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Ruby Payne: No Love Lost

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Fourteen-year-old video blogger and Ruby Payne detractor John Wittle is making a splash in the edublogosphere with his YouTube appearance. Thumbing through Payne's A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Wittle questions the educator-slash-consultant’s research methodology:

She hasn't collected any data.

And he questions his district for crowing her the poverty pundit:

...[T]he place where I live, Wake County School System...is being run by people who think Ruby Payne is the only authority on how to interact with poor people.

Schools Matter has seen Wittle's video and agrees with him:

[Payne] is a marketing enterprise who has probably done more to advance real ignorance about poverty than anyone else in America. The way 14-year old, John Wittle calls her out, is a thing of beauty.

Dangerously Irrelevant offers a long list of criticisms by academics (and others, including Wittle) and asks:

First, should districts be spending their monies on a consultant whose work has been accused of being riddled with hundreds of unproven assertions? Whose emphasis on students’ need to change is allegedly so reductionist that it basically ignores the school, neighborhood, societal, political, and other contextual factors that influence the life success of students in poverty?

For more commentary on Wittle and Payne, go here and here.

5 Comments

We all know what's wronmg with public education. The trouble is none of us "adults" has the courage to say it.

Let's stop treating the symptom and go after the disease.
Al

So by "stop treating the symptom and go after the disease," you mean stop blaming teachers for all that's wrong in education, and blame the politicians who have brought immense poverty on our country?

Though Ruby does play loose and fast with statistics and assertions, she understands more than anyone else that the driving force in unequal education is poverty, and the culture that it creates.

I take great difference with the assertion that Payne "understands more than anyone else" about the relationship between poverty and education. More important, poverty is not the driving force in unequal education, it is a co-symptom. Those who live in poverty in this nation are poor for many of the same reasons their children receive inferior education. The inferior education, in turn, helps perpetuate the poverty. The so-called "culture of poverty" is a media myth.

Ruby Payne has done a fair amount of damage. It's pretty sad that this kid with his web-cam clearly understands more about quality research than the folks who are paying her to provide "professional development" so that teachers can understand the lives of their students. A person could learn more by parking two blocks away from their school building and walking every day for a month, or shopping at the grocery store that the student's families go to, or attending church in the neighborhood.

Poverty is no easy life--that is true. But neither does it produce exclusively down-trodden masses. Some folks get insulted at the suggestion that they know more about which dumpsters to dive than how to get to college. But the folks who are listening to Ruby Payne aren't likely to get close enough to realize that.

Thanks for publishing this. The amount of people buying into Ruby Payne's work is shocking. I can't believe how many people want to support the idea that something other than the underfunded educational system itself is causing the problems in education.

The Journal of Education controversy (http://www.wce.wwu.edu/Resources/CEP/eJournal/v004n001/) has a great new article on the Payne phenomenon, criticizing her work in depth. Spread it around: http://www.wce.wwu.edu/Resources/CEP/eJournal/v004n001/a001.shtml

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Recent Comments

  • Spencer Ellsworth: Thanks for publishing this. The amount of people buying into read more
  • Margo/Mom: Ruby Payne has done a fair amount of damage. It's read more
  • Renee Moore / TeachMoore: I take great difference with the assertion that Payne "understands read more
  • Cory Robertson: So by "stop treating the symptom and go after the read more
  • Al: We all know what's wronmg with public education. The trouble read more

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