Poverty Stereotypes

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Ms.H, Oct 13, 2009.

  1. Ms.H

    Ms.H Companion

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    Oct 13, 2009

    I gave my senior class the following problem to discuss, which is relevant to the literature we had been reading:

    In our society, some live in poverty while others live in luxury. What, if anything, should be done about this situation, and by whom?

    I was trying to be careful to leave the question open, as not to lead students to any conclusions.

    Most, if not all, of my middle-class suburban students responded with conclusions like these: people who are poor are lazy/ on drugs/ alcoholics. They should just get a better education/ better job. Anyone can be successful if they try.

    I felt uncomfortable leaving the converstaion that way, but also felt ill-equipped to challenge their thinking effectively. (I had assumed that at least some students would bring a differing angle, but that was not really the case.) Does anyone have any suggestions or resources that might be helpful in expanding their perspectives?

    Thanks for any feedback.

    (If you are curious about the relevance to literature, we are reading The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, which depicts a futuristic socieity in which the upper class and the lower, laboring class have actually diverged into two separate species because of their great division.)
     
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  3. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Oct 13, 2009

    See how sanguine they are after the following:

    Read more: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/bankruptcy_study.html

    Don't let them pretend they're 25 with a lot of time to recover when they get their hypothetical serious illness, either. Have them imagine they're 45-50, with several kids.
     
  4. Liljag

    Liljag Companion

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    Honestly I would have someone come in to talk to the class about homelessness/poverty..maybe a social worker from a local shelter or a representative from CARE...maybe even someone who is/was homeless.
     
  5. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    Oct 13, 2009

    This sounds good or even a field trip somewhere & I'm not talking about a field trip just to a part of town where all the bums hang out. I mean a place such as maybe a homeless shelter where the director can show & give a talk or some public assistance building, etc. They have to physcially see w/ their own eyes & hear that this is a REAL problem & it's out there & many times, it's not always the person's fault that they wound up that way. It will give them a new lease on life & they'll think twice before thinking all bums are just stupid, lazy fools.
     
  6. Bloom

    Bloom Companion

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    Oct 13, 2009

    It is so sad the children of this age group have no idea how hard it is to make it in the world today. Children (particularly those who come from a family of some financial means) have no concept of expenses and the realities of mortgages, expenses, job security, etc. I like the idea of creating "real life" scenerios for them to actually see how to budget. Have them discuss their "dream job"...research how much money they will make and them have they work on realistic expenses, savings and budgeting. After this is prepared you could provide some examples of job loss, medical illness, etc. and ask them how they would handle the loss of this income and live within the "life" and budget they created for themselves.

    It is so important that children understand the realities of the world and how important it is to plan for the unexpected!
     
  7. punchinello

    punchinello Comrade

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    Oct 13, 2009

    Best book for this: Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. My daughter's college seminar was on homelessness in our country and this was one of her readings. I read it this summer, thinking I pretty much understood the problem. No way. This book changed my thinking SO much. It would be a good read for high school.
     
  8. schuhe01

    schuhe01 New Member

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    Oct 13, 2009

    I read Nickel and Dimed in my college seminar on homelessness and agree it is a great book for high school. They don’t have to read the whole book, single chapters display enough about poverty for students to realize the complexity of the issue. I also read Down and Out in America by Peter Rossi. It’s a little dated, but may be a great resource for you to pull from. It includes facts like one third of the homeless population actually has jobs, but their income isn’t enough to afford rent. I would also recommend that you look up the National Coalition for the Homeless. It’s an advocacy organization centered in D.C. and the website has a lot of information. The organization also has a panel called the Faces of Homelessness. The panel travels all across the country and is comprised of people who have been and are currently homeless. They tell their stories and the audience has an opportunity to ask questions etc. I have been to several of these panels and have found them wonderful opportunities to learn about poverty from someone who is actually experiencing it. These panels are relaxed and give the audience a chance to hear stories and confront stereotypes link to poverty and homelessness. Bringing this panel to your school may be a project worth doing with your class.
     
  9. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Oct 13, 2009

    Does your question leave the option of 'self-responsibility' open?...and if your intention was to accept a variety of answers, please consider that some students will be hesitant to answer in this vein. There are many cases of students not doing well in classes due to a perceived conflict in political view-one that differs from that of the teacher/professor. I am SURE you will accept all answers, maintain an open mind and facilitate conversation on diverse viewpoints.
     
  10. LiveNLearn

    LiveNLearn Comrade

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    Oct 13, 2009

    Ruby Payne's books talk about the "hidden rules of class" and some of them were very interesting. If you don't know that these rules exist, you cannot follow them. It was an eye opening book about why generational poverty exists.
     
  11. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 13, 2009

    Kids tend to see things in black and white; it takes a while for some of them to appreciate all the shades of grey. They know that education can be an avenue out of poverty, so they assume it's an avenue open to everyone. They know that some of the people losing their homes to foreclosures were in over their heads to begin with, so they assume that's always the case. They know that you can get fired for being lazy or not doing your job, and they assume that there's no difference between being fired and being laid off.

    Look at their frame of reference-- they probably don't know (or don't realize they know) anyone facing such dire circumstances. They assume that if their parents can put a roof over their heads, everyone's parents can or should be able to do the same.

    Educating them is where we (or, in this case, you) come in.
     
  12. Ms.H

    Ms.H Companion

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    Oct 13, 2009

    Thanks for all of the helpful feedback. To respond to a couple of posts, Alice, I agree that my students simply probably don't have a frame of reference to process what poverty actually looks like-- I don't indend to chastize them for their conceptions, but do hope to open their eyes a little bit. (I must admit that I myself have had viritually no experience to draw from to counter their ideas.)

    Czacza, yes, I did leave the question very open-- arguing that no one besides the individual in question should be responsible was a possibility, which is the route many of them went. My goal is not to change their conclusion-- it is to make sure that their conclusion is founded on accurate and fair perceptions. I don't think statements like the ones they are making will go very far in most college classrooms, which is where most of these students will be headed next year. If they do want to maintain the opinion that it is not the role of the government to assist, so be it, but I'd like their opinion to be founded on something more than these stereotypes.

    3Sons, thanks for the facts, and thanks others, for resources. I hadn't intended for this to be a major part of this unit, but will work on some follow up. (It seems silly now that I expected "solve the problem of poverty" to be a one class period thing...)
     
  13. japhyr

    japhyr Rookie

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    Oct 13, 2009

    "Solve the problem of poverty" is pretty big and out of reach, but "understand that poverty exists, and there are many reasons for it" is reachable.

    Make a list of ten things you have and value. Take half of those things away. How is your life different?

    This simple exercise might get some students to imagine what it would be like to have less. I would guess most of the things on their lists were given to them.
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 14, 2009

    I think they would probably be very sympathetic to the victims of a natural disaster--I bet they were incredibly generous to the victims of Katrina and the Tsunami a few years ago.

    But I think that kids see poverty differently, because they mistakenly believe that it's always preventable-- not an "Act of God" but negligience by man.
     
  15. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Oct 14, 2009

    Unfortunately, students are sometimes 'held hostage' by teachers' opinions/politics. It happens A LOT in college classes and sometimes in high school (and earlier although the kids probably don't realize it). My son was exposed to one HS English teacher's very biased views against males- the males in the class had the gumption to approach her and express their discomfort. She was a new teacher and was NOT BACK the next year...I didn't shed a tear for her, neither did many of her students. Consider that choice of reading material and questionning does 'color' the conversation. As a parent, I'd want my sons to express their sound, well-thought out opinions to such questions- but when a student worries that their opinion may clash with the teacher's, well, let's just say such teachers mostly get their own words spit back at them (which only reinforces the biased behavior)
     

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