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Cultural deficit in new clothes

Posted By: Adrienne Dixson on May 25, 2009
Ms. Payne's response to the article verifies that she in fact holds a deficit perspective of people who live in poverty. To describe one's family as having "nothing" to offer them is not only inaccurate, it is also extremely problematic. Of course, families pass on and transmit skills to children. Ms. Payne would do well to read the RESEARCH and SCHOLARSHIP of Luis Moll, Carol D. Lee, Kris Guittierez, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Jacqueline Jordan-Irvine, Etta Hollins, Geneva Gay, Wade Nobles, A.Wade Boykin, Margarat Beale Spencer among a host of others who can speak directly to the skills and knowledge base that children bring to school regardless of socio-economic class. A substantial body of empirical research exists that supports what Ms. Payne describes as the "social determinism" theory. Less credible scholarship and a much older body of research exists that falls within that of her work: cultural deficit. I attended a workshop Ms. Payne conducted for the National Middle School Association in Columbus, OH in 2005. Ms. Payne offered no research or scholarship basis for her claims. The test for whether one can survive in poverty was full of generalizations that actually obscured the issues and further essentialized poverty. While the audience was receptive, I would argue that is in large part because of Ms. Payne's performance. She was funny. She offered impersonations of what she described as the language of people who live in poverty. She teased and chided the audience for being middle-class, yet, she offered no useful information. She promised that her book offered more in-depth information than her presentation. Finally, studying one community for 24 or 30 years is commendable, but any researcher worth her/his degree, will tell you that you need to add more complexity to the research design if the plan is to bring strategies to scale.
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 Cultural deficit in new clothes by Adrienne Dixson on May 25, 2009
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