meaningful for alot of students, let alone those coming from a background of poverty.
    So what’s the answer?

    • James Gray Says:

      Marcia,

      as an educator you should know that it’s “a lot” and not “alot.” Other than that I agree that education is pretty atrocious in general.

      When you say education is the key, that means that education is currently inadequate and needs to be improved. The fact that it is currently inadequate is a huge problem and contributes to poverty.

      The economy has a lot of problems other than education as well. For example,

      1. The world’s resources are being divvied up by the rich and then sold back to the rest of us. We can’t all just work the land or be hunter/gatherers to have “self sufficient” lifestyles anymore in part because the world’s resources are no longer shared by us all.

      2. Our basic needs can easily be met with only part of the population working and we don’t always want to buy a bunch of crap we don’t need. So, the fact that people can’t always find work is pretty inevitable.

      3. The rich people on top have all the cards and get the government to bend to their will. Education and helping the poor is not a high priority with this set up.

      4. Investigative journalists, whistle blowers, philosophers, logicians, and so on aren’t people with “money making” careers. People don’t care much about intellectual achievement or ethical behavior, so the capitalist system has little to no use for people who have these interests. To have a proper education people will have to value intellectual activity, ethics, and wisdom to a much greater degree.

  6. chris Says:

    I am a middle school teacher completing a class based on the “Framework” text. I find it interesting that so many people have such strong opinions about the observations and suggestions made in the text. I read the book cover to cover and think Payne has accurately described many of the students in my classroom. I have read other blogs where critics claim Payne owns her publisher, threw the book together without having thought it through and others who vehemently disagree with her using her anecdotal observations as the basis for statements that educational communities view as gospel. If you reference the works cited and bibliography of the text you see reputable sources that support the concepts Payne has observed. Unless you have experienced teaching a math concept to a classroom of 25 11 year-olds with various backgrounds, prior knowledge and expectations, you have no idea of the practical implications of Payne’s work for the day-to-day life of educators. Her text is meant to shed some light on what teachers need to do to provide equal access to academic success for all students. Don’t sell teachers short. We are smart enough to gleen what we need from any speaker to help all kids be successful at school and in life.

    • James Gray Says:

      I think we should sell teachers short when they really are doing something wrong. Our high school education is awful and probably holds many people back rather than actually furthers their education.

      Your post in no way proves your qualifications. You said you agree with Payne and Liza made it pretty clear that she thinks Payne endorses some sort of moral relativism. Do you agree? If so, is Payne correct to be a relativism?

      If you reference the works cited and bibliography of the text you see reputable sources that support the concepts Payne has observed.

      I don’t know that you can observe concepts, but I take it that you think that she succeeds in an “appeal to authority”? This is a famous logical fallacy unless it is done properly, which it usually isn’t. A reference doesn’t prove anything unless done properly. Did she do it properly?

    • Jim Says:

      It just is not true that there is a significant body of research that supports the assertions made by Payne in her self-published, completely lacking in peer-review, Framework. On the contrary, there has been a great deal of criticism from the people who actually do research in this area. Even a cursory search would show this. For example:

      [In Payne’s] descriptive scenarios, the poor are generally depicted as having a weak work ethic, little sense of internal discipline or future orientation, and leading lives characterized to one extent or another by disorder and violence. In making these characterizations, Payne seems to be unaware of the many studies dating from the late 1960s that challenged the culture of poverty thesis, in many instances directly testing the extent to which traits such as these were more prevalent among the poor than other groups. By and large, these studies found that such characteristics were not more likely to be evident in poor individuals or households. Indeed, people in poverty valued work, saving money, behaving properly, maintaining stable families, and a number of other “middle-class” attributes as much as their counterparts in higher social and economic strata. These results, moreover, held across groups with experiences of differing duration in poverty and across racial and ethnic lines (Roach & Gursslin, 1967; Irelan, Moles, & O’Shea, 1969; Coward, Feagin, & Williams, 1974; Davidson & Gaitz, 1974; Abell & Lyon, 1979; Carmon, 1985; Jones & Luo, 1999). . . . Most educators . . . are unfamiliar with the extensive research literature on poverty and its effects on children, and if Payne’s citations seem to support their own views about the poor, they would hardly be in a position to challenge the interpretation of research that Payne offers. If they are predisposed to believing that the poor are lazy and impulsive as well as unreliable and temperamental, they are more likely to agree with Payne’s analysis than to question it. In short, Payne may be popular simply because she echoes commonplace assumptions about why some individuals appear to succeed in American society while others do not.

      (from “Poverty and Education: A Critical Analysis of the Ruby Payne Phenomenon” by Drs. Jennifer Ng, Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas, and John Rury, Professor at DePaul University)

      No one here is “selling teachers short.” That’s as ridiculous as the assertion that one can “gleen (sic) what we need from any speaker to help all kids be successful at school and in life,” which is clearly absurd as not just any speaker has anything to say that is worth hearing. A speaker who spreads bad information has nothing to offer beyond problems. One need not “have experienced teaching a math concept to a classroom of 25 11 year-olds with various backgrounds, prior knowledge and expectations” to know that anecdotes presented as evidence should be considered as no such thing, especially when such runs explicitly contrary to genuine research that utilizes appropriate methodology and is vetted by the peer-review process.

  7. KWU Says:

    I am taking a class in which we have read the book by Ruby Payne, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I’ve read some of the critics remarks as part of further research on the topic.
    Some of the critics say she doesn’t have any substantial basis for her book, as they are mostly from anecdotal stories and being married to a man formerly of poverty. I must admit, when I read that part of her introduction, my eyebrows did raise a bit. My husband is a police officer, and frequently, people will ask me questions about the law or some incident which took place within the city, involving the police. I joke that they must think I know the information by osmosis! I do not know the law inside and out, simply by being married to a police officer. I may have, however, heard him talk about something involving the law and be able to give a more educated guess than if I were not married to one. Likewise, I can hear the stories of the individuals he deals with, recognize names rather than faces, and yet all I can really describe to anyone fully is what it’s like to be the wife of a police officer, rather than a police officer … because I don’t live the life.
    In that, I give merit to both sides. Ruby has heard the stories and has obviously noticed patterns and put them together in a schema relating to poverty. At the same time, she has only heard the stories from her husband’s life and has not truly lived the life of poverty herself. She may know more and be more able to give an educated guess than most of us. Perhaps had she acknowledged that in her introduction and throughout her book, the critics would back off some. That may reconcile the seemingly opposed positions.

    • Jim Says:

      The critics would not have backed off had her opinion been based on personal experiences as she would still be moving from such anecdotal evidence to generalized law-like assertions. The problem is that anecdotal evidence is always subjective and untrustworthy. That’s why real scientists don’t use anecdotal evidence. Further, the actual scientific studies done for the past fifty years directly contradict much of Payne’s anecdotes.
      There is no way to reconcile Payne’s ill-based opinion with the large body of legitimate research that stands explicitly opposed to it.

    • kelley Says:

      I too read the text by Ruby Payne for a class that I am currently taking. I have been a teacher for about 13 years in an urban school district and had many “ah ha” moments will reading her book. I agree that we need to give merits to both sides. There are a lot of discussions about Ruby Payne and how she is engaging in class systems and racism and how she wants to fix the students and families in poverty. When reading the text, I did not get that impression from her work. I took it as she was stating that everyone fits under one of the social classes and if a student falls into the lower social class he will have a difficult succeeding in the classroom because of the behaviors and characteristics of students in poverty. I think we need to take her information and use it where it can help us with our students. Her goal isn’t to fix anyone, but to give kids who aren’t exposed to middle class values a chance to succeed in a place where those values are the norm, whether it is in the school or out in the world of working. If our society requires the use of formal register, then we must look at using the formal register in our classroom and teach those hidden rules so our students can be successful.

      • Jamie Warchol Says:

        I agree with you Kelly when you said to take her information and use it where it can help us with our students. I know that after reading Payne’s book I felt as if I had a better understanding of where my students were coming from and what might be happening at home. I feel more prepared to help these students in my class now having read her book. In no way did I take her approach as being stereotypical or not viable.

  8. Paul Gorski Says:

    Interesting discussion.

    I think one point that’s being missed in the philosophical discussion is that Payne’s work is just plain inaccurate, as are some of Liza’s statements. Actually, it’s not at all true that poor people don’t value education as much as middle class people. There is a body of scholarship going back to the 1970s challenging this notion. Nor is there evidence that poor people are more violent than wealthy people or middle class people, unless we define “violence” in ways that relate almost invariably to a poor, urban environment. (Poor people don’t start wars. Poor people don’t lie about the effects of nicotine. Poor people don’t swindle seniors out of their life savings. Poor people don’t swindle their own employees out of their life savings and insurance.) Payne asserts that drugs and alcohol are poverty-related problems, but wealthy people are more likely to abuse alcohol and equally likely to abuse drugs as poor people.

    I find it fascinating, philosophically speaking, how often this point is missed in a discussion about the merits of Payne’s work. It’s just plain inaccurate. And, as Jim has pointed out, this point has been made over and over and over. But people defend her work by saying, quite ridiculously, that they can relate to it. Well yes, we’re socialized before even looking at Payne’s work to believe that poor people are deficient–that their poverty is an outcome of their deficiency. This, for instance, was the function of Reagan using the term “welfare queen” over and over and over in his 1976 and 1980 bids for president. In ’76, during his losing bid for Republican endorsement, he often made up stories about so-called “welfare queens,” blaming them for virtually every social ill in existence. This excused him from having to address the problem that poverty even exists in the wealthiest country in the world and the a lot of systems, including a grossly inequitable education system, are designed to keep that cycle in place. Payne’s a capitalist riding the wave of popular neoliberal discourses to the bank. She makes more than $15,000 per day delivering workshops about poverty. She’s not thinking at all about relativism.

    Payne’s “culture of poverty” paradigm is not new. Actually, it was introduced in the early ’60s by Oscar Lewis and was debunked–proven to be completely baseless–by the early 1970s. There is no such thing as a culture of poverty, unless you believe that poor white Appalachians are the same culturally as poor Somali refugees. The whole idea is ludicrous. The fact that, despite its debunked-ness, the culture of poverty paradigm remains the dominant way in which poverty is discussed in social work and education circles is a scary commentary on social work and education, mostly because it contributes to the deprofessionalization of these sorts of professions. And people go along because it doesn’t challenge their sensibilities. Engineers don’t build bridges based on models that were proven ineffective and sure-to-collapse forty years ago. But we do this in education (my field) all the time.

    To Liza’s bigger point, though, I think the tension you describe exists in virtually every conversation about issues like poverty, race, gender, and so on. One cannot disrupt hegemony with hegemony.

    • Liza Says:

      I don’t disagree with what you have said, Paul, which makes me think that there has probably been some miscommunication on my part. To your point about violence specifically, I think the main issue is that the wealthier you are, the less likely you are to be the one throwing the punch, pulling the trigger, getting knocked out, getting shot, etc. Of course, if you look at every violent enterprise from the military, to any black market, to the prison-industrial complex, you will find that rich people are instrumental in it and stand to gain the most from it, no surprise there. (Now, this only speaks to one kind of violence, I can’t speculate much about domestic violence because there are a lot of other issues there that make research a bit more difficult.) Much the same is true about drugs and alcohol. Poor people may be less likely to drink than their wealthier counterparts and no more likely to use drugs, but they are certainly more likely to suffer health problems as a result of their prolonged use due to lack of adequate healthcare and treatment/rehab options. They are also much more likely to get prosecuted and imprisoned for drug-related crimes than are their wealthier counterparts. So, just to be clear, even if poor people are no more prone to violence or drug and alcohol abuse than their wealthier counterparts, they are certainly more negatively affected by violence and drugs.

      Now, as to what you said about my inaccuracies, I would like it if you could be specific about what I have said that is inaccurate so that I can address it and correct it if that is appropriate. “Poverty culture” may be about as useful as something like “American culture” in that there are many’ many different types of what might, loosely, be called “poverty cultures” from Appalachia to Somalia, and of course, if you go into those areas, you will find that there are lots of distinct cultures. So maybe the term isn’t particularly useful in picking out one set of behaviors, norms, mores, or attitudes. That being said, from my work with the homeless in Western Pennsylvania, I can tell you that there are distinct cultural differences between white people from coal-mining towns, black people from Pittsburgh, and recent immigrants from the Carribean, all of whom I encounter with regularity, but there are also some similarities among the people I meet at the shelter that are not shared with the students at the college nearby, even though the geographic and ethnic demographics are similar. I think that it’s fair to say that the similarities that these culturally distinct groups share are highly correlated with their economic circumstances.

      • Paul Gorski Says:

        Liza,

        In your own post you suggested agreement with the idea that poor people don’t value education as much as middle class people and that Payne’s information poor people’s views on violence, education, and so on weren’t revelatory. If they weren’t revelatory, doesn’t that suggest you already (thought you) knew the information she was providing? The fact is, there is no single way that poor people view anything. This is one of the key problems with Payne’s model as well as the way in which many people are socialized to view difference. So what you suggested you already knew about poor people–their views on this or that–is inaccurate.

        Yes, of course poor people are more likely to suffer long-term effects of alcohol or drug abuse (for the small percentage of poor people that abuse either substance–as it’s not a majority of them) due to a lack of access to healthcare and so on. But that’s the point. Their lack of access to healthcare has nothing to do with their culture. It has to do with oppression and repression. It’s something that’s done TO poor people. Payne’s work doesn’t acknowledge that sort of thing at all. Instead, she suggests that alcoholism and drug addiction are a common part of the cultures of poor people, which is simply untrue. And it’s not only untrue, it’s oppressive in the way it directs the mass scornful gaze down the power hierarchy and toward the least powerful people in the U.S. And by doing so she protects those who gain from war, from the prison industrial complex, and so on. Actually, as somebody who makes tens of millions of dollars each year doing poverty workshops, she protects herself.

        I would agree that the “culture of poverty” term isn’t useful. But more than that, it’s inaccurate. It’s only function is to identify the “problem” as existing within rather than as pressing upon the most powerless people. There simply is no such thing as a culture of poverty. As I mentioned, the whole idea was dubunked in the early 1970s. The fact that we still hold onto it says more about us–the social workers, the educators, the working and middle class–than it does about people in poverty. It demonstrates how easily we are manipulated to be the buffer class–to protect the interests of wealthy elites by buying into their oppressive social conditioning and structures–their hegemonic views of the poor, their wars, their economic systems, their consumer culture…

        Certainly we can pick out similarities among any group of people. The question is, do the differences you see between the folks at the shelter and the folks at the local college cultural or sociopolitical? Do they reflect the inherent cultures of the people, or responses to the impositions of different social forces?

        Paul

        • Liza Says:

          Okay, I see your point, but I think I may have been slightly misunderstood. People value education for a lot of reasons, but the main reasons are as a marker of status, a means to status, or as something intrinsically valuable (though, of course, holding education up as “intrinsically valuable” is usually something that only people with some level of means and status can afford to do). As discussed above, generalizations about what all poor people believe or value are problematic, but it’s obvious that in many poor households education (e.g., a college diploma) isn’t a marker of status that any parent or adult has achieved, and, for that reason, children don’t have a model to push education as a means to status. So, poor kids often do not have the same reasons to value education that their counterparts in other classes have. That doesn’t mean that some poor people don’t send their kids to college, and that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of college-educated poor people, but poor kids are less likely to attend/complete college than their peers in other economic classes. Now, maybe it is the case that, if we control for income, we will find that children coming from a household where the parents have college degrees are no more or less likely to attend college than children coming from a household where the parents don’t have college degrees, but that seems unlikely to me. (If you can show me the data about this I’ll be glad to amend my position.) It seems more likely to me that things like the parents’ level of education strongly influence whether a child will attend college, regardless of whether the family has money saved to pay for a college education. So, it isn’t JUST that poverty makes it harder to pay for a higher education, it’s also that, if you’ve grown up in a family where nobody has a degree, you may not consider higher education as much of a priority/necessity as you would if you had grown up in a family where it was expected that you would get one.

          Perhaps you have a more nuanced definition of ‘culture’ than the one I mean. I think culture just amounts to what people in a certain time and place do, and whatever they do is heavily influenced by socio-political circumstances, which are in turn, heavily influenced (if not totally determined) by economic power structures. Call me a Marxist if you want. I don’t really know what it means to say, “inherent culture,” so I’m at a loss to answer your question about that. What I do think though, is that it’s perfectly reasonable to point out that people in Eastern Kentucky and people in the housing projects of New Orleans have vastly different cultures, but it can still be valuable and informative to look at the similar ways in which these culturally distinct groups approach their economic circumstances.

          I totally agree that the actions of poor people (and middle class and rich people, for that matter) are often a response to “imposed social forces.” In fact, I would say that a main goal of the social sciences is to try to describe and explain why people behave in the same way given similar circumstances (for example, a shared culture). But when it comes to political policy, education, social work, etc., we are no longer just trying to describe and explain how and why people do things. We are also trying to alter the circumstances in which people live for the better. You can’t do that without making some assumptions about what a better life is, and that means subscribing to some view about what really is valuable. My main point is not whether or not a particular class values this or doesn’t value that but that, in order to do social work, we do make these value assumptions, and, if and when those values aren’t shared, we try to impose them. I don’t really buy into intrinsic value, so I don’t find the notion that one class values this and another class values that offensive or insulting. I think circumstances and biology determine values, and there is no fact of the matter about what is objectively valuable. We might disagree about how much socio-economic factors influence a person’s values, but please don’t make the mistake of thinking that I think one set of values are objectively superior to any other.

        • Yvonne Shaw Says:

          Paul, You have read a lot and are quite fluent, but I would ask if you have read any of the books or spoken to any of the researchers? Having worked closely with the material and studying under one of the researchers, I find the information practical and reliable.

  9. Jacqueline S. Homan Says:

    It’s really this simple: All of humanity can be divided into three groups. Group A, Group B and Group C.

    Group A is what we call the “owning class”, they own most of the world’s natural resources and land and control most of the world’s wealth. They also own a lot of the government, too. And they are very politically active. Members of Group A become prime ministers, presidents, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State, CIA director, etc., basically all the powerbrokers at the apex of the national security state whose job it is to make the world safe for the Fortune 500 companies — the people in Group A.

    Group A is made up of those who live primarily off of stock dividends, interest payments on their bond investments, royalties on their land and mineral rights, inherited money, and rents for their real estate. In other words, Group A derives its livelihood from passive or unearned income generated from the capital it owns.

    Groups B and C comprise the remaining 99% of humanity. Group B lives primarily off of wages, salaries, tips, commissions, fees or pensions. Group C are those remaining billions of people across the world who don’t even get that — they live hand-to-mouth on whatever crumbs they can scrounge. Group C can be thought of as “the reserve army of labor” that is deliberately socially excluded and economically marginalized and only permitted by Group A to exist to keep Group B “in line” (although the ravages of poverty often takes its toll on the poor people’s employability).

    Group A obtains wealth by imperialist or colonialist measures by deracination— driving the people off of the land either by genocide, incarceration, or other means of expulsion, and de-skilling and disenfranchising the remainder by forcing them to work for subsistence wages out of lack of options.

    There is no “freedom” or “liberty” for those in poverty who never got a fair fighting chance in the “land of opportunity” — due in no small measure to the inherent exploitative nature of capitalism. But nobody wants to talk about that.

    On the eve of the signing of the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, there were 14 million recipients of AFDC. Of those, 5 million were families, almost all of whom were single mothers and children with no other means of support, no access to abortion (thanks to the Hyde Amendment) in the event of contraception failure, and no equal opportunity for good-paying “men’s jobs.” Less than 1% of the AFDC recipients were able-bodied men.

    Those of us struggling in poverty got told that “there are plenty of jobs out there for anybody willing to work” — yet no one stepped up to the plate and offered those of us in poverty their middle class jobs while they easily got another one, or expressed a willingness to hire us entry level jobs at a living wage with health and dental benefits. The middle class wanted to force the poor to get jobs, so long as it wasn’t THEIR jobs.

    Yet, reductions in benefits and the elimination of “welfare as we know it” was defended as a way of throwing “baby makers” and lazy “leeches” off the public dole.

    Moving people off of welfare and into jobs is a noble idea — if society and government is committed to equal opportunity employment, a living wage, health care for all, and the guarantee of enough jobs for everyone in need of a job.

    Welfare was never an adequate solution to the problems inflicted on the poor by capitalism and eliminating “welfare as we know it” without providing alternative and reasonable economic opportunities is not merely a worse solution, it is the “Final Solution” for the poor. Anyone familiar with the politics of genocide knows what “Final Solution” means.

    The War On the Poor was part and parcel for the implementation of a wholesale pogrom of “extermination through imposed destitution.”

    Just like the fascist Nazi forebears of today’s corporatist class, the elite gained the support of a sizable portion of the middle class (who were overwhelmingly white males in male-dominated lucrative industries) via the ballot box in the carrying out of the “Final Solution” against the poor — 84% whom are women, children, and unborn fetuses that the “pro-life” arbiters of morality feign shambolic concern for.

    Next time your organization wants to pay a poverty expert to come give a seminar or do some sort of speaking engagement, pay someone who IS a genuine expert; someone who IS in poverty (despite having overcome enormous obstacles to get an education) who has a lifetime of “in the trenches” experience.

    Jacqueline S. Homan,
    Author: Classism For Dimwits
    Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie
    jacquelinehoman7@gmail.com
    330-238-6951

  10. AMP Says:

    Very interesting post. I am currently taking a class on Ruby Payne’s “Framework” book and found it very eye-opening. However, after reading many critics’ posts online and other books related to poverty around the world, it has made me more leary about taking Ruby Payne’s words to heart. Although I do think she makes valid points, I also agree with your last statements: “Poverty is a bad thing. We don’t need a framework for understanding it. We need practical strategies for ending it.” This isn’t just a problem in the United States, but around the world. If we were more focused on ending poverty than understanding it, this world could be a different place.

    • dor Says:

      You have managed to put into words exactly how I felt when I started reading Ruby Payne’s “a Framework for Understanding Poverty”. It certainly was an eye-opener. When taking the quizzes about the hidden rules of the various classes, my immediate reaction was one of helplessness. I could only check off two of the answers. What concerns me about this is that I work in a high poverty school. How can I be of more help when I don’t know things like free clinic locations or how to get food stamps? I am certainly capable of finding out but it shocked me that I could not answer some of these questions without research. When I finished the book, I was excited to be given a means by which to understand the challenges facing people living in poverty, because anyone armed with this kind of information would certainly be better equipped to help her students right? However, after reading what the critics have to say, I am somewhat skeptical about the validity of her research. What if her information is not accurate? Then what? You are so right about the fact that her focus is placed more on theory than on actual doing. We as a society continually strive to “understand” the wrongs of this world, but seem to spend very little time trying to right them.

  11. carishirk Says:

    Wow, I have certainly found a heady site! I think Ruby Payne is just pushing a socially acceptable brand of classism. As if the poor, middle class, and wealthy all have their own sterotypical personalities and one should make it their life goal to educate those in poverty about the hidden rules of the middle class instead of reeducating society on the intrinsic value of each individual- thats what I want to sink my energies into!

    • Jacqueline S. Homan Says:

      Yes, you are absolutely correct. Worse is that Ruby Payne is profiteering enormously off of misery and the real constraints and sanctions being imposed on high poverty area schools under the unfunded mandate known as “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB).

      Impoverished chool districts facing unaffordable funding sanctions under NCLB are shelling out upwards of $15,000 or more for Ruby Payne seminars that really amount to “how to fix the poor and teach them to get with the middle class program”; implying that it’s the defective poor not the defective system that causes poverty and all of its attendant social ills.

      School districts that are already hurting for money where teachers often have to use their own paychecks to buy things like chalk, crayons, tablet paper, etc. because their poorest pupils have no way to afford these things, desperately turn to Ruby Payne who is hailed as the national “poverty expert” — even though she is really nothing but a Madison Avenue packaged and coiffed huckster selling “fix-it quick feel-goodism” that does nothing to resolve the extra obstacles that poor children and families face in the academic environment, nor improve poor children’s learning abilities and opportunities.

      Of course, I must not say such things (even though they’re true) otherwise I am just “jealous of others’ success” and promoting “class envy” as one of society’s embittered losers who is just “too angry.”

  12. Cathy Says:

    I am also a middle school teacher. I teach special education in a relatively poor, suburban school district. Ruby Payne spoke at an opening day inservice for my district. She was an excellent speaker and motivated me with some concrete ideas I could use in my classroom. Yes, there were “aha” moments for me. She helped raise my awareness of things I could be doing to help my students become more successful in life. Many of the things would be beneficial to all learners.
    There are no easy answers to dealing with the issue of poverty. All programs tried have had there pros and cons. One one hand I get mad when seeing food stamps abused, but on the other I would hate to deny those really in need the opportunity to eat, have a home, etc.
    It is important to note that all classes have their share of problems. I often worry about the future when dealing with middle and upper class young adults as well. Perhaps a book called, “Understanding the Framework of the Middle Class” or “the Wealthy” may be appropriate as well. For example, a relative of mine was raised in an upper middle class family. She graduated from a private college (no tuition or room and board paid because a relative worked there). Upon graduating became pregnant by a guy who lived several states away. She continued to live with her parents and decided to keep the baby (many had urged her to place for adoption). She did not work during the pregnancy and decided to go on government assistance. The baby is now 7 months old. She continues to live with her parents, and now the boyfriend has moved in too. He moved up with $10 to his name. He has a minimum wage job, Although he claims he was earning $25 an hour before the move. Initially they planned to get their own place within a few months, but now say they will not be able to move away from the parents for a long time. I suggested that now she could get a day job since the boyfriend could watch the baby (he works nights). She whined that then she would never get to see the boyfriend. Meanwhile she is planning an elaborate wedding. What is even more disturbing is that at 24, her parents supply her with a place to live, a car, insurance, and the latest cell phone. I need a book to explain this to me. I have come across so many teenagers and young adults who refuse to work, or won’t work for a job they feel is “beneath them”– and the parents are okay with this!
    I feel as teachers, we need to be teaching students about personal responsibility and a good work ethic. We need to have high expectations for all students, regardless of socio-economic background.

  13. Paul Gorski Says:

    Cathy,

    This is where I think there’s a lot of confusion. Do you assume that all the information you got from Payne was accurate information? Because I can tell you, as somebody who has compared her work against decades of research, that it isn’t accurate. Nor is the fact that she’s a good and entertaining speaker enough of a reason to buy into the information she’s presenting–this is a problem we face in education that doesn’t exist so much in other fields, which I think contributes to the deprofessionalization of teaching. Most people who like Payne’s work like it for the reasons you named, but you didn’t say anything about the accuracy of her framework, about the extent to which it reflected the biases you (and many others) already have–biases at which you hinted with the comment about food stamps being abused–something that isn’t even possible because the government regulates what food stamps can be used for.

    The primary inaccuracy in her work seems to be at the center of your comment: that there is, in fact, a “culture of poverty.” There isn’t, and the fact that there isn’t has been known in the social sciences since the late 1960s. Nor is there a culture of middle class or a culture of wealth.

    So what would it mean to you to learn that you’ve been taught a bunch of strategies about how to teach low-income students that were based entirely on misinformation about low-income people? Is it enough that it makes sense to you or “rings true” for you, or do you want to know the extent of its (in)accuracy?

    Paul

    • Otto Says:

      Paul,
      In contrast to the error-ridden writing of others claiming to be educators on this page, your comments seem to me to be the most thoughtful, intelligent, and evidence-based comments appearing here (Liza, you’re a close second). On the other hand, your comment that abuse of food stamps “isn’t even possible because the government regulates what food stamps can be used for” reveals a critical lack of real-life knowledge of poverty, not to mention a naïve assumption about the effectiveness of government. There is much to learn outside the ivory tower. Generally, folks on food stamps are very resourceful, and will get (or at least seek) what they need to survive regardless of government regulation. In my case, my wife would take our food stamps and trade them for cash (fifty cents on the dollar) or trade them directly for methamphetamine or marijuana, leaving us and our children to find other means of procuring food. A lesser abuse might be buying groceries for another family member in exchange for that family member filling our vehicle with fuel. A turkey is a great way to pay a baby sitter. In other words, there are myriad ways in which food stamps can be and are used – most of which were not intended by the government and taxpayers, and many of which can be considered abuse. The behavior of poor folk can be just as unethical as that of rich folk. Do not be fearful of admitting the truth. If you do so carefully, you won’t be accused of promoting the deficit perspective, and you might be pleasantly surprised with enhanced credibility.

  14. Paul Gorski Says:

    Cathy,

    One more thing… Notice that you share an experience with a single person, then say you need a book to explain this to you as a ‘culture’ of upper middle class. Do you believe that your observation of that one person is enough to suggest that their behaviors are representative of an entire group of people?

    Paul

  15. Linda Reik Says:

    I have just finished a study of Ruby Payne’s book which included information from her critics as well. I feel I had a chance to read her book and take a look at what some of her critics are saying. I believe Payne was trying to help teachers understand their students living in povery. She was trying to give practical and, in my opinion, often good advise and strategies based on her own experiences. As a teacher we often listen to the ideas and strategies of others and what has worked for them with students. I do not think Payne would disagree with the statement that we need to take practical steps to end poverty. In the meantime, I will work with my students and attempt to understand where they are coming from.
    Linda

    • Paul Gorski Says:

      LInda,

      Aren’t you discounting the research that shows quite clearly that most of what Payne says in her book is just plain inaccurate? The fact that she’s trying to give practical advise and strategies doesn’t mean her work is accurate…

      Paul

  16. TLB Says:

    I am a high school teacher and have been studying Ruby Payne’s text for a class I am taking. When I began reading it, I have to say I was very disappointed in some of the stereotypical case studies used in the first part of the book. Of course I could recognize some pieces of commonality of my students in the scenarios, but they still came off as over-generalized. Some of the conversations included in the text are problematic. One is so blatantly patterened after speaking patterns often associated with African Americans that I was embarrassed for Payne. The langauge sounded like it was straight off the Maury Povoch show. All she needed to finish the stereotype was the inevitable paternity test in the big yellow envelope. The implication is that poverty is more an African American problem than any other ethnic group. Perhaps I read too much into her scenarios, but I see students of poverty who come from many ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds.

    Although I can see why some of he work is useful, I also think it is a mile wide but only an inch thick. I does not go into enough depth about how to actually incorporate her ideas into a classroom. There are lists of suggestions, but that is about all I found to be specifically applicable to a teaching situation.

    Liza makes a good point that middle class people assume people of a lower economic class want to move into the middle class and value the same things as middle class members. My teaching experience tells me she is right to question that assumption. We cannot force people to adopt a certain set of values. In addition, middle class and upper class values are not always pristine. I see that in my school. My school is the most diverse and has the highest rate of free and reduced lunch among the high schools in our district. However, when student groups solicit donations for a charity or a family in need, our students give freely. When I see them put money in the collection bucket in my room, I can tell you the so-called “poor” students give more money than the “rich” kids because they are accustomed to helping someone if they can. Middle and upper class people are not always so generous. Most have never experienced poverty, hunger, or homelesness. A student in poverty develops a completely different set of values.

    I work hard to show students of lower income what skills they need to survive in the real world. Of course I would like them all to move into an economically stronger position, but I know that may not be reality. It is helpful to know some of the general information Payne gives, but I was left a bit disappointed in the text. I think it should be taken for what it is — a useful text. However, it is not the silver bullet school districts are looking for to solve the problems of educating students of poverty.

  17. KimAllen Says:

    Wow, this is interesting. I m taking a class that utilizes her book as our main source of knowledge. I would like to know what research DOES show especially if the research by Payne has been proven wrong.

    Paul, you seem to know a lot about how her research is inaccurate or wrong, can you direct me to a website or research-based article that you find accurate (dealing with poverty).

    I also think that Liza statement, “”But, surely,” I blurted out, “we all know that this program and the work that we do is biased toward the values of the middle class. I mean, we may understand why poor people don’t value education the way middle class people do, but we still make a judgment that education is valuable, and we push that value to our clients.” is true. “We” (generalizing) often try to push our values onto others … as we tend to believe that our values are the “right/correct values”

  18. deserveliberty Says:

    Liza,

    Thank you for your insight on this topic. Bridges Out of Poverty is being implemented in my county (partly at public expense) as the next attempt by the local middle-aged trust-fund kids to get their names in the paper (yes, it seems to be that gratuitous). I came upon your post in a search for reviews of the program.

    It is quite ironic that moral relativism is one nearly sure path into poverty, yet it is also a feature of this program that is supposed to lead people out of poverty. Common sense is not very common these days.

  19. Ger Says:

    I took two trainings, Bridges Out of Poverty and Bridges into Health. I enjoyed both and took the information for what it was. A framework that gives people something to think about when working with any of the classes that are mentioned. I am grew up very poor, black in America, female, single mother, 3 siblings, divorced parents. I had a mother who moved us out of poverty by the time i was in high school. I have worked with families in poverty for over 18 years, pregnant and parenting women and theri families. I know first hand the situations that are mentioned in Ruby’s book. I lived them, I lived them with my clients who were living them. I dont know your background, but I wonder if YOU have experienced poverty first hand. Meaing, were you ever so poor that you did not have gas and lights cause the bill wasnt paid? Were you so rich that you attended private schools and visited yachts? Were you raised middle class and all the things from that group? I think the concept is a good one. Again, it gives a framework. Just sharing this basic information with people at my job, has given them a completely different way to think when “people in poverty dont do what we think they should to help themselve” mentally presents itself from middle class mined people.
    I think as a philosopher, perhaps you look at the world from such an abstract perspective, that you miss the real world.

    • JW Gray Says:

      Liza said her job is working with the homeless. She isn’t just an armchair philosopher who abstractly thinks about homelessness. She said, “My objection is to the absurd and contradictory combination of explicitly stated relativism and implicitly assumed objectivity that is pervasive in the work of Ruby Payne and the people who follow her. ” So far you said nothing against that objection. What exactly do you disagree with Liza about?

  20. Kyle Says:

    After reading Payne’s book for a class that I am taking, I have come away completed by the framework in which she shaped her argument. Payne makes it seem as though poverty is a choice that one makes. She mentions teaching “hidden rules” to children in poverty so they can learn to function in the middle class. Intentionally or not, she devalues the families in which these children come from. The problem of poverty does not lie in with people in it, but rather is a much more complex and overreaching issue that continues to plague the richest country in the world. The poor in America value education just as much any other class. The problem is our nation refuses to fix the issues of providing a living wage, changing the educational funding system, and solving our class discrimination issues.
    I also disagree with James’ argument that a high school education is holding more students back then helping them. This is an uniformed and simply illegitimate argument. You merely have to look at income disparity, quality of life, and crime rate statistics to realize that a high school education in America is still a positive experience.

  21. JJ Says:

    Interesting interjections. To assume people are entirely different from another & will remain so sounds familiar with the social injustice created in the Americas. If people don’t speak up will we have a repeat of the past?

  22. Lisa Says:

    First, should districts be spending their monies on a consultant whose work has been accused of being riddled with hundreds of unproven assertions? … Are most districts that hire Dr. Payne aware of the criticisms that have been leveled against her work? And, third, even if so, should districts’ professional development work involve a consultant/speaker that’s this controversial, no matter how famous or widespread her message is?

  23. laura e. Says:

    I too am finishing a class studying the ideas of Ruby Payne and her critics, like Paul Gorski.
    I feel I’ve gotten a broad idea of both ‘schools’ and can see different arguing points within in each. But, as mentioned above and taking Payne for what she’s worth, I understand her point in trying to educate teachers on how to ‘teach/reach’ the low income student. Without reading futher into the discussion and arguing poverty on a larger scale, I think her basis is truly to help teachers understand the best way to help these students.
    WIth that said, I also understand Liza’s point that we all have different values. I can assure you that education is of no importance to SOME poor children. But, I can also say that education is of no importance to SOME middle class and wealthy children.
    And in response to Kyle, I dont feel Payne is trying to “teach the hidden rules to children in poverty” but rather teacher the TEACHER the ‘hidden rules’ so we can better understand our students.

  24. Emily Says:

    I, as many others, read A Framework for Poverty as a class requirement. Several years ago my school district conducted an in-service revolving around her work. At that time, I was still a in my first few years of teaching and her hidden rules were like nothing I had ever heard before. It was truly eye opening and I felt as though some things I had been dealing with made sense. I was also eager to incorporate her ideas into my teaching. Now, after working with students living in poverty for ten years, and reading so many critiques of her work, I have become more skeptical. First of all, the generalizations are overwhelming. While I work with some struggling students that fit the stereotypes provided by Payne, I work with MANY who do not fit that mold.
    Liza has eloquently explained several if my issues with Payne. Specifically, the fact that she insinuates that people living in poverty are choosing to be poor. I firmly believe this ignores a plethora of issues at the community and environmental levels. In my school district for example, we will not be able to give our children an adequate education until we have enough qualified teachers and enough supplies. Until we begin to make changes to the bigger picture, people living in poverty will continue to struggle.
    While I believe some of Payne’s ideas can be beneficial to an educator new to working with students struggling with poverty, her overall generalizations are taking away from the real work that needs to take place.

  25. Michelle Podolsky Says:

    As I am a newbee at leaving comments and such. My thought is, we know about generational poverty(Whether it exists or not). And about brain development in the very young. We need to get to these kids sooner and break the cycle and join some of the good points on each side.

  26. hdonabau Says:

    While it is undeniable that a research-based approach is necessary to make quality, accurate generalizations, in application at the classroom level, anecdotal evidence is often relied-upon and teachers utilize a variety of strategies in working with students. Paul, you have commented on several other posts and I agree with your comments about the foundations of Payne’s work. However, are we to believe that Payne’s suggestions in working with students in poverty to provide role models, emotional resources, and support systems, and improve achievement are completely without merit?

  27. Kim Blair Says:

    We do know, as educators, how generational poverty affects students as they enter in the educational system. I believe that that are instances where we think or respond to the old cliche “poor child, look where he/she was is coming from.” We say those words but do we really think that our actions can respond to situational adversity. Generational poverty is a problem that characteristically exists. What society can do about it is to educate ourselves to the reality that children enter a structured academic situation with skills that are relevant to the enviroment they have developmentally grown up in. It seems to me it it of primary concern to understand that there are patterns of specific behevior that are very specific to each class system. Through understanding these hidden rules of understanding Payne illustrate by learning the guidelines of the middle class would be a clear path to the understanding of how to navigate a formal structure of education in contrast to the casual register that children from poverty can understand.

  28. Lisa Smith Says:

    I am also taking a class where I was required to read Payne’s book. The blog is very interesting and I have learned to step back and take an objective look at Payne’s work from Paul Gorski. It is appalling to me that the book was written in one week! How can school districts pay her thousands of dollars to instruct teachers on a book that wasn’t even properly researched? This is disturbing in an economy where districts need every dollar they have for supplies. One thing that really made me cringe when reading Payne’s book was the chapter on language. I did not read the research she cited (Gee, 1987) but I know from experience this is not the problem she makes it into. I have worked for many years with “children from poverty” and they do not have the issues she states with formal and casual register. They often read well below grade level, but when given materials on said levels have no trouble reading “formal register” curriculum and learning it. The story she puts in the book is bizarre and not at all how my students talk! They also would not repeat a story in that fashion. I also found the charts about surviving in poverty, middle class, and wealth strange. I believe that teachers realize many students might not know some “hidden rules” , that’s why we teach life skills. I also believe that people adapt to what they need to in order to survive, so if faced with a new set of problems or circumstances, people adapt. I also do not agree with the generalizations that people in poverty rely on “entertainment and relationships”. Many poor and many rich children care and don’t care about education. I don’t think it is knew news for teachers that students need support, role models, and excellent teachers no matter what their socio-economic status is!

  29. Beth Ann Says:

    Ruby Payne does have some research (while dated, it is still research), throughout her book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Additionally, it is just that. A framework. We live in a country where every child is entitled to a “free and appropriate public education.” If children and families cannot access that because of a variety of barriers presented due to their socio-economic status, then it is our job as community members,educators, legislators and so forth to help remove those barriers so all students have access to education. Payne does offer specific strategies to assist parents who are working more than one job, cannot read, do not have access to transportation in accessing public education for their children. The reality is that regardless of what “hidden rules” any social group has, people who live in poverty do not have access to living-wage employment, reliable transportation, may not have the skills or means to assist their children with homework. Payne’s work does offer strategies for helping parents and students have better access to education. Her work also helps educators who may not come from a similar background have empathy for children who live in sub-standard homes (where families are doubled up, children do not have their own beds, bedrooms, there may not be electricity, heat, food, hot water,etc.) Again, the reality is, children who live in poverty may not be having their basic human needs met. How, then, can we expect them to come to school ready to learn to read and do math, when they are hungry or traumatized. Are all children who live in poverty hungry or traumatized? No. However, when families do not have an income that is a liveable wage, then the chances are that parents and children are not having their needs met.
    As with any material that I read as an educator, I take the tools and information that I can use in my job and apply them. The ones that do not apply or will not work, are left on the shelf until needed.

  30. Paul Fillipovich Says:

    I am currently taking a graduate course “In the Face of Poverty”, which was my first experience studying and reading about poverty. I completed the study guide requirements for Ruby Payne’s book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” first, as outlined in the syllabus. While reading the book, I did find her “Hidden Rules” and the “Could you Survive” quizzes to be sterotypical and offensive to all 3 socioeconimic groups. When I continued working my way through the syllabus, I was somewhat surprised @ the controversary surrounding Payne’s work, although it did affirm my own feelings. I guess I thought that if Payne’s book is required reading for a graduate level course that it must have some value. I had not realized that her critics basically discredited her work as non-factual and inaccurate. I do hope that the debate will invoke thought and discussion, and in turn,create policies and programs that will affect real change in the fight against poverty.

  31. nickanderson2013 Says:

    After reading Payne’s work on poverty and then reading Blogs about her work I was shocked by the number of people who discredit her work. I have talked to alot of educators who have been to her seminars and they all have raved about how her presentations. Everyone has opinion on poverty and how to fix it. I feel that eduaction is a key part of the puzzle but as an educator finding time to address poverty issues has become an issue. The economic situation in the area and transportation issues add to poverty. Payne’s work give a realistic view of poverty that most people can identify.

  32. Dave Says:

    I see so many people that attack Ruby Payne. Honestly I don’t understand it. Isn’t it accurate that her strategies are successful in working with some people? I understand that they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. I think most educators are smart enough to see that as well. Her points about hidden rules of each class of wealth do make sense, however. In reading some of her work, I think it can help people to empathize with each other as they gain a better understanding of others’ situations. So many people argue that it is “classism” that she is promoting. I don’t think that could be more wrong.

  33. Dave Says:

    And to Paul Gorski’s comments, I don’t think Payne would assert that people in poverty never value education. I think her assertion is that this message can be sent when people are not seeing the reality of what is taking place. I know some students fail courses, and yet their parent fails to show up for a teacher conference. Too many teachers think that this is communicating a lack of caring about education on the parent’s part when in actuality the lack of attendance is because of a night shift at work, a lack of transportation to the school, or the needs of other siblings. People seem to attack Payne because they don’t want something that isn’t scientifically researched to be accurate at all. Yes, there are exceptions. But there are also many anecdotal pieces that would be true with others. I agree that much of Payne’s work lacks specific strategies, but I think her work does help people to understand the need to consider where others may be coming from.

  34. Monica Says:

    Like many others, I read Payne’s work as one of two texts for a course. Interestingly, although the text was required reading, several assignments involved the criticism of her work. I appreciate the fact that the course does not “sell” Payne’s message exclusively but also opens the door to the ongoing debate about her findings.

    Payne’s book included some concepts, such as the “hidden rules,” that could help teachers to better understand the motivations of their students from all classes. However, some of that information seemed stereotypical to me, and that belief has been reinforced after reading more about Payne and the lack of research behind her ideas. I also have a problem with Payne’s suggestion that those in poverty must learn the hidden rules of the middle class in order to be successful in school. In my experience, there are hidden rules that ALL students must learn in order to be successful. For example, my juniors write resumes and cover letters and participate in mock job interviews. While Payne would likely say that those in poverty would experience the biggest disadvantage during this unit, I have found students from every class have to be explicitly taught how to successfully apply for a job. There are certainly hidden rules in our society, but they are not necessarily divided according to class, as Payne suggests.

    Even if Payne’s assertions were better supported by research, her book still seems to me to be overrated. As a teacher, I found very little practical application of her theories for my classroom. As Liza stated in her original post, we need to have effective methods for combating poverty and improving the lives of those living in poverty, and Payne fails to provide those methods.

  35. Karen Says:

    I, too, am taking a course that required the reading of Ruby Payne’s book A Framework for Understanding Poverty. As an educator for many years, I found it to be a very interesting read. I am surprised in some ways, to find the passionate rebuttals to her writing. Yes, Payne uses generalizations to try to explain pieces of poverty which may or may not be accurate. Generalizations are dangerous and in this case are stereotypes. As opposed as I am to stereotyping, I found it interesting that I visualized students as I read her descriptions and scenarios. I do not know the economic status of my students’ families, yet I found her suggestions to be helpful or at least thought provoking.

    What I took from reading her book is that we as educators need to try to better understand our students and the lives from which they come. What baggage are they carrying and what situation may have occurred last night or this morning that could impact their learning? What then do we as educators need to do to best help each student learn? We know this is necessary, but we need to put more effort into truly knowing our students.

    Gorski’s argument has merit in that there are aspects in schools that need to be addressed to make school a better learning environment. Within my district, different buildings have different resources available within the classrooms. Playing fields need to be evened. Even with that, students come to school on many different levels and by trying to gain a better understanding of their backgrounds, we may find a key to improving education for our students. Many keys are needed, which is why looking at Payne’s ideas in conjuction with Gorski and others ideas, educators continue to strive to make learning meaningful and accessible for all students.

  36. Meg Says:

    I have currently been working in a low-income school for the past several years. I found that reading Payne’s book helped me expand my thoughts about poverty and how schools can better accommodate and understand the tribulations that those living in poverty must face everyday. Payne obviously has many critics, which is expected with any work that is produced, however there are several useful concepts and teachings in this book that can help lessen the gaps in our society. All children deserve the best education and how can we provide this if we are not open to new ideas and useful tools for education?

  37. Larry Says:

    I am taking a class that uses Payne’s book and Jensen’s research to discuss working with students of poverty. Payne gives people a lesson in differences. It may be anecdotal but it seems to ask you to look at the world from different perspectives. I have spoken with teachers who cannot understand why people would move every 60 days or how a family can operate without a checking account. The value in Payne’s work to me is that it makes you consider options for life you could not usually imagine. I think the danger is that it gives a relatively simple solution to a very complicated set of problems. I have worked in an inner city urban district and in a rural district with high poverty. The issues are not always the same, the cultures are definitely different but the goal is the same. Provide opportunities for students.

  38. Courtney Says:

    I am taking a class using texts by Payne and Jensen and various articles. The arguments provided by Ruby Payne’s critics certainly do have merit. Payne uses stereotypes and identifies impoverished students by their weaknesses. It is good to understand where these students are coming from, but one cannot classify all students living in poverty under the same stereotype. It is true that there are hidden rules present in society and in today’s educational system, but not all students subscribe to the same values and beliefs. A “poor” student may be one of the hardest workers in a class because he or she wants to have a promising future. Helping students succeed is at the heart of this issue, no matter what approach is used. I feel we should try to strike a balance with all of these views on impoverished students. Students from all backgrounds, low SES to high SES, should be given adequate resources to succeed and thrive. Educators are supposed to be providing a quality education to all students regardless of economic status. It is to the benefit of all students if we focus on making sure all classrooms have the best and most appropriate resources available to the teachers and students, while also taking into consideration each student’s home situation and economic and academic challenges. Students will succeed when they are given the right tools to meet the high expectations of their educators, who should be well informed about the socioeconomic makeup of their classes.

  39. Working Parent Says:

    I was excited to take a position with a non-profit that I have long admired. Upon hire, I learned that “Bridges” is a significant component of the program; ARGH! I’ve been working there for months now, watching the effects of the “ruby payne kool aid”, and it hurts so bad! Any push back that I manage to create in meetings (and the BooP training I took there) is tempered by the fact that working at this place is how I currently care for my family. 😦

    I’m posting to ask if others in this conversation have found class-savvy “alternatives” to the ruby payne crap. I’m gearing up to attempt some significant conversations in the near future with key players in policy at my non-profit. I solicit and welcome suggestions that anyone might be able to offer about respectful trainings for both oppressed people trying to bootstrap, and outreach staff who try to assist in that. Thank you.

  40. christen Says:

    I am currently taking a course using Payne’s text. I believe that there is some truth to what she is saying, however, her critics definitely have merit. ALL students come to a classroom with different backgrounds, and a different “story to tell.” Just because a child is from a low SES, does not mean they should automatically fall into a specific classification and become stereotyped. I have been teaching in a low-economic, urban school district for 15 years. I have seen the “poorest of the poor” grow to become the most successful in the classroom. It’s all in the way in which you interpret the information that Payne is providing. I did not read this text and assume that Payne was claiming to have “all of the answers.” Nor did I feel she was trying to “fix students and families in poverty.” She was, for the most part stating the obvious. WE ALL fall under a specific class, and often times (not all of the time) this helps or hinders our success. I believe she was providing information, based on her experiences to make educators “more aware.” Her goal isn’t to fix anyone, but in fact, give children who aren’t exposed to middle class values/beliefs, an opportunity for success in a place that this is not considered “the norm.” We live in a society where “formal register” is required in the work place. If we are requiring this type of register in the “real world,” shouldn’t we be addressing the “hidden rules?” Is it wrong to teach those students who may not have the “exposure” how to apply these skills to become successful?!

    • Jacqueline S. Homan Says:

      “We live in a society where “formal register” is required in the work place. If we are requiring this type of register in the “real world,” shouldn’t we be addressing the “hidden rules?” Is it wrong to teach those students who may not have the “exposure” how to apply these skills to become successful?!” <—-Christen

      There is never anything wrong with learning and skill-building. However, the big steaming pile of pachyderm shit in the middle of the room that everyone seems to be ignoring is the simple fact that in a hierarchical socio-economic class structure, *somebody* always has to be at the bottom. Somebody always has to lose in order for someone else to win. The truth: we live in a finite world with finite amount of resources and wealth and NO ONE ever relinquishes wealth and cedes any privilege and power willingly or peacefully. What should be asked is when are we going to implement a floor through which no one can fall, a floor that accords those at the very bottom the safety and guarantee of the ability to survive with minimum amount of human dignity. Because the fact is we can't all be winners under capitalism and patriarchy.

  41. Paula Says:

    This entire debate on poverty is becoming absurd. Yes, I am an educator and practitioner. Spending 31+ years teaching and counseling in PK-12 high poverty schools does not make me an expert on poverty. It does, however, softened me to the plight of the impoverished by motivating me to establish unconditional positive relationships with “my” students so that they always know there is someone at school who will advocate on their behalf. It is no wonder, then, that I remain in regular contact with many of my students. Additionally, almost all of the students inherently referenced went on to further their education post high school. Relationships matter.

    Ruby Payne, her followers as well as her foes, agree that a significant adult relationship is vital for students to be successful in school. Sounds simple. But it is not. Beyond relationships, schools must be equipped with numerous equitable resources, well honed teachers, administrators and support staff who are willing to accept ALL students and maintain high standards for all. This will only happen when the best of the best faculty staff high level SES schools and have a passion for their profession and latitude to make learning meaningful to each student.

    Sadly, Payne thinks the impoverished can only succeed if they navigate their way into middle class. That is where the absurdity begins. The notion of teaching “hidden rules” smacks of elitism at best. Perhaps the middle class needs to be taught the “hidden rules” related to poverty; if they, in fact, exist. Reversed psychology? Perhaps. But not too far-fetched.

    Doing research for a class I am taking on poverty, has opened my eyes to a plethora of debate, most of which debunks that a culture of poverty is, in fact, a culture at all. More so, the effects of poverty come to the forefront and must be dealt with systemically and socio-politically, with an action plan if poverty is to be eradicated. I don’t pretend to have the answers. Nor will I pretend to be an expert simply due to the years of experience I have with poverty.

    While Payne offers some valid ideas regarding curriculum and instruction; other activists do the same such as Eric Jensen’s SHARE Program and his unequivocal research on the brain; mainly neuroplasticity. Just this morning, I observed a television commercial on building brain capacity and the term used was neuroplasticity. Ironic or research-based??

    Ruby Payne may consider herself the forerunner on poverty, but her website classifies her as an entrepreneur making millions of dollars through her for profit business–aha!!Process. A swift business woman deserves some credit. She obviously has navigated her way out of middle class into surviving in wealth. If she can progress and prosper, certainly all impoverished persons are able to do so as well. She is their shining star. Forget data, research, statistics, and norm referenced quizzes. As long as you are linked to poverty via marriage or the like, you can call yourself an expert.

  42. chrissy Says:

    The issue of poverty is so big, encompasses so many different factors, that it will take people from all different walks of life, backgrounds, and skill sets to even make a dent. A story. Several men stood around a grand piano discussing how to move it. They planned. The strategized. They pointed out what the other guy could do. Until, finally, one older gentleman said, “Why don’t we all just reach down and lift from where we are standing?” And they did. And it moved. Perhaps instead of sitting around arguing about the best way to “fix” poverty, we should just “lift from where we are standing”. Give a little of our own money, our own heart, our own effort. And a big THANK YOU to those of you who do. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your caring.

  43. kelli.purvis@rps205.com Says:

    I am currently enrolled in a class in which the required reading was Ruby Payne’s book “A framework for Understanding Poverty” and Eric Jensen’s book “Teaching with Poverty in Mind.” I found both books full of information on how to deal with today’s youth. I have been teaching in a school district where the majority of my student’s have free and reduced lunch because of the low income of their families. I can say that the “Hidden Rules” Ruby Payne discusses in her book are very close to what I observe every day in my classroom. It is refreshing to read about ideas others have and how they can give me ideas on how to better educate the students I see on a daily basis. I’m sure there are many different views by many different people, but at least she has some quality things to say and quality ideas to help me improve my classroom.

  44. Tammy Free Says:

    I am also enrolled in a class in which the required reading is “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”. I teach in a school district, and more specifically a school in which the low-income percentage of our students is 80%. Relating to my students was always difficult because I don’t come from an impoverished family or situation. Reading Ruby Payne’s book has helped me tremendously to understand where my students are coming from and what they’re exposed to in their homes. I have a much better understanding of what their families value and why college is an unfamiliar dream to many of our students. The hidden rules in Payne’s book were so interesting to read because I pictured so many of my students while I was attempting to relate. I truly believe that this class and this book specifically have helped me to understand my students.

  45. Stephanie Murria Says:

    After reading A Frame work for Understanding Poverty I learned that she has been the subject of much criticism. Social scientist and academic researchers dismiss her work as not having any validity and she has not presented enough evidence to support her assumptions. She has been labeled a racist, bigot ect. one critic stated her work was fictional and some of the statistics she uses are made up. My personal veiw is Dr. Payne really is trying to help teachers understand a different aproach teaching chidren who come from different settings. Is everything true? Maybe, may be not. She does present some help strategies.

  46. Jennifer Says:

    I’m currently taking a distance education course entitled, The Face of Poverty, where one of the required readings was Ruby Payne’s book. Being a special education teacher in a public school, I’ve heard about Ruby’s views throughout my years in education. I just learned of the controversy surrounding her views while discussing my course with a colleague. I was very surprised to hear of the controversy and looked into the various views of her work and felt as though she is being unfairly labeled as a racist. People have claimed that she perpetuates stereotypes and is unfairly characterizing African Americans. I have seen so many of the characteristics that she described in her book within students and parents in my school district and have felt such anger and frustration over some of the behaviors. I personally found the book very helpful in understanding where my students are coming from and how different their lives are from my own as well as from other middle class students sitting next to them in class. I looked at her work as an eye opener that has helped me refrain from making assumptions about any of my student’s lives, those in poverty or not. I no longer assume the when my students don’t get their homework done that it’s because they don’t care. I feel that Ruby has helped many children because of her education of teachers on the culture of poverty and that her intentions don’t come from racism or hatred but of care and concern.

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  48. Janet Says:

    I am a kindergarten teacher in a relatively poor rural school district. I have taught in this district for 16 years and have had many encounters with children that come from a low socio-economic-status. In reading Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” I had a lot of “wow” moments. Payne raised my awareness and helped me better understand what I could be doing to help my students and their families to become more successful.
    Payne has many critics. Although their beliefs have merit, I believe Payne was trying to help educators understand how their low SES students live. She gave practical advice and strategies based on her classroom experiences. I look at the critics comments, her book was written in one week, she is paid thousands of dollars to do workshops, her research is inaccurate etc., I cannot dispute these findings however I feel Payne was successful in providing a “framework” for educators, administrators and community workers as to the problems our students and their families are presented due to their SES. The “hidden rules” discussed in her book are very close to what I have observed in my classroom.

  49. Chad Says:

    When reflecting on the criticism of Ruby Payne there are many take aways that I have. Some good and some bad. I agree with some of the criticisms about education and how if education is the only way out of poverty then we are truly failing all of our students in poverty. Is is really the set of “hidden rules” that allow a person to succeed in society or fail? I am not sure, but my upbringing was not filled with silver spoons and lavish vacations. I was taught that hard work pays off and sometimes you will do things you don’t want to, you will just have to do it. So is this just a middle class upbringing that gave me this mentality or my families? I would not say we were middle class. We lost our home and moved around but there is one thing that we did and that was go to school and learn something. So, the criticism is that the value of education can be set at any socioeconomic class.

    The positive that I take away from Ruby Payne is she is trying to open people’s eyes about the differences in class. I still think education can be universal, but there are so many things that make up a class besides just money. It is not just how much money you have, but the values behind what you are doing and why. So Ruby has done a good job on at least bringing up a topic that so many people would just rather sweep under the rug.

  50. jrmc21 Says:

    I am not an educator nor an academic but read Bridges out of Poverty because I would like to know what the answer(s) is/are. That book helped me understand some and this site is helping me understand more. But what can/should those of us who are middle class, not interacting with poverty on a day-to-day basis, but want to see it change do? I have seen time and time again in my career working with public and private sector organizations that throwing money at the problem almost always makes it worse and not better-so that is not the answer. Thank you.

  51. Eric Murbach Says:

    I am taking a class that asked me to read a Ruby Payne text and an Eric Jensen text about poverty. I come from a lower-middle class home where both parents worked full-time jobs during Reagan-era policies. I strongly sympathize with Liza’s view and frustration in her post. I would agree that class doesn’t play a major determining values, and extrapolating as such is fraught with problems. However, when Liz says “education and outreach work is based upon the assumption that the poor have some control over their poverty”, I have never found that is a rule in my ten years as a teacher. I agree that Payne spends an inordinate amount of time discussing or determining in her mind (through anecdotes) why different classes value different things, but I disagree that it is “pointless” as Liza believes. People, generally speaking, are stupid. Liza herself saw this when her colleagues found Payne’s talk “profoundly enlightening”. There is a reason Presidential Candidates and other public speakers talk in language that is sub-high school level, Americans either are not smart enough or patient enough to sit through a high-level of language discussion. Liza, I agree that there are absolute truths in the natural world. Yet, moral relativism is a reality when it comes to culture and/or beliefs. I don’t know if my feeble brain completely comprehends or is explaining that right. It’s messy in my head and thus, I can’t articulate it the way I would like.

    I found myself nodding with Payne and agreeing with several of her assertions about the three levels of socioeconomic statuses, but I never had an “Ah, Ha!” moment. I also understand the argument from the commenter Paul that there is no “culture of poverty,” but I do think there are subcultures within the socioeconomic classes that persist (as the commenter Jim was so kind as to prove with his cut & paste). Payne’s information or viewpoint may be somewhat flawed (given that she seems to think the poor are lazy), but I think her work has merit in the sense it can shed light on possible different attitudes or inherent beliefs within subsets of socioeconomic groups. I would, however, agree with the chorus of critics who believe school systems should not be paying Payne a solitary dime for her “workshops.” While her work has merit, and while my opinion of the standard American brain power is so lacking they find her comments “profoundly enlightening”, she offers virtually no solutions to help people on the front lines of poverty. This makes her talks generally useless to the people that are directly able to help the current population. Lastly, I just want to add that I loved Jacqueline’s comments; They were brilliant and on point.

    P.S. The snottiness of some people snarking about a spelling error or some odd grammar? Really? Do you feel superior now? Grow up.

  52. Abbe Says:

    I have been teaching for the past fourteen years, and each year it seems that the children in my classroom are more poverty stricken than the children taught the year before. My school district has just adopted a program where all students, K-12 will receive free breakfast and lunch. We are allowed one field trip per school year due to budget constraints. Our classroom budget was lessened to $75 per classroom teacher for needed school supplies for the year. We serve a very large population of Hispanic students and more recently, we are serving a lot of Burmese students. Some of these students are migrant, other are living in extreme poverty. Ruby Payne’s book, A Framework for Understand Poverty, was an eye-opener for me. I have a much better understanding of how my students and their families live and function within the walls of poverty. I do see some of the “hidden rules” in my classroom. I believe that Ruby Payne is trying to give educators another tool to better reach our students and their families who live in poverty. I think that is what all educators want; to reach all of their students, to make them feel loved, safe, and to instill in them the belief that they can do great things!

  53. Nicole Says:

    Ruby Payne’s explanation of the different values amongst the classes did not “wow” me. I believe this is due to the fact that I have lived part of my life in poverty as a child and part of my life in the middle class as an adult. She does spend a lot of time explaining the differences among the classes and it was not relevant for me due to my experiences. However, to someone who has never lived in poverty or had any reason to try to understand it, the information is probably enlightening. This book was geared toward educators to help them understand why kids do the things that they do. I assume that her goal was to help teachers put away some of their bias toward children in poverty and begin to be part of the solution. Working with students from poverty situations and being one myself, I see the instruction in hidden rules as relevant for educators who don’t have the background knowledge of the poverty culture. If every teacher made it a point to study resiliency and achievement in hard to reach students, there would be no need for Ruby to explain these cultures and rules because it would be more obvious to teachers. Unfortunately, the span of knowledge about socioeconomic status and cultures is vastly different among teachers. Teachers use their own experiences with education and life to design their lessons. There is a lot of room for human error because of the bias that we bring to the classroom.

    I agree with you when you say that “The discussion we need to have is about why different classes have different things.” Payne points out that education and employment are needed to break the cycle and I believe that. She also talks about the importance of having a positive role model or support system to help provide emotional stability. She urges teachers, administrators and staff to be the positive role models that these students need so that they can develop some emotional stability. The fact is that these kids are dealing with chronic stress in their lives and have no idea what to do about it. Many times, it only takes one caring adult to provide time and encouragement to change their lives dramatically. Payne was talking to a multitude of teachers about being that person for kids. She wanted to cut the bias in those teachers who are ignorant about the poverty culture and try to build some empathy for them so that they had a desire to be that person for someone. Teachers can do this on an individual level or a larger level with school wide programs. In our school, the discussion always centers around the struggling students. How are we going to help them? Get them into special education? Most of the time, special education services or social work services is the first thought. Many teachers don’t want to take that responsibility on themselves because they feel that it is not possible for them due to limited resources and time. I understand that to a certain extent, but we all have to work together to help make the classroom a place that is engaging for all, even the hard cases. Teachers shouldn’t have to do it on their own but they should have a significant part in the solution.

  54. A Harrell Says:

    I agree that there were many times while reading Payne’s book that I felt like she was a little one sided. It seemed very much to be a low-income problem while the middle class was praised as the ones to be like. However, I also feel like this is true of many things we look at. Payne offered some valuable advice and seems to be accurate with how she portrays some learners that I have worked with in the classroom. While it isn’t accurate of all learners, it is a place to start. People don’t have to agree with everything Ruby Payne suggests in her book, but taking pieces of the information could benefit some students. There is not one person who has it all figured out. If there was, we wouldn’t have the problems that we have. As readers, we need to be willing to take in the information and use what we believe will benefit those around us. I do agree, this topic is something that needs to be addressed in most schools and communities. There are definitely students that struggle in school based on the environment in which they were raised, but it is not the root of all problems. We need to continue to strive to improve in all areas.

  55. Gerry Lassche Says:

    I just took a BooP course, and felt the same as Liza, Gorski and others: either values are objectively true (further, that some values then ARE better than others, that we say YES to this value and NO to that value), or relativism renders the whole discussion moot. I felt that the liberal-humanist views endorsed by the program somehow ends up shielding the client (“poor” persons) from the consequences of their choice; for example, if education is merely an abstracted value, rather than a tangible means of getting ahead. Shielding, in the sense that this “poverty class” value towards education would not be challenged, but instead almost validated. Insert other values: time, language use, relationships, food, health, etc etc. How then, will a person in poverty see the NEED for change, and take steps to do so? It is not enough for the middle class to understand the devastation of poverty; those in poverty need to see it anew as well.

    Well, Rose George in her book The Big Necessity (2008) describes an interesting approach. Her book discusses the importance of sanitation, which holds critical value in places like Bangladesh, where 40% of of all illnesses are directly related to fecal contamination. An activist there (Kamal Kar, from the brahmin caste = upper class) motivates village people there, who don’t have toilets with running water, but instead live with “open field defecation”, through the emotion of DISGUST using techniques from the “participatory rural approach”. In this process, villagers are brought face to face with the reality of their choice (to poop in the bush), and what effects this choice has on living conditions. They have lived in poverty for generations, defecating in the open all during that time, and that experience in itself did not motivate change. They had to see it with new eyes, and they immediately took it upon themselves to change practice without external subsidies. Without giving up a spoiler alert, this section is found on pages 187-193; but the rest of the book is well worth reading as well.

    My point: We live in a society that can’t say NO anymore. The wealthy can’t say no to their greed which drives Wall Street bailouts. The MC can’t say no to having two of everything in their households (two cars, two cellphones, two notebooks, two bathrooms, etc etc). Is it any surprise that our society does not expect the less fortunate to say “no” to the realities in their lives either? If villagers in Bangladesh can say no to a generational practice in their “aha” moment (through disgust), and take it upon themselves to change with resources of less than $1 a day, surely people in this country can too?

  56. Steve Cooke Says:

    “Reading Ruby Payne’s book has helped me tremendously to understand where my students are coming from and what they’re exposed to in their homes.”

    When I read statements like this I immediately see why there are issues in education in the Western world. I don’t understand the logic of the above statement. Is the writer really saying that they have actual knowledge about what “students…are exposed to in their homes” from reading a discredited and anecdotal story? Surely, if one wants to know what students are exposed to in their homes one asks the students. We don’t read texts to find this information, and especially not Ruby Payne. Each household is different. Factors effecting students from low SES families will vary very widely, as would factors effecting students from “middle class” households. Ruby Payne cannot possibly claim an exhaustive list here.

    As a teacher, I have dealt with a range of students. Isn’t it our job to encourage critical thinking? Part of that is to model critical thinking. And a part of that is to question the texts we have, and the authority people have to make the claims they do. And this is very relevant to Ruby Payne, and her awful model of perpetuating difference.

    In the end, a student is a student. Not a poor student or a middle class student. Why label them as such?

    • Cara Mooney-Glatkowski Says:

      Often teachers are coming from schools that are very uneven in economic backgrounds of the student. I have read the book, and I also feel as though I was enlightened on my student’s needs. I feel as though I do know a great deal about them, and take time to get to know them, but the specific concerns about vocabulary was new to me.

      I don’t believe that its trying to create all students the same, but rather, helping me to understand how to better scaffold my lesson so all students can find success sooner in the curriculum rather than stumbling through and trying to understand.

  57. Marcie DiPentino Says:

    After completing a course on children living in poverty, I had the opportunity to research Ruby’s Payne’s work. As an elementary school educator for over 16 years, I felt some of Payne’s research to hold true. I’ve taught in the inner city as well as the suburbs. There are students in all areas suffering and facing poverty. We, as educators, must get to know our students on a personal level so that we can understand the hardships they may be facing at home. I don’t believe we should allow these students to feel entitled or any less a part of the classroom community than any other student. However, I do feel that if we can have a little more understanding as to the challenges they’re faced with at home, we can make certain accommodations for these students so that they can be as successful as their middle class peers.

  58. Emily B. Says:

    I recently reread Dr. Payne’s book. As an educator that has more experience with those living in poverty than most people that teach at my current school, I still see the value in the book. Although it does seem judgmental at times, it is important to encourage teachers to think about the lives of their students. I found the appendices most helpful.


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