Ruby Payne is a popular consultant to school districts around the United States and, perhaps, the world. I have major concerns about her “deficit” view of low-income students and their families — it smacks of a “blaming the victim” mentality.
I’ve written extensively about the concept of “blame,” and you might be interested in The Best Resources For Helping Students (& The Rest Of Us) Learn The Concept Of Not Blaming Others.
I thought it might also be important, though, to create a “The Best…” list specifically related to Ms. Payne. Her popularity is a fact (you can read this fawning New York Times Magazine article about her to confirm that statement).
There have been some good critiques written about her, though there have also been ones that are not particularly accessible and written in “academic-ese” and others which I think have been overly ideological. Here’s a comment I left on Scott McLeod’s blog a few years ago during a conversation about Payne:
I agree that the most effective long-term strategy for dealing with many of the problems facing low-income communities (and the children who live in them) is to organize for better housing, employment, health, etc.). I would also add that schools and their staff should work as partners with parents and other local neighborhood institutions to push for those changes.
At the same time, though, I don’t necessarily believe that this kind of strategy is the only avenue to pursue, just as I don’t believe that most teachers are attracted to Ruby Payne’s deficit model because it’s “comfortable.”
I believe that there is much that can be done day-and-day-out in the classroom by teachers. And that many of these teachers are desperate to learn any kind of instructional strategies and classroom management tactics that they can apply effectively to respond to the many challenging situations that can be found in inner-city schools.
Saul Alinsky, the father of modern-day community organizing and the founder of the organization that I worked for during my organizing career, once said, “The price of criticism is a constructive alternative.”
I believe that those of us who are critics of Ruby Payne need to do a far better job of offering constructive alternatives that teachers can use today and tomorrow — right in their classroom — if we want more to see the fallacies of Payne’s approach.
One of the things I try to do in this blog and in my books is to offer practical strategies for teachers to use instead of getting sucked into “blaming the victim.”
But there have been some good accessible critiques written, and I thought I’d share a few of what I think are the best ones:
The Myth of the Culture of Poverty by Paul Gorski at Educational Leadership.
A Framework for Understanding Ruby Payne by Anita Bohn at Rethinking Schools.
Savage Unrealities by Paul Gorski at Rethinking Schools.
Revisiting Ruby Payne by Anita Bohn at Rethinking Schools.
Poverty and Payne: Supporting Teachers to Work with Children of Poverty is by Mistilina Sato and Timothy J. Lensmir.
Shifting from Deficit to Generative Practices: Addressing Impoverished and All Students is by Paul Thomas. And thanks to Paul for helping me find some of the articles on this list.
The Corrosive Power of Stereotypes in Politics and Education is also by Paul Thomas.
Return of the Deficit is by Curt Dudley-Marling.
More resources can be found at Debunking Ruby Payne’s Framework of Poverty.
Feedback and/or Additional suggestions are always welcome.
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You might also want to explore the over 800 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.