A reader comments on this post:
Poverty is not destiny; it’s policy.
Indeed. As one of the creators of “The Wire” said, “Capitalism is not a social policy.” Anybody who says otherwise is eyeing your wallet.
Poverty is neither destiny nor policy.
Consider the following three rules:
1) Graduate from high school.
2) Get a full time job.
3) Wait until age 21 and marriage before having your first child.
Among people who follow all three of those rules, the poverty rate is only 2%.
Among people who follow zero of those rules, the poverty rate is an astounding 76%.
Source: page 15 at http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/events/2009/10/27%20opportunity%20society/1027_opportunity_society_presentation.pdf
Personally, I would add a fourth rule to that list: Obey the law.
Anyway, the point is that people have choices, and actions have consequences.
I have no idea why so many people choose to violate rule #3. Condoms are available at every drugstore and supermarket. Generic birth control pills cost $9 per month. Marriage, up until the 1960s, was the standard behavior in this country, and any man or woman who created a baby out of wedlock felt ashamed and embarrassed about it.
The problem with this logic is #2. All of our mid-grade jobs, where people could have made a living, were sent away via outsourcing and offshoring. We are left with fat cats making all of the money while our lower and middle classes get nothing but “pink slips” and longer unemployment lines. Our trickle down economic system barely ever “trickled”.
I grew up in poverty, education freed me from it. My husband grew up in poverty, education freed him from it. I work with refugees who come here in poverty, hard work frees them from it. My family came to this country as refugees, not speaking English, hard work freed them from it. There are certain requirements for moving forward, and I think children from most poverty stricken families do not get the message that life will look very different for them if they want to be out of poverty. They have to understand that change is ahead and a reality currently unknown to them is necessary. It takes bravery to step out of the poverty cycle. It takes teachers seeing you as a whole person and not just the impression of your appearance or the status of your address. I’m a firm believer in education, but even education can’t save you if you don’t realize that what you want for your future is something very foreign to what you are living now. You need courage and vision to look for a life that is very different from the one you have been born into. Moving out of poverty is like moving to another country. You need to adapt to a new culture within yourself. This is the problem that is never addressed in any discussion that I have read. The answer lies within. If school districts can help children see a future inside themselves, not just outside themselves, then they will make a difference in dealing with poverty. Sadly, many people accept their poverty because the requirements to get out are not to their liking. We cannot ignore this aspect of the problem. I grew up believing poverty was a state of mind, not finances. When my mother had to borrow my saved $10 in fourth grade to make it through the rest of the week, you can be sure we were living in poverty. But she refused food stamps. She was urged to take them and she sometimes choked back the tears in the grocery story check out line, looking at other people’s shopping carts, filled with all the food and much of it paid for with food stamps. She thought she was depriving us by not having a “square meal” every night on the table. But she knew that if she took those food stamps, we would see ourselves as poor. So we ate simply. None of us in our family deal with weight issues. If you want to help children, help their parents understand that the formula for a brighter future is self-respect. Live it and your kids will follow. I’m grateful for my life experience. Even my immigrant grandmother, in her last days before passing away, would wake up from her long sleep and express regret that she was sleeping so much and unable to do any work. Folks, there is no way out of poverty without thinking like that.
Thank you Katerina for your story. And I don’t mean to disrespect you, and don’t take this the wrong way, but YOU are not my concern – nor is any other ONE person. My concern is the millions, if not billions of data points that clearly link a parents income level, and more importantly poverty, to declining student achievement. Federal reform should be aimed directly at what is needed. Yes, for some individuals, schools and teachers can make a huge impact, helping them overcome. But I do not worry myself with outliers, I am worried about Arne Duncan implementing a sweeping reform movement, directed at teachers, as if we are not doing something necessary, in order to increase student achievement. Federal and state level movements ought to be aimed at decreasing poverty in this country, and the first and foremost way of doing that is to provide Americans with stable jobs in which they can raise their children in functional families. Secondly, its on us. Since the 60′s we have perfected slinging kids into single-parent homes led by women, when we know that they are 5 times more likely to be poverty stricken and NOT have the means to developing their children for the requirements of schooling. Lastly, its on the schools to do what we’ve been doing all along – provide and facilitate learning for ready and motivated students.
Dark Matter from the other side from Pulitzer Prize-winning animated political cartoonist Mark Fiore on BillMoyers.com.
It is only in the last 300 years that poverty was not the norm for 99.9% of the population.
Well teachingeconomist, I would much rather default to the rates of child poverty 30 or 40 years ago when child poverty was about half of what it is today. I’m sure we wouldn’t be seeing this “war on teachers”. We’ve traded in our “War on Poverty” to our “War on Teachers”. And Hanuschek can kiss it.
As long as we are stating our preferences, I would rather eliminate poverty all together.
Where’s the “like” button?
That’s right. Things are so much better today. As just one example, throughout most of world history, aluminum was more expensive than gold or platinum. When they built the Washington monument, they put a six pound piece of aluminum at the top. At the time, this was the single biggest piece of aluminum that had ever existed, and was considered quite an achievement. During the industrial revolution, Alcoa invented the Hall–Héroult process, which made aluminum way, way, way cheaper. Today, this process is used all over the world. Because of this invention, aluminum is now so cheap that people throw aluminum foil into the garbage. Alcoa took what had previously been a luxury that was only available to the wealthiest people, and made it accessible to everyone.
Please cite source for that statement as I believe that “poverty” is seen as a relative concept and the definition has changed over time and societies. Either that or please explain your statement in greater detail as the way it stands now it really doesn’t ring true.
I thought I responded to this, but it seems not to be here. Was it removed?
I will put up another post answering your question when I figure out what happened to the last post. I found another one that I thought I made is gone.
Anyone else missing posts?
From Secretary Dumbcan himself (President Barack O’Bush’s basketball buddy):
“That poverty is not destiny. There are some folks who feel you have to end poverty to fix education. I believe you have to fix education to end poverty.”
Are Cabinet officers exempt form drug and random drug testing?
I understand you are an economist. Does that mean that every last ounce of human understanding and compassion has been pressed out of your soul? Sure, poverty is relative. A child living in Harlem who is homeless and hungry looks rich in comparison to a child who is poor in India or Somalia. That is as heartless a point of view as I can imagine. It points us to a policy of meanness: Let them eat cake, if they can find any. Or let them starve, because they are better off than some child living in another society. Really, you need to go to church or get someone to give you an injection of the milk of human kindness for your veins.
I guess I fail to see where I was being mean or heartless about anything. For example, my post pointed out that many of the children in Hungary whom your statistic DID NOT COUNT as poor SHOULD be considered as poor and WOULD be considered poor in the calculation for the United States.
I was trying to answer Duene’s question to the best of my ability, explaining that a poverty line is somewhat arbitrary and what counts as “poor” differs from society to society and over time. I also said we do a bad job of measuring poverty here in the US. There are more actually poor people living in New York, for example than there are officially poor people because we do not adjust for any cont of living in calculating the poverty line. Another example was the Earned Income Tax Credit. Because it increases after tax income, that government policy has no impact on measured poverty rates, though it does reduce actual poverty.
Any statement about allowing people to starve is something you brought to the post, nothing I wrote.
Was my post removed? Was the post pointing out that every school, public, private, or charter,. limits admissions in some way also removed?
Should be cost of living, not cont of living.
I think I have quoted UNICEF for the use of child poverty statistics. Do they not have a system in which they judge poverty fairly and consider factors such as the cost of living, etc… across countries and populations? Or do they just use data that the governments provide? I am asking purely out of curiosity. Really this whole discussion could turn moot in that whatever we deem as true poverty does not negate the obvious causation of lower income levels on academic achievement, whether we determine poverty rates differently. I don’t even relegate the relationship between poverty and income levels of parents as a matter of correlation anymore. It is such an obvious relationship, that I believe income is credible cause to that of student achievement rather than a correlation. I think for every so many thousands of dollars in parent income, we see students score 10 or 15 points higher on the SAT. None of what is being debated here really matters in the large scheme of things. We KNOW for a fact that poverty, and generally, the income of parents dictate more about student achievement than any other factor, including school. Are there outliers? Are there miracles? Sure, but with every miracle comes other variables that can offset poverty and which are not available (for whatever reason) to the rest of the students that are in a similar situation. The bottom line is this, and this is really the meat of the discussion, I have NEVER seen a database, connected to any standardized test (whether international or national, that places a poorer tabulation of scores above their richer peers. NEVER, not even once. In fact, Diane, or anybody else, can someone, anyone, please submit a database of standardized scores disagreggated based on poverty levels, that show a poorer group of test takers outscoring their richer peers? I would love to see it. I am begging to see it.
You have so much to say that I think you should start your own blog.
I ask you not to hog all the space for conversation.
I have compared this blog to a living room.
When one guest keeps talking and talking and talking and talking, he is discourteous.
I am the host.
I am asking you politely not to hog the conversation.
By the way, no need to disagreggate PISA, TIMSS, ACT, SAT, or NAEP scores for a rationale in finding a poorer groups of kids outscore their richer peers. I have already done that, even for years past, and NEVER encountered a situation in a poorer group of students outscore their peers. NEVER. Please, someone provide evidence of this. It will be like a ball falling upwards when dropping it. It would a joyous occasion for me, a magical one at that.
The poverty line used in Dr. Ravitch’s statistic is based on children living in households with income less than 50% of the median income in each of the countries. The poverty rate is usually thought of as a measure of absolute poverty. The UNICEF poverty rate is more a measure of relative poverty. Important, but not the same thing.
Diane, are you talking to me? I have posted 6 times in this thread out of 21 total replies? I reply on your blog from time to time, but never “hog” a conversation? Maybe you are not talking to me?
Economist, income levels on international and national tests are normally tabulated based on the number of free and reduced lunch rates. On ACT and SAT measures, I believe students and families are asked about their income levels. So really, the pure definition of “poverty” is meaningless, its more about income levels.
In one of my first responses here I was accused of “…spinning airy-fairy nonsense that has no basis in reality. You obviously know nothing about teaching, economics, or the order…” I have reacted to that by trying to spell things out in more detail and include as much reality in my postings as I could. I will certainly shorten my comments, but I also hope they will be read with more charity by the participants.
The generally preferred way to measure poverty is by looking at consumption rather than income. The number of students getting a “free lunch” is very country specific and not used for international comparisons.
The World Bank’s Handbook on Poverty and Inequality is a good primer about the issues in measuring poverty. It is available here: http://issuu.com/world.bank.publications/docs/9780821376133
But economist, you are missing the point. PISA, TIMSS, and NAEP all disaggregate data based on free and reduced lunch rates. Schools with poorer kids, as measured by free-and-reduced lunch rates, NEVER outscore their peers. Likewise, on ACT and SAT measures, families in categories involving less income NEVER outscore their richer peers. The definition of “poverty” is really meaningless in this discussion.
And economist, whether Diane Ravitch takes offense to your proclamation that she doesn’t know anything about economics and teaching is up to her. But I can assure you as a teacher of REAL science (physics, biology, and chemistry), and not some “soft” science like economics, I have more knowledge of science and teaching in my pinky finger than you do your whole body. In fact, it is exactly economists that are on the front lines to destroy public school teachers, and I have a feeling they were bought and paid for to do it too. They are spreading lies about the supposed effects of teachers on students that are not in the least bit “scientific”.
I certainly agree that within a country the measures of poverty are the same (though not being able to afford a car in rural West Virginia has a different impact on the household than not being able to afford a car in Harlem). The concern was that in the comparison of test scores between countries the poverty measures in the two countries were not easily compared.
I don’t know where I ever “proclaimed” Dr. Ravitch “… doesn’t know anything about economics and teaching”. Could you point it out and I will certainly apologize to her.
Dr. Ravitch, does saying ” I have more knowledge of science and teaching in my pinky finger than you do your whole body.” qualify as being insulting? It seems discourteous to me, but it is your living room.
Economist, to establish your point, please indicate which countries that participate in PISA or TIMSS, have different enough definitions of “poverty” so as to not be comparable? I’m not denying that you have a point, but what I am arguing is that it is relevant when comparing countries like the U.S. compared to Finland (which is one of the more popular comparisons)
Economist, sorry I may have misread your post. However, my insult still holds true, and Diane can kick me off here if she wishes. I have better things to do anyway than argue with you. But please respond – which OECD countries that participate in PISA and TIMSS, should not be compared in terms of comparing “poverty”?
My point about measuring poverty was not about PISA or TIMSS, but in response to the post here:http://dianeravitch.net/2012/08/08/a-good-idea-for-studentsfirst/
I sure hope Hungary has more poor kids that what is in their statistic because we creamed em’ on the 2009 PISA and supposedly we have more poor kids. In fact, based on logic grounded in data, they SHOULD have more poor kids.
Oh, you thought I said that of Dr. Ravitch? No, that was a statement directed at me by another frequent poster.
To be honest, I am really not sure what we are arguing about. I agree that poverty and destitution have a huge impact on learning. I have seen the impact within my family.
This is just sort of a technical but important point and stems from a question I was asked above by Duane Swacker.
Then we are not arguing. And all is well.
We “creamed em’” in terms of comparable poverty rates and scores.
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