Posts tagged ‘Child Poverty’

January 8, 2014

The Myth of the Hero Teacher

Casting educators as saviors undermines the teaching profession—and our students.

By Allison Ricket | Published Dec 23, 2013 by Teaching Tolerance

Political sound bytes about classroom incompetence and the crisis in education frighten me far less than the rhetoric of those looking to defend teachers by calling us “heroes.” The myth of the teacher as hero is a damaging one—and one we need to examine closely in these turbulent political and economic times. Deconstructing this myth reveals negative implications for students and for colleagues at a time when teachers need support—not labels that undermine our profession. 

As an educator for social justice, I want my students in the hero role, not myself.

First of all, to call teachers “heroes” implies that they must be “saving” someone. It follows that, in this metaphor, students play the role of the anonymous civilians in peril. To conceptualize students—even nominally—as people in need of saving strips them of their agency and goes against the very meaning of the word education. The Latin root of this word—educere—means “to lead forth.” In light of this etymology, the heroes live inside our students, who need orchestrated stimuli, love and attention to lead them toward their potential. 

Second, the myth of the teacher as hero places inherent judgment on any cultural, socioeconomic or familial status that might alter a student’s learning or educational needs. According to the hero narrative, students need to be saved from something. So what is it we’re saving students from, and who decides? No one would dispute that learning disabilities or family poverty can pose significant obstacles to learning and that students who grow and learn despite these difficulties have developed great coping mechanisms. But I think it’s egotistical to pin this “triumph” on a single teacher rather than on students’ own efforts and inherent capabilities. It also demeans students’ identities to cast the realities of their lives as circumstances from which they must be saved.

Read more:

November 8, 2013

We need a war on poverty, not teachers

The right loves to demonize unions, but economic factors are much more important to success in the classroom

By | Published Nov 7, 2013 by


Similarly, we know that many of the high-performing public schools in America’s wealthy locales are unionized. We also know that one of the best school systems in the world — Finland’s — is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing.

So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation. Cross-referencing education data, researchers found that a majority of all public school students in one-third of America’s states now come from low-income families.

How much does this have to do with educational outcomes? A lot. Social science research over the last few decades has shown that two-thirds of student achievement is a product of out-of-school factors — and among the most powerful of those is economic status. That’s hardly shocking: Kids who experience destitution and all the problems that come with it have enough trouble just surviving, much less succeeding in school.

All of this leads to an obvious conclusion: If America were serious about fixing the troubled parts of its education system, then we would be having a fundamentally different conversation.

Read more:

July 24, 2013

‘Crack baby’ study ends with unexpected but clear result

By Susan FitzGerald | Published July 22, 2013 by The Philadelphia Inquirer


The team has kept tabs on 110 of the 224 children originally in the study. Of the 110, two are dead – one shot in a bar and another in a drive-by shooting – three are in prison, six graduated from college, and six more are on track to graduate. There have been 60 children born to the 110 participants.

The years of tracking kids have led Hurt to a conclusion she didn’t see coming.

“Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine,” Hurt said at her May lecture.

Read more:

June 6, 2013

New data shows school “reformers” are full of it

By | Published Jun 3, 2013 by

In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students. In recent days, though, the faults in that premise are being exposed by unavoidable reality.

Before getting to the big news, let’s review the dominant fairy tale: As embodied by New York City’s major education announcement this weekend, the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.

For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activistprofiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.

Read more:

May 10, 2013

Child poverty rampant in Canadian cities

By Iglika Ivanova | Published May 9, 2013 by

The story of child poverty in Canada is very much an urban story. One out of every 10 children living in urban areas was poor in 2010, compared to one in 20 children living in non-urban areas. Three-quarters (or 76 per cent) of all poor children in Canada lived in one of the urban centres shown in the chart above.*

Child poverty isn’t a question of jobs: the cities with worst child poverty only had middle-of-the-pack unemployment rates (out of the 19 cities, St. John’s, N.L. was 8th highest and Vancouver, B.C. was 11th highest). Similarly, the cities with the lowest unemployment rates in 2010 (Regina and Quebec) did not score particularly well in terms of child poverty. This is why it’s so important to talk about the living wage in Vancouver and wages in general.

Read more:

April 10, 2013

Canada lags on childhood well-being, UNICEF says

Published Apr 10, 2013 by The CBC

A new report from UNICEF suggests the well-being of children living in Canada is lower than those growing up in many other wealthy countries.

Canada ranked 17th of 29 countries in an overall ranking compiled by the child-focused international humanitarian organization.

The report shows Canada’s standing hasn’t improved since a prior report in 2007. The first report was based on data from 2001-03, while the current one contains data from 2009-10.

“As a Canadian, I’m ashamed,” says David Morley, president of UNICEF Canada. He says Canada is “stuck in the middle of the pack against other wealthy countries, and that’s just not good enough.”

The overall ranking was based on five broad categories:

  • Material well-being.
  • Health and safety.
  • Education.
  • Behaviours and risk.
  • Housing and environment.

Each broad category includes data on detailed subcategories that measure specific areas.

Read more:

February 6, 2013

Canada’s greatest child abuse problem: Poverty

By Michael Laxer | Published February 5, 2013 by
“The impact of poverty on children, who are entirely innocent of any “responsibility” for it, and are simply born into it by fate, is life-long and effects health, education, and, frankly, happiness. (Let alone obviously increasing the likelihood of the child either being a victim of crime or being drawn into committing crime). Everyone, even when doing nothing about it, knows this is true and no one really disputes it, other than a few delusional religious types who actually believe poor kids deserve their fate as some type of moral purgatory.The problem is not that anyone debates that there is a problem. The problem is, simply, that there is no political will to do anything about it.

And it is not just Rob Nicholson and the federal Tories. No political parties, the Liberals, NDP and Greens included, have any meaningful programme to confront and eliminate this appalling moral scourge that draws so many into its maelstrom of injustice, hunger and day-to-day brutality.

And make no mistake, this is what child poverty is; a daily crime inflicted on children by a wealthy society that has the means to eliminate it, but that has decided not to. We are all complicit in this crime, no one more so than the politicians that could actually effect change, but remain idle instead.”

Read the entire article:

February 1, 2013

How poverty influences a child’s brain development

By IVAN SEMENIUK | Published  Jan. 25 2013 by the Globe & Mail

At first impression, the two groups of children were hard to tell apart: just regular kindergarten kids from different neighbourhoods in Kamloops, B.C. Yet, when they visited a mobile lab as part of population study he collaborated on, Clyde Hertzman remembers how their young brains revealed a striking contrast.

Both groups were asked to focus their attention on a series of sounds while researchers monitored their neural activity. Not only did one group tend to have a harder time with the task, Dr. Hertzman recalls, it “ had a systematically different pattern of brain responses to the test.”

How could children drawn from a city of just 85,000 people end up with wiring that was essentially different? They had grown up with any number of genetic and environmental influences affecting their brain development and behaviour, but one variable stood out: affluence. Those who did not perform as well tended to be from the poorer of the two neighbourhoods. Somehow their socio-economic status was showing up in the architecture of their thoughts.

The result was a particularly vivid example of something scientists who specialize in early childhood development have seen again and again. Kids from communities that are underresourced and subject to economic stress think differently than their wealthier counterparts in ways that can ultimately affect behaviour.

Five years later, Dr. Hertzman – who teaches at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health and was Canada’s health researcher of the year in 2010 – is part of a rapid evolution of the field that has grown from merely recording the demographics of cognitive disparities to building a bottom-up understanding of the molecular changes that cause them.

The change has gathered momentum in recent months, fuelled by a bounty of new findings that bolster the long-observed link between social environment and development with a newly emerging biological perspective.

It also underscores the stunning human cost of what is called the “socio-economic gradient.” Only 3 to 4 per cent of Canadian children are born with inherited differences that will limit their physical, emotional or intellectual growth, yet an average of 25 to 30 per cent exhibit some level of developmental vulnerability that could include a cognitive “deficit.”

Read more: