Framework for Understanding Poverty Framework for Understanding Poverty discussion


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Generalizations gone wild

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Natalie This book is widely used by school districts and others concerned with interacting with our growing population of po' folk. It was also used in one of my college classes. My professor touted it as gospel. Unfortunately, it proves to be a book full of generalizations and stereotypes about the poor with little value. It unfairly characterizes all poor people into certain patterns. It blames the people in poverty rather than on the system that helped lead them to and keep them in that condition of poverty. It concocts the "hidden rules of the middle class" to further differentiate those living in poverty from those with more wealth. A perfect book for politicians, and others who want to blame the poor and not take any social action to help those who need it most.


Sarah I had to read it for my Master's program in teaching and then write a paper on it. I found quite a few articles in peer review journals that stated her "research" wasn't scientific at all and that most of the time when the research was scientific she was taking the information out of context.

I wouldn't write the whole book off, it has some good ideas for reaching students when traditional methods have failed and I found the face clock useful, however, there should be a warning sticker on the book about her bias against those in poverty.


Julie Suzanne I am a bit concerned about the following comments:

"It blames the people in poverty rather than on the system that helped lead them to and keep them in that condition of poverty."

"There should be a warning sticker on the book about her bias against those in poverty."

I am wondering if we read the same book? This book sensibly proposes the idea that it is NOT the fault of each person in poverty that they are in the messes in which they find themselves. Payne is the biggest advocate for people in poverty that I have encountered. She consistently supports the idea that it is indeed the system that perpetuates the cycle of generational poverty and that it is our job as educators & people working with people in poverty to help them have the resources, skills, and tools to make the choice to move up if they so choose. She even makes the argument that some people in poverty would choose to stay just the way they are because "there is a freedom of verbal expression, an appreciation of individual personality, a heightened and intense emotional experience, and a sensual, kinesthetic approach to life usually not found in the middle class or among the educated." She consistently reminds readers that people in poverty do not share a common lack of intelligence, but that many individuals in these situations are highly intelligent. I cannot see what possible support one would have to suggest that Payne is anti-poverty. The comments above seem to indicate a complete lack of understanding of everything she tried to achieve with this book, and I hope it's not a common misconception. Again, I wonder if the authors of this comment read through the whole book or if they were upset or disillusioned by something she said in the beginning?

I had many biases against those in poverty before I read this book, and this book has forced me to be honest with myself about that and had helped shape a more respectful outlook and a deeper understanding of how class lines are drawn in our society. This book rings truth and I found it very enlightening.



Algernon I commend Julie's comment above. My main disappointment in the book is that I would like to have seen a little more of the raw research from which she drew her conclusions.

She does, however, address patterns as a matter of fact and reiterates that patterns are just patterns. Individuals vary and are unique, but if we can't discuss how individual behaviors overlap within a group (i.e. people at a similar level of power and access in their society) -- aka 'patterns' -- there is no way to make any sociological critique of the society. Whose interests would THAT serve?


Jessica This book was recommended to me as a great read. While I did not see it as "great", I did appreciate the fact that it gave people a deeper look into the lives of those in poverty. I think that many people do make generalizations about those in poverty and need to have their eyes opened. . Some of the things in the book seem fictional at times but I think it reveals the problem, the reason for the problem and how to fix the problem.


Naftoli I think Natalie's views on the book are unfair. It did not purport to speak for all poor people nor did it blame them for their poverty. There are certain sociological realities among all groups in society and this book presents these trends. To pretend that there do not exist trends among groups is just plain silly, people rarely act as individuals. Rather, people often behave based upon values and behaviors taught to them both explicitly and implicitly by their families, extended families, and ethnic groups. I wish it were otherwise.


message 7: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate Hornstein I'm with Julie. I think Payne wrote this book with the premise that people in poverty, despite living in circumstances designed by others, or designed by the inaction of others, can make choices. I worry about a victim mentality which sees people as incapable of being anything other than what they are. And yes, people are snowflakes but as someone who has spent time living among people who are poor, middle class and wealthy--there are common characteristics that keep showing up, some of which Payne truly "gets." Generational poverty has a feeling to it that is consistent across cultures--I think it is interesting--and brave of Payne to say that. That doesn't mean that people in generational poverty are unintelligent--and I think she explains very well how difficult it is to make choices in many circumstances. I have often observed in the U.S. that there are a variety of "languages" of class we all speak, and there are immediate clues when you are speaking to people as to where they "belong." If work in the classroom can combat this, I commend Payne for trying.


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