[Marxism] rural ny poverty

Karen Saunders Karen_Saunders at wsesu.org
Sun Mar 8 10:02:13 MDT 2009

The numbers of homeless children are climbing here in rural southern
Vermont, as they are everywhere.  As stated in the article Lou posted,
though, the numbers of homeless children "do not begin to paint a complete
picture of the problem." 

In every school that I know of, children arrive daily with hunger pangs
and financial fears.  We can feed them breakfast, but can't assure them
that their parents will find a new job or that the landlord won't evict
In one kindergarten class that I'm familiar with, children help the
teacher choose a question each afternoon to be written on the board and
answered as they arrive the next morning.  One day in December, a boy
asked if the next day's question could be "Do you have a home?"

This lack of financial security translates into anxiety that's felt by all
family members, not just parents.  We know that anxiety disrupts working
memory, thus affects students' ability to learn.  We also know that health
care is increasingly unaffordable for many families and know the
debilitating effects of illness on learning.  It's quite clear that the
material conditions in which many of our students live are not condusive
to learning.  

We do our best to feed children, bring in clothing for them, arrange
medical care when possible, and generally create safe classroom
environments to minimize the anxiety that children bring to school with
them every day.  Oh yes, and we do still teach, in spite of the increasing
amount of time devoted to standardized tests for NCLB.

 Yet teachers all over the country hear that it's our fault that students
aren't learning.  We read that schools must be reformed, or closed and
replaced by charter schools.   We're subjected to "professional
development" presentations from  Ruby Payne's for-profit business, aha!
Process Inc., in which we're told that the "culture of poverty"  is a
mindset that causes poverty and prevents  students who come from
economically disadvantaged homes from learning.  If we can just help these
students to adopt middle class values about education, they will succeed.

Interestingly, I'm hearing more teachers (generally a conservative group)
say that capitalism just doesn't work.


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