A Culture of Poverty

Inherently Lower Class or Intentionally Disadvantaged

What Is A Culture of Poverty?

A "Culture of Poverty" can be defined as a phenomenon in which low-income students and families are described by negative generalizations such as fun-loving, loud, inherently criminal, sexually deviant, and not valuing of education. It implies that students of color and english language learners are not achieving at grade level on standardized tests because they are inherently intellectually inferior. (Redeaux, 2011) A model that attributes the failure of the poor to their lack of middle-class behavior and values. This idea of a Culture of Poverty is used as a way to justify, promote, and recycle inequality in schools by the perceived deficiencies of students and their families.

How is this Idea of a "Culture of Poverty" ultimately problematic?

When we think about people or groups of people in terms of their weaknesses rather than their strengths we are projecting a deficit ideology. (Hall, Quinn, & Gollnick, 2014) When Educators hold a deficit ideology, they believe that people with backgrounds opposite their own (I.e. race, ethnicity, and economics) are deficient or inferior which can have a negative impact on learning. The deficit ideology is projected perfectly within the idea of a culture of poverty. The idea of a culture of poverty ultimately blames the student for being different, and limits the student to the stereotypes assigned to them by educators and those of different educational backgrounds.

Although the United States grows more and more diverse each year, the population of educators remains overwhelmingly white. Thus, an increasingly diverse population of students is being taught by a population of teachers who are essentially their polar opposites in terms of culture. The basic premise surrounding the culture of poverty paradigm is the belief that they are different from us. They, those from poverty, supposedly behave, feel, and think differently than those of us in the “mainstream.” This is the same logic was used to justify the brutality, cruelty, and enslavement of Native Americans and Africans who were considered as the “other” in relation to their white counterparts colonizing this nation. (Redeaux, 2011) Recurring and harmful ideologies such as this can act as the catalyst for a self fulfilling prophecy. If we treat all of the students as though their culture is an inhibiting factor, and is inherently wrong, then WE are creating the problem.

What Is to be done?

It is apparent that the culture of poverty is a flawed and harmful ideology, and is used as a tool for oppression. The Idea of Cultural Competence, or the ability to relate and communicate with a variety of different cultures plays a huge role and should be addressed if we are to find a solution. Teachers who are on the ground, and dealing with this sort of issue every day are aware of its importance. However, legislators are almost always out of touch here, and continue to create laws based of quantitative rather than qualitative data, which contributes primarily to the recycling of such flawed ideology. We have to raise awareness in order to pressure our lawmakers into addressing the real issue. Students of all races need encouragement while they are in school, but it seems that students are always getting the short end of the stick, and they themselves are getting blamed for it.
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Sources and Citations

Redeaux, M. (2011). The Culture of Poverty Reloaded. Monthly Review Mon. Rev., 63(3), 96. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=5519aea0-bf6d-47d6-ac96

Hall, G. E., Quinn, L. F., & Gollnick, D. M. (2014). Introduction to teaching: Making a difference in student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing.

Image From: http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2014/10/americas-teachers-continue-low-expecations-black-latino-students/