In one of its rare attempts to deal with the issue of poverty, the Washington Post takes note of an educational consultant named Ruby Payne who specializes in teaching teachers what to expect from poor kids in a classroom and how to deal with it when they get it.
The Texas-based author says in her book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”: Parents in poverty typically discipline children by beating or verbally chastising them; poor mothers may turn to sex for money and favors; poor students laugh when they get in trouble at school; and low-income parents tend to “beat around the bush” during parent-teacher conferences, instead of getting to the point.
In the past several years, at least five school systems in the Washington area have turned to Payne’s lessons, books and workshops.
At first glance this may look like the kind of stereotypical folderol that’s been spit out for years – decades – by educational “consultants” who cut their teeth on conservative propaganda from the Heritage Foundation and glean most of their “information” from HF “poverty studies” so skewed they have no value outside a right-winger’s head. And that’s the way it’s being taken by her critics.
But many academics say her works are riddled with unverifiable assertions. At the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference in Chicago last week, professors from the University of Texas at Austin delivered a report on Payne that argued that more than 600 of her descriptions of poverty in “Framework” cannot be proved true.”
She claims there is a single culture of poverty that people live in. It’s an idea that’s been discredited since at least the 1960s,” said report co-author Randy Bomer.
Absolutely true, and it makes Payne dangerous in the same sense that all stereotyping is dangerous.