Ruby K. Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty Chapter 3: “Hidden Rules Among Classes” Presented by Rachael Fagella
But First...We know enough to survive in the classroom…. …But do we know enough to survive in the world of many of our students?... ….A Short Quiz… Based on Ruby Payne’s quizzes in Chapter 3, reflect upon the following questions. Can you answer “yes” to any of the questions stated below? 1. I know which grocery stores’ garage bins can be accessed for throw–away food. 2. I know how to get someone out of jail. 3. I know how to physically fight and defend myself physically. 4. I know how to live without a checking account. 5. I know what to do when I don’t have money to pay the bills.
Ruby Payne’s Theory • Notice how the questions we ponder in school do not address any of the issues featured in the quiz. Yet according to Ruby Payne, if you live in poverty, these are some essential survival skills one must have in order to live. • American education and schooling, in contrast, model the values of the middle class. Payne refers to these values and actions as “rules” and argues that in order to be successful and accomplish upward mobility, one must learn and master the rules of the higher class. • Many educators make the mistake of assuming that all people adhere to the rules of their class – which is predominately, the middle class. They believe these rules to be what is considered “common sense,” and do not realize that the lower and upper classes do not share the same life views. • This can lead to frustration and confusion regarding the actions and values of children and families who live in poverty. Payne argues that in order to successfully teach, educators must be aware of the rules of the different classes in order to better understand their students.
What are some of the Rules? Poverty: Money is to be Spent Middle Class: Money is to be Managed Wealthy: Money is to be Conserved and Invested Poverty: Present Time is Valued – In the Moment Middle Class: Future is Most Important Wealthy: Past and Tradition are Most Important Language: Casual Register – About Survival Middle Class: Formal Register – About Negotiation Wealthy: Formal Register – About Networking
The Rules continued… Poverty: Education is Valued, But Viewed as Out-of-Reach Middle Class: Education is Necessary in Order to Become Upwardly Mobile Wealthy: Education is Necessary in Order to Maintain Tradition and Make Important Contacts Poverty: Sees World in Terms of Local Setting Middle Class: Sees World in Terms of National Setting Wealthy: Sees World in Terms of International View Poverty: Believes in Fate Middle Class: Believes in Choice Wealthy: One Acts in Accordance to One’s Position
Suggestions for Teachers: Do not make assumptions about intelligence or “common sense.” Sometimes a student may not know “the rules,” and does not mean to offend. Instead, a child might actually be acting in a way that is acceptable in his/her class’s culture. Educators must teach students the hidden rules of the middle class in order to be successful in school. It should be noted, however, that the rules should not be taught as if they are better and more valuable. Rather, the rules of the middle class should be introduced as an alternative that will help students in more formal settings. Middle class solutions may not always be the best answer when working with children and family from poverty. Be open to other workable solutions.
My Critique: Chapter 3 contains highly valuable information. Payne’s critique is very telling and relevant to my own teaching experiences with children who live in poverty. Although quite insightful, American society consists of other classes, not discussed by Payne, that most likely have additional sets of rules. For example, the working class is not mentioned in this chapter. They differ greatly from those in poverty because they make too much money to qualify for certain government programs and assistance, yet not enough to enjoy the benefits of the middle class. Even within the middle and wealthy classes, there are differing values and views. Lower-middle class families differ greatly from upper-middle class families in terms of values and available resources. “Old money” can be at odds with the “nouveau riche,” who do not share the same pedigree and tradition. All people can benefit from understanding the American class system.
Bibliography • Payne, R. K. (1996). A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Highlands, Texas: aha! Process, Inc. .