Friday, March 9, 2012

Book Review A Framework for understanding poverty

A Framework for understanding Poverty
                                By Ruby K Payne

  This book was recommended to me by my mother who reads like….Nonstop! I took interest in the title because understanding something is the underlying obstacle in trying to have a positive effect on it. In my calling I tend to interact with many different types of people. Anything that I can add to my belt as a knowledgeable resource is well worth the time and effort.  This book is detailed for teachers trying to make in impact on students lives that may be lacking resources. The author describes resources in a number of categories in the early chapters. These include financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, support systems, knowledge of middle-class hidden rules, and role models.
  The lack of these resources would then indicate to me a means of poverty. One caveat that I would have to this book is if the lack of resources would be indicative to impoverished youth, why does the author only stick to youth who mainly lack financial resources? Let us be commonly clear on one theme: money doesn’t automatically generate the additional resources already stated. By focusing so much attention on people from poor financial backgrounds, the author neglects to mention other areas. For example in high income areas there are still youth and people walking around in poverty based on the resources definitions. A person may not have the necessary support systems, but financially lives in a great house and have adequate food to eat. These numbers slip through the cracks in the education system and then become grown people still broken and still missing key resources in their lives.  
  Another key to the book that perked my ears was deemed “hidden rules” associated with each social class. For example in poverty the hidden rules of a disagreement are that the disagreement will lead to physical altercation. You must be able to fight in the lower economic status. The middle class tends to negotiate disagreements. Another one includes the rules of finances: in poverty it is used to be spent, in middle class it is managed, in wealth it is invested.
  There are literally dozens of stereotypical rules that the author has applied to the various classes. By using a huge paintbrush to broad stroke people, in some situations she comes through truthfully. The problem is that this doesn’t ring true for all cases. Assuming that a child will likely be absent manners because of social status is hilarious. Although I don’t work in the school system I do mingle in and around town. For some reason in target and other stores I hardly ever see a child that appears to come from a humble household acting out in public. I do however see a lot of middle and upper class children, tearing up and down the aisles. Whining because they can’t have a new toy or a hot chocolate from the Starbucks.  The mother is standing the in line begging for compliance, while the established father does anything to avoid having to be called into the situation. Am I the only who sees this every weekend?
   The point is that these hidden rules are nothing more social norms that Americans have adapted as a whole. Some of them reside at the current economic status and others truly depend on what a child or person learns during their time here.  If you choose to read the book…Read it lightly..Otherwise you could find yourself grossly miscalculating who a child or person is based on the multiple generalizations throughout the book.
   In conclusion the author does list a few practical ways to lend assistance to poverty stricken youth. The understanding is somewhat lacking though. There are many broad statements, but no thorough point of understanding. For example in lower class homes she writes, the eldest mother is the one who yields all power. She determines the comings and goings in the family. There is never really a clear explanation as to why the structure is set-up this way. How then do we understand this issue?
  If you have nothing else to do…read the book..If you’re looking for concrete answers …Skip it and look elsewhere. God is the only one that can change people and circumstances. It is through his love that we can show others that bring them closer to him. Once they are closer to him generational norms are broken and better living is established.


  1. I guess I would have to read the book to get my head around the issue. I've worked with the homeless off and on for fourteen years. If we're talking strictly dollars, they are in the poverty population. If we're talking about emotional issues, some of them are very rich being stress free and living each day as it comes. The old saying, "one man's trash is another man's treasure" might come into play.


    Tom Blubaugh, Author
    Night of the Cossack

  2. Thanks for the review Jairus. Sounds like the author got started... It is disappointing when you look for substanitive conclusions that will help you make a difference, but then don't find them. This is a good reminder to check my work to make sure I don't set people up for disappointment.