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Payne makes sound counterarguments.

Posted By: Matt Crowe on May 28, 2009
As a child of situational poverty, and the first in my family to graduate from a four year university, I identify closely both with the middle-class and poverty constructs which Payne's work delineates. When I first read her work and shared it in discussion in my grad school courses (MA-Secondary Ed.) I found that several people opposed her work by what they perceived to be deficit minded thinking about children of poverty. I found, as is often the case, that some objected to Payne more out of reputation than out of actually having read her work. I appreciated her retort because it gets to the heart of the issue: Her work is not about the reckless policies and social inequities of the system; rather, explicitly so, her purpose is to help mostly White, middle-class teachers to recognize patterns in student behavior that could stem from their socio-economic background. So if you're interested in learning about the systemic constructs that perpetuate the economic stratification in our society, then read Kozol. If you wish to understand how to better empower your students through education, then read Freire. If you want practical examples that will help you to better reach some of your students that may be baffling you, then read Payne.

The same philosophy could also apply to how we view language and ethnic heritage in our classrooms. Should we reinforce the value of and provide the opportunity to use the students' heritage languages in our classrooms? By all means. But should we not also teach all our kids how to master English? Right, wrong or indifferent, that is the language of power in this country, so as a language arts teacher I see myself shaking up the system by making sophisticated standard English accessible to all of my students (White, Asian, Latino, Black, wealthy, middle-class or poor). I could spend all my time talking about how it shouldn't be the way it is (and I believe it shouldn't) or I can focus on being solution oriented in the world we live in. I see Payne's work as doing just that, so to infer that her observation of trends and patterns among economic classes is somehow reinforcing social inequalities seems to me to be a bit of a witch hunt.
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 Payne makes sound counterarguments. by Matt Crowe on May 28, 2009
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