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Another Good Critique Of Ruby Payne


Readers of this blog know that I”m definitely not a fan of Ruby Payne, the high-priced consultant and speaker to school districts who has a decidely “deficit” view of low-income families.

I’ve recently discovered another good critique of her perspective. It’s called Miseducating Teachers about the Poor: A Critical Analysis of Ruby Payne’s Claims about Poverty.

It’s worth a visit.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Ruby Payne is described as being “over-priced” here. I have no idea on the cost of having her for a presentation, but even though there are a high number of critics, I think her overall message is invaluable. I do not consider her words to be gospel in any way, but they at least made me stop and think about parts of students’ and families’ lives that I had never considered before. As educators, certainly we are smart enough to realize that her statements are stereotypical and in no way can possibly apply to all people living in poverty. But if they at least help us to help our students in anyway, then they are worth considering.

    • I have just completed reading Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” for a graduate class that I am taking. A lot of what I read made sense if I thought about my own personal experiences with my students. Payne’s critics say that she blames the students and their parents and that the patterns and cultures of the poor are the sole responsibility of the poor. Also, that she is reinforcing and perpetuating harmful stereotypes. It is these personalized stories and scenarios that helped me understand what my students living in poverty are facing daily. Payne advocates that low-income students be taught how to “code switch” so that they can fit in and be successful. Schools and businesses operate from middle-class norms and we use the hidden rules of middle class. I agree with Payne that for our students to be successful, we must understand their hidden rules and teach them the rules that will make them successful at school and at work. However, I do not believe that it is as simple as she tries to make it. As educators, we must take the time to develop relationships with our students and figure out what will work to help them be successful in our class and beyond.

      • I agree with you, Patricia…..I found Payne’s book to be enlightening. Like you, it helped me to better understand my students. Although I have been working with students from low SES class for some time now, I found that this book reaffirmed many of the trends that I found. True, not everyone is going to fit the mold exactly, there are always exceptions. But, she really opened my eyes as to just how different the rules are from class to class. I couldn’t agree more that in order for these students to be successful in school, we must teach them the rules of the middle class. The big realization these days is that students do not have the academic language necessary for academic success; and Payne’s theory is consistent with this. I do have to say though, after hearing so much hype about this book, I was really pretty surprised by its simplicity after reading it….I expected there to be more to it than there actually was. Definitely a good read. I honestly don’t think Payne predicted that her book would garner so much attention. I think she was simply putting down her observations, in the hopes that others would find them helpful. I definitely don’t think she has all of the answers, but I don’t think that was her intention.

      • I also just finished reading Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” for a graduate class. I learned a lot from her book, including some great strategies to use in the classroom; however, I have to agree that Payne perpetuates myths and stereotypes of the poor. I find it hard to believe that an entire class of people could hold the same beliefs or operate under the same motives. She also makes it seems as though many people in poverty are satisfied and wouldn’t want to move out given the chance. What her book really made me think about was how my school district caters to the middle class. With the growing number of economically disadvantaged students coming into our district, I think we could all benefit and learn valuable information from Payne’s text. Eric Jensen’s “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” is also a great resource for teachers. There’s a wealth of good information and effective teaching strategies available in his text- and no stereotyping.

      • I also agree with you Patricia.
        Ruby Payne explains the differences between how people in different classes think and relate to the world. Payne opened my eyes as to the defined difference the rules are from class to class. Payne provides a lot of insight about how people in poverty make decisions and their mind set. The information helped me make sense of a lot of behavior that I have experienced over the years and reaffirmed many of the trends that I found in my many years of teaching in a rural district with a high L-SES population. Payne puts out there a “framework” to draw from when attempting to understand the differences between the classes. It recognizes the various struggles that students in poverty face. I too believe that in order for these students to be successful in school and their future, we must teach them the norms/rules and necessary skills. Many students from generational poverty do not have the language and skills necessary for academic success; we need to build relationships and be a positive role model within our classroom to make a difference. However, I feel Payne is too stereotypical in her overall presentation of people living in poverty. We need to keep in mind that every student’s situation is unique. I also feel that Payne focuses solely on the responsibility of the teachers and does not take into account parent involvement and limited resources that we have. I also believe she does not address techniques specifically enough about what educators can do-what schools can do to counter the effects poverty has on students. Where as Jensen’s approach provides very details strategies for educators to use.

      • I am finishing up a class “In the Face of Poverty” and agree with Patricia that most of what I read I could also relate to the school that I teach in. I teach in a school with a high level of poverty students in the area of special education and found that the materials that Payne covered were right on. As a special education teacher it is crucial to understand the background of our students so that we get a better understanding of where they are coming from and the skills that they have. The stories that Payne shared, I could almost pinpoint them to one of my students. We have to remember that these students need to be taught skills that we assume they already know, for they do not have these skills. They become who they are by what they grow up with. We cannot assume anything as educators. This book truly helped me understand that by what these students are dealing with on a daily basis, is what they are bringing to the classroom. This is not an easy process as Patricia had stated, but at least it gives us a true understanding of who we are dealing with and how to proceed from there. I think that this book would be helpful to all educators, but especially to our young teachers just entering the field. I believe that it is difficult, but possible for these poverty level students to have a future to look forward to outside of their poverty world!

    • Maria,

      I agree with your comment. Payne applies stereotypes to an entire socioeconomic class, which is ridiculous. There are always exceptions. However, from her text, I have learned hidden rules about each socioeconomic class that I never realized before. I can use this new knowledge to better educate all of my students. As a professional, we must always critically read research. Payne’s text may be biased, but at least its hype has forced my school district to start considering differences amongst our students.

    • I agree that there is definite stereotyping in her theory. As teachers we are exposed to many theories and perspectives. We have to digest these various resources and glean relevant information that will enable us to become better educators. Even if a small part of her research is able to shed some light on a battle we face everyday there is merit in her work. I grew up in situational poverty and did succeed in life by learning the “hidden rules” and having a mother that did not think like many people living in poverty. She wanted more for me. I am finishing a grad class that focused on Payne’s framework. I feel I have learned some valuable information and was forced to think about how my school does “business.” My school does cater to the middle class. Many teachers in my building do have biases, myself included. However, I have a raised awareness, sometimes that is the key to change.

  2. After reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty, I am somewhat confused about the controversial debates. Before reading the text, I was completely unaware of the ‘hidden rules’ of poverty, middle class, and wealth. I didn’t realize that each class had their own set of rules which guide their everyday activities and decisions. I was also unaware of the multitude of resources that individuals living in poverty lack.
    Ruby Payne’s book has provided me with invaluable insight on how to work with families from different socioeconomic backgrounds and how I can influence some of the non-financial resources that make a difference in students’ lives. I really believe that she has helped provide me with a better understanding of different social behaviors, values, and languages of individuals from different social classes. It’s interesting how we have different perceptions of Ruby Payne’s teachings. I would gladly attend one of her workshops so that I could become more familiar with the strategies that she offers.

    • I agree with some of this statement. I, too did not realize that there were hidden rules of each social class. It was eye-opening for me to read the lists that Ruby Payne includes in her book. I personally was glad she had all 3 lists in her book because it was apparent I would never survive in the wealthy class without A LOT of help. And the same is true for poverty. I do believe that we need to help our students be successful in school by helping them learn the middle class rules. But what about those students who don’t have the option of attending a middle class school? In Payne’s analysis there is no room for this option. I am sure that there are many large cities where schools are made up of all high poverty students who lack great role models as teachers because they are not as qualified and trained. IN that way I do believe she is reinforcing stereotypes and not making the poor accountable to some degree. I realize that they are in poverty for a reason, and need some support, but at the same time, I believe that they also need to want to change and want teh support adn help.

      • I agree with some of what you are saying, Melissa. I am sure there are hidden rules or better yet unwritten rules for all classes. But I don’t agree with the list that Dr. Payne came up with. Look at the list she put together for “Could you Survive in Poverty?” She is make some generalizations with this list. Ones that I take offense to include – “I know how to get someone out of jail,” “I know how to physically fight and defend myself physically”, and “I know which grocery stores garbage bins can be accessed for thrown –away food.” I again agree that there are some unwritten rules and individuals even within the middle class may not always know the rules and the school’s purpose is to help all of these students. Dr. Payne is really reinforcing myths and stereotypes. Typically, there are more differences within groups than between groups. I read the book hoping to get real ideas on how to help students coming from poverty. I felt her book did little to improve my understanding or to give me tools to work with this population more effectively.

    • Dr. Ruby Payne is an activist in that she has brought to our attention a group of people who are usually invisible to us most of the time. They are the children in our classrooms and the homeless people on the street. When they are brought to our attention once or twice a year, we may make a donation to a charity on their behalf, but that is just a temporary fix. Dr. Payne’s framework gives us a guide as to how we can help them break free from the cycle of poverty. It is futile to continue the debates as to whether or not Dr. Payne is perpetrating the idea of classism. It is clear to me that her goal is to stop the subtle discrimination practices that occur in schools and in our society. We are aware that everyone in America is not enjoying the lifestyle of the middle class or of the affluent. There are people in our society who do not have food, health care or many of the basic necessities. As professionals and fellow-citizens, let’s forget about the political correctness of labels for a moment and use our energy to engage in conversations aimed at finding solutions and strategies to help these unfortunate people as they struggle with daily survival issues. Dr. Payne has given us a starting point. There’s plenty of work to do.

    • I too feel I have a much better understanding of my students after reading Payne’s book A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Although I have worked with students living in poverty for the past 30 years, I was unaware of the ‘hidden rules’ and their impact on students’ lives. I feel Payne has done a nice job of giving us a better overall understanding of students and their families living in poverty. A lot of the responders imply that Payne is asking us to not only understand why students ‘do-what-they-do’ but to excuse their actions. I don’t agree. I feel Payne is giving us a very in-depth understanding of the environments these students grow up in and the effects of their upbringing on students attitude, their cognitive ability, emotional and physical well-being and gives us specific suggestions on improving our educational practices under ‘What does this information mean in the school or work setting?’ at the end of each chapter. A Framework for Understanding Poverty recommends that we direct-teach formal register, increase relationships with students and their families, teach students to use the ‘adult voice’ and provide students with good role models and hope.

      • I have been an educator for 21 years. This past year was my first year teaching for a district where the majority of my students are living in poverty. Through reading the text, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” I was able to gain insight as to some approaches and ideas for interventions to be used while working with students who come from less fortunate backgrounds. The case studies provided real life scenarios of what an educator could experience while teaching at any school, not just high poverty districts. Obviously, nothing can prepare you with the reality that you never know what to expect on any given day in any classroom, but Payne gives you insight to possible scenarios. In fact through reading her book, I realized how fortunate I am to teach some of the most at risk students in America. Her insight definitely helped me feel confident in my teaching of these very fragile students and families. Teachers need to have a different mind set in order to make certain connections with parents and students who are living in poverty. Understanding the hidden rules among the classes and how they impact overall student achievement helps me as an educator gather a better understanding as to providing the best possible learning opportunities to assure the success of my students, regardless of socioeconomic status. I was upset to read some of the negative comments that were said about her book. I assure that her intention was not to offend any particular group of people. Any district would benefit greatly from having her as a guest speaker!

  3. In this country of free speech, any time someone publishes their ideas, they open themselves up for debate, guaranteed. Ruby Payne is no exception to that. But as an educated person working in the public schools I feel it is my job to gather as much information on a topic from as many sources as I can and then form my own opinion that is relevant to my life. I’ve been in the education field for 16 years. Prior to Ruby Payne I never heard any mention of even trying to understand the challenges faced by people living in poverty. Whether people want to criticize her or embrace her ideas, I feel that she has brought attention to a topic that had been ignored. To raise awareness that every student in our classrooms does not face the same challenges/privileges is important. Remembering to think of each of our students as an individual with their own learning style, no matter what the reason for that style, is the most important thing I take away from all this debate.

    • I agree with Kay. I have been in the education system for 16 years as well. In college we never talked about what it would be like educating children in different scoio-economic classes. It is an eye opener in how these children view themselves as well as their peers. I do believe that their brains have been wired differently due to their experiences within the home that has put stessors on them. They will react differently due to these stessors. Learning styles are critical to consider when educating these individuals. I feel that the critic are sometimes to hard on the educators not giving them enough credit to filter the information they want to take from a book or a conference. We are adults and don’t believe everything we are told from consultants etc.

    • I agree with Kay as educators it is our responsibility to gather as much information and as many tools as we can to connect with students and their families. I may not agree with 100% of what Ruby Payne writes in A Framework for Understanding Poverty but there are several messages that struck a chord, for instance, hidden rules and the importance of building relationships. What student does not want to connect with their teacher and feel appreciated and valued.

    • I agree with you, Kay. I have also been teaching for quite some time in a high-poverty area, and I cannot say that I have had any type of book on poverty that has really opened my eyes and actually spoke to what I am experiencing in my classroom and district. I think that each student deserves to have the right to learn in the best possible environment and in the best possible way, and if I, as a teacher, can help facilitate that by learning about how these students and their families live, then so be it. As Laura, another blogger stated above, Payne didn’t write this book to identify all the areas of poverty that need to be addressed. In fact, her title includes the words “A Framework” which means an outline or skeleton upon which to scaffold ideas further. I think Payne’s book benefitted me for my needs in my classroom.

      • I agree with Kay and have enjoyed what others who also agree with Kay have written. I am just finishing my course which used Ruby Payne’s book and Eric Jensen’s book, Teaching With Poverty in Mind. One of our questions was do Payne’s critics have merit? I believe a person can find pros or cons to any topic/book. This will always form a debate. As many of you wrote there is no one answer. We as educators need to gather as much material as we can to get us a background of information to help us work with students living in poverty. I too do not agree with everything Payne said. I do agree that she brought this to the attention of educators. If you have not read Eric Jensen’s book, I really enjoyed that last chapter. It gave us some insight as to how a teacher changed his attitude about working with kids in poverty and his job. Both book and this course have left me with many areas to think about the next time I blame poverty on why a kid is acting the way he is. I now know to stop and think about what I learned from my readings.

  4. I believe Ruby Payne has good intentions. She has been able to raise awareness about working with students of poverty. Even if she lacks the research, she should be credited with starting a debate that has people thinking and talking about students from poverty. I did find her “hidden rules” to be stereotypical, but I looked at it as another perspective to have on an issue. I agree with Kay that each student comes with their own challenges and privliges. Some students have more challenges and some have more privleges. It is important to be aware of them both. I think educators have embraced Payne’s ideas because they are clear and do-able. They can be implemented into a school or classroom and start to have an impact on some students. Payne is criticized for not looking at the systemic problems. As an educator Payne provides me strategies and information I can use and implement while working on the systemic problems.

    • I think that through “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”, Ruby Payne is trying to show that people living in poverty do not lack intelligence or are lazy; she is trying to give those who have never experienced any level of discomfort due to lack of resources a glimpse into a life in poverty. The ‘hidden rules’ really opened my eyes to what is important to the specific classes. I don’t think Payne was trying to stereotype anyone; she was simply giving us information to help students who might be not be reached by standard methods. If anything, Ruby Payne’s book gave suggestions that will make us better teachers and offer support and compassion toward children and families living in poverty.

      • I think fischerke makes an excellent point. Not once did I feel while reading Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” that she believed that people living in poverty lacked intelligence or are lazy. I also did not get the impression that she was blaming them for living in poverty and that it should be easy for them to overcome it. While it may be true that there is not a lot of research to her arguments I can honestly say that as I was reading her book I could relate many of her claims to my students and it was like a light went on in my brain. Many times as I was reading I would think to myself, “Oh, so that is why that student displayed that particular behavior.” I honestly think that had I read this book before my last school year, that I would have had a more successful year. The critics can claim that she’s is encouraging stereotypes, but the fact is that many of the characteristics fit. I see it every day as a teacher. This in no way means that I think that EVERY characteristic fits EVERY person who comes from poverty. It just gives a possible explanation as to why some of our students from poverty behave the way that they do. Also, I would challenge anyone to disagree with her chapter on relationships and how important they are to all students, not just students who come from poverty.

      • I am on the same page as “fischerke”. I believe that there is great value in Ruby Payne’s body of work in that it is raising a powerful discussion about poverty in our nation. In my experience it seems that those who criticize the poor as being lazy or ignorant are often times sitting in a position of privilege in terms of social class. It is easy to cast blame when one is comfortable and does not lack the resources to thrive in our society. Payne’s message is working to debunk the myth that all people living in poverty just need to do is “pull themselves up by their boot straps”. I did not interpret Payne’s objective as purposefully categorizing the different social classes and making strong generalizations; rather, as to provide a “framework” to draw from when attempting to understand the disparities between the classes. I view her work as a starting point for me, an educator, in better meeting the educational needs of students living in poverty. Outside of Payne’s work, there is a great deal of research available connecting the impacts of poverty on a child’s cognitive, emotional, and physical development.

      • I’m going to jump on the bandwagon with fischerke, ShaleeL, and Emily. Ruby Payne’s, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, is not meant as a criticism of individuals in poverty nor is it meant to lay blame on any group for the existence of a culture of poverty. It is exactly what the title claims, a framework, a jumping off point if you will. As a teacher in a small city school district with a 70% poverty rate, I gained a great deal of insight to the behaviors displayed by my students that are often puzzling to me. Payne’s hidden rules helped me make sense of these behaviors and furthermore, what to do about them. Not everything Payne presented fit my situation but many of the situations she described were already familiar to me. Most educators in my position who have worked with students of poverty for years, do not lay blame on the students for their impoverished situation but rather look constantly for ways to help them achieve academic success. Payne offered concrete solutions through her “aha! Process.” I don’t perceive the work of Payne as a cure all; however, it’s a way to make some positive changes in the lives of our students in poverty

  5. I also just finished reading Ruby Payne’s “Framework for Understanding Poverty”. I found it very thought provoking. I grew up in a poor rural area, but very little of Payne’s book about poverty applied to my experiences. I applaud her for drawing attention to a sensitive issue, but I think we should be careful not to accept her views as definitive on the issue of poverty.

  6. I understand that Ruby Payne generalizes about the poor community, however, as a former teacher many of the stereotypes can be helpful in understanding where our students are coming from. I realize that it can be damaging to act on the stereotypes or to have preconceived ideas about students. As an educator, Ruby Payne’s information simply helps shine a light on a culture that I myself am not familiar with. As with many available resources, I believe the bigger issue is how we use her information. Are we using it to perpetuate stereotypes and judge the people living in poverty or are we using it to resolve issues within our schools? It is important for educators to gain understanding about the backgrounds of all students and use the information to maximize the learning experience in the short school day. It is impossible to learn every detail about every student which is why I use information like that from Ruby Payne to provide me with a broad base knowledge from which I can individualize.

  7. As a district facilitator, I work with students from a variety of backgrounds. I agree with some of the other comments in that the information presented by Ruby Payne helps provide a generalized level of understanding. It is up to us as educators then to learn the specifics regarding each individual. I don’t believe that the purpose of the information is to hold it against students or to say that all people living in poverty have identical characteristics. Rather, it is intended to give us insight into behaviors, patterns, etc. The range of ability that I see in students is incredibly wide. I am a better educator if I have a framework as to where the students come from. Undeniably, it is a culture and a lifestyle for these families. Once informed, I can approach each student with the individualized help they need.

  8. I just recently finished Payne’s book “Understanding Poverty”. I loved the fact that after I finished reading, I had some practical tools and insight that could help me relate and teach my students TODAY. I don’t have to wait for a reform to come along in order to help the students in my school. Some of the ideas were stereotypical, and as I read the book, students of mine popped up in my head. It was as if she were describing them to a tee. I have a better understanding of their perspective and therefore, I can hopefully be more effective with them. Working closely with post secondary planning, I can change some of my practices in this area. I am going to begin the thinking process as early as possible. Kindergarten would be perfect. We assume students already see the benefits of PS education, but many times students in poverty don’t see the practical value or the benefit to them in their everyday lives. Seeding that message as early as possible could help them look beyond a High School diploma or dropping out at 17 and be able to hang in with their education through the PS process.
    I also had an aha moment about how our school presents PT conferences. We need to build relationships BEFOREHAND in order for the parents to feel welcome and willing to attend. We need to be a bit less action driven and more relationship driven. This flies directly in the face of how I operate. I will be able to give myself permission to follow off topic if this allows for relationship building. Although Payne has her critics, I gleaned several tips and insights from her book to use in my daily practices with students.

  9. After reading Payne’s book, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” I find myself torn. I was all excited about the read because the teachers in my school have been building up Ruby Payne to me for a while now. “You’ve got to read this book. You’ll love it!” After reading it, and reading some criticisms (mostly by Paul Gorski) I have mixed feelings.
    While Payne did open my eyes to the hidden rules of classes (I could only do one on the checklist from poverty) I was still upset about the act of diving people into classes. Not just lower, middle, and upper classes which I don’t think are going away anytime soon. But Payne paints a picture of the people who struggle in poverty as if they need to be fixed. In Paul Gorski’s essay, “Savage Unrealities: Uncovering Classism in Ruby Payne’s Framework” he highlights several examples of stereotyping by Payne. In her “scenarios” she writes that people in poverty are alcoholics, African-American teenage mothers, and Hispanic middle school dropouts. How do we defend this? Isn’t she doing the very thing we are trying to get away from in our schools? We don’t want students to view other students this way. We want to provide equal opportunities for education of all students. We want to understand where all of our students come from and support them the best way we can. I’d ask anyone who disagrees what this to read Gorski’s “Savage Unrealities” and pay close attention to the section called, “The Deficit Perspective.” Can you see the stereotypes now?

  10. I was also required to read Ruby Payne’s book for a graduate class. Although I found it to be a good read, none of it is backed by any research. Ruby Payne has not experienced poverty from a first-hand perspective, but states that she is experienced in the topic because she is married to someone that was. I believe that she stereotypes people by social status and doesn’t look at the individual. She attributes some very morally sketchy behaviors only to poor people. What Ruby Payne forgets to point out is that middle class and wealthey people also exhibit the same behaviors, but the difference is they get away with it.

    • People in middle class and those that are considered wealthy may also exhibit the same behaviors described in Payne’s book but I don’t believe they get away with it. They are just view as snobs or out of touch with the world due to being wealthy or middle class. It doesn’t go un-noticed, its just viewed differently.

  11. I also feel that Ruby Payne has good intentions. Her book is a good tool for educators as a way to gain knowledge to better educate students in poverty. It also recognizes the struggles that students in poverty face and how teachers can address these struggles. I agree with Payne that teachers should be role models and have a big impact on the lives of their students. Therefore, it is our job to teach the necessary skills for students in poverty to succeed. It is our job to teach the hidden rules. The only criticism I have for Payne is that she places a lot of responsibility on the teachers- but she does not take in account lack of parental involvement and limited resources that teachers are faced with. Many of Payne’s critics state that she is stereotypical. I feel she just states the patterns found in poverty and middle class-she even states that all patterns have exceptions.

  12. I have just taken a course for which I read Ruby Payne’s A Framework For Understanding Poverty as well as Eric Jensen’sTeaching With Poverty in Mind. These researchers look at poverty from different perspectives, but I think that they both have valid points. Payne seems to focus on how and why people become impoverished. She distinguishes between situational poverty and generational poverty. Jensen focuses on the brain and how its growth and development is effected by the stimulation that a child receives from caregivers. I’m not quite sure that Ruby Payne used the most recent data in her research and I’m not sure that her idea about the culture of poverty is helpful, but I do think that she pushes people to try and understand the plight of children living in poverty and gives them ideas as to how to help them deal with their daily stress in order to be successful.

    • I was pleased with your comments about her text and Jensen’s. I appreciated Payne’s text and what she had to say about registers, hidden rules and types of poverty. When we can glean information to help our students from different authors with more experience than we have why complain? Many techniques were eye opening to me and I will initiate them with my students and their parents this year. I plan on being a more involved advocate for the students who live in poverty.

  13. Larry, kudos to you and your willingness to offer another perspective on the Ruby Payne philosophy. It seems that Ruby Payne has become THE buzzword in school districts for an explanation of why – why state test scores were not as high as expected, why discipline is not working, why students are not succeeding, why dropping out is becoming an epidemic. I have been exposed to Ruby Payne’s philosophy for several years and have read her book, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”. In it I found accurate descriptions of the behavior and attitudes as well as the struggles in school that many students in my classes were experiencing. Working only with ESL students in a large high school meant that my perspective was very limited. Yes, most of my students were in poverty and yes, they were facing many of the issues described in Payne’s book. So, naturally I did not question her philosophy much more – just accepted it and tried to help our students out of their “deficit” mindsets. After all, I saw students entertaining the other students in class, being very vocal(or noisy as Payne would label it), not in control of their emotions, school discipline having little or no effect, lack of organization, and males posturing toward other males to show dominance to name a few of Payne’s characteristics. All this time, though, I felt a tug in my conscience when she was labeling students as living in a “culture of poverty” but I couldn’t explain it. Now I have been exposed to some other authors whose perspectives are starting to make a little more sense and not feeling as stereotypical as Payne. To start, Paul Gorski’s “The Myth of the “Culture of Poverty “” really opened my eyes by stating that Payne’s ideology was stating that these problems were “existing within rather than pressing upon disenfranchised communities.” In other words, instead of trying to change the person who supposedly has these “deficit” characteristics, why not change the situation causing these? I like his attitude. In addition, Sue Books brought up the point that Payne was focusing on the achievement gap instead of the real solution and that is systemic change. The whole system needs to undergo radical change, not just those in the culture of poverty who are the cause of this achievement gap. Monique Redeaux contrasts the “culture of poverty” with “white privilege” and Jason Kozol in Savage inequalities: Children in America’s schools seems to agree.
    In addition, just as an observation, how many of us have seen even our very well-to-do students exhibiting many of these behaviors – sometimes to an even more intense degree. Is it really poverty that is causing these issues or something else?
    In conclusion, at the very least, I’m questioning Ruby Payne’s identification of the “culture of poverty” and deficit theory and her stereotypical labels. As teachers we are better than this! Why would we want to put such labels on our students when we know deep down that all students can excel… in fact, one year in my high school in Colorado 20 of the top 50 graduating students in the senior class were ESL students – students living in a “culture of poverty”. How do you explain that, Ruby Payne?

  14. I just finished reading Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.” Much of what she wrote about made sense to me. I see evidence of it in my own classroom. Her critics believe that there are no hidden rules among classes, but after looking at the quizzes that she had in the book, it would seem obvious that there must be. After completing the quiz, it’s evident that I only know how to survive in one of the three economic classes. I found much of the information in the book to be helpful in understanding a culture that I don’t know much about. After reading the thoughts of her critics, I can understand how Payne’s lack of scientific research presents a problem, especially since the field of education is research based. I can also see how some of Payne’s portrayals of those living in poverty can be viewed as stereotypes. I don’t share the view that Payne thinks those living in poverty need to be fixed. I think she was stressing the idea that as educators, we need to teach our students the resources and skills that they need in order to be successful in school and in life. Whether or not those skills are considered “middle class” is not my main focus. I see the value in Payne’s work, as it applies to me, a teacher. I also understand the arguments that her detractors present. In the end, I have gained information from both sides that will be useful to me.

  15. Every year, books are published and critics are created. As in any book, readers need to take into account what is being read and have the opportunity to accept the information they feel is accurate. Cross-referencing and being aware of different viewpoints allows people to create a well-rounded opinion. There are aspects that the Payne’s critics raise that have merit. However, there are many points that Payne has discussed that I have observed within my classroom. Creating a better understanding of the students’ lives away from school, the importance of relationships, the difference in registers, and hidden rules are all important to a child’s success. After years of teachers working with students of poverty, Payne was able to generate interest in the topic and provide a glimpse into the life of poverty. This allowed teachers to better understand their students. Payne is raising awareness in an area that had been almost nonexistent before her publications. In the end, I have taken valuable information from Ruby Payne, Eric Jensen, and critics that will allow me to better serve my students. That is the most important piece; better opportunities and growth, within the classroom, for students in poverty.

  16. After reading Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” I gained a new understanding of my students and their parents. The “hidden rules” were no longer hidden, and made me stop and take a deeper look at what I was doing inside my classroom. Making simple changes will make a difference, especially with younger students.

    However, she does not have any research to back her claims, which is why criticisms and skeptics occur. Her critics do have valid points. But what I take away from Payne is simply recognizing our students come from different backgrounds and home lives, which in turn requires different approaches from us as educators.

    • I also just read Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”. I agree with your comment. I realize we need to be careful not to use to broad generalizations that lead us into stereotypes. However, my school has experienced a great transformation to a more low income community in the past five years. I find a lot of Payne’s observations to be accurate in comparison to our student population. I am currently dealing with a lot of the struggles that she describes and I am interested in trying out several of her ideas for change.

      I agree that there isn’t a lot of research to back her claims, but I think her critics are a little harsh in suggesting that she is creating stereotypes and prejudices. I agree with Payne that students of poverty experience home life that may create special needs to achieve a quality education. We would be doing them an injustice by turning a blind eye to these unique needs. As educators, we need to do out best to reach this special population.

    • I have just finished reading Payne’s book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” and, like AJ, I felt that I gained a better understanding of my students and parents who are living in poverty after reading her book. I actually wish I had some of this information when I started working in my school 22 years ago. I had grown up in a very middle class town, and the school I was hired to work in when I finished my degree has a large number of low-income families. As I was reading about Payne’s hidden rules and some of the stories she shared, I definitely had a couple of “light bulb moments” in thinking about some situations I have seen with parents and students. I do understand, however, Payne’s critics who say that she reinforces stereotypes and bias. Any time you look at differences you risk the chance of doing that. I think though if you remember to always look at people as unique individuals and then at same time try to consider possible differences, this can help you understand people better. Understanding others better helps to build relationships, and relationship-building is key to working with students and families, something that Payne stresses in her book. I think Payne also has good ideas about looking at language issues that students in poverty face. While you can indeed get into a debate about language deficiencies versus language differences, the fact is that good communication skills are important for life-long success. This is reinforced by the speaking and listening portions of the Common Core Standards. A concern I have with Payne’s book is that it does not seem to site data and research to back up what she is saying. I found Eric Jensen’s book “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” to be quite research-based and thought he had some good practical strategies in working with low-income students.

  17. Reading Ruby Payne’s book A Framework for Understanding Poverty was my first real insight to understanding poverty. Never really being aware of “hidden rules” in poverty, middle class or among the wealthy, her book gave me great insight into the behaviors of each “class.” Although I believe these traits are stereotypical and certainly not reflective of all the individuals in any one class, I certainly recognized many of traits in the children that I teach who do live in poverty. Helping me gain awareness and invaluable insight from the hidden rules, her book served as a springboard to delve further into research, information and discussion to better understand my students, their behaviors and their perspectives. Whether you agree with Payne or not, she has fueled a debate that needed to happen because ultimately our job as educators is to best assist and teach our students to our fullest capabilities so they can reach their fullest potential.
    Her critics, such as Gorski, have many valid points as well as a wealth of scientific research that focuses on eliminating the inequities that exist for those that live in poverty versus us “fixing” the poor and having them live within middle class rules. These inequitable conditions prevent our most needy students’ access to an equitable educational opportunity and that needs to be rectified. This perspective stresses that we strive to eliminate the inequities for all children. Eric Jensen offers the perspective of what poverty does to children’s brains and why they are subject to stresses that undermine school behavior and performance. His book is research based and offers many strategies on what educators can do to improve the achievement of economically disadvantaged students. From the hidden rules to extensive strategies, I have taken a great deal of valuable knowledge from all of these authors that will help me better educate and serve my students.

  18. I just recently read A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I found value in Payne’s writing. It made me reflect on my own life. I can understand the critical view that some people have, but if anything this book made me stop and think.

    I am very well aware that not all poor people drink or do drugs. I know that poor people care about the education of their children. The school that I teach has certified staff teaching in their content areas and is a school that is not in as much financial trouble as some schools. The majority of students do not come from poverty, but there are some. I am seeking to be a better educator to all students in all circumstances.

    As I read Payne’s book I did not feel that it was the parents or the child’s fault because of there circumstances. The book didn’t make me want to blame the parents of children in a state of poverty. The book made me think about how I could be a better teacher and person in our community. The book made me open my eyes to others around me and want to be a better person and reach out to others.

  19. I just finished reading Ruby Payne’s book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.” I do think she made many valid points in her book. Working with students in the inner city, I feel this book gave me some things to think about when teaching children who live in poverty. I do not think that what she says apploies to all poor people. However, it does open your eyes to what may be going on in people who live in poverty lives so you can betyter teach thir children. It gives youa good perspective and some things to ponder.

    • I agree with you Beth. I feel that the critics of Ruby Payne do not recognize the importance of her work to the classroom teacher. Teachers who have no experience or knowledge of what it is like to live in poverty can benefit greatly by her research. Payne’s book has helped me to understand why some of my students behave the way they do. Her list of the hidden rules of poverty provides a reference point from which to work with my students. I found value in the stories which exemplified the hidden rules and often an association of something happening in the lives of some of my students.
      As I read Payne’s book, I never got the feeling that she was putting blame on anyone or anything. On the contrary, I believe that the eight resources Payne explains to be extremely important in a person’s life are meant to show that money is not the most important, but relationships are. I think the way Ruby Payne approaches the role of relationships and teachers serving as role models testifies to her sincerity and commitment to help children who live in poverty succeed.

  20. I have read Payne’s book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” and believe that she is wrong in her belief that poor people have a choice to remain in poverty or not, and that most are unaware of this choice. As a teacher working in an urban middle school I have seen the lengths that parents will go to in order to get their children out of poverty. I have found that most parents in poverty are quite aware of the social environment that surrounds their children and the influence it has on their decisions and academic achievement as they grow up; they are far from lazy and value education just as much as any other parent. What I have witnessed with my own eyes in the past four years goes directly against Payne’s “culture of poverty” theory and the generalizations she blankets all of poverty with. The economic disparities and unequal distribution of resources are what truly effect the lives of poor families and students and are what need to be acknowledged and addressed by schools for any change to occur.

  21. The bulk of the criticism about Payne’s research focuses on her hidden rules of poverty. Over and over, critics like Paul Gorski consider her work to be derogatory towards people in poverty and condemn her for offering stereotypical descriptions. Stereotypes reflect commonalities among groups of people and need to be considered. There is merit in discussing them. Her book gave me a better understanding of what my students may be experiencing in their homes and how different their values may be due to their economic class. But, just like we teach our students to search different resources for information on a given topic, we (educators) need to do the same. Studying Payne’s research along with others, like Gorski’s and Jensen’s provides a comprehensive view of how poverty affects our students. All of their work is beneficial.

  22. I too have just finished reading “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” for a graduate course that I am currently taking. While I understand that there are many critics of Payne’s theories, mostly stating that she is very stereotypical of those who are living in poverty, I enjoyed reading this book and found it to be very insightful. I began my teaching career in a very middle class elementary school so the idea of students living in poverty wasn’t something that came to my mind immediately. Then, after taking a transfer to a new school in the same district, the idea of poverty was something that I had to think of very much. And at points it seemed to very mind boggling.
    While I believe that there is no one researcher’s beliefs that should be taken as gospel, I think that Payne made some very valid points. For example, the “hidden rules” of teh different social classes. This portion of the book really make me think and it made me reflect on some of my students and understand why they may have reacted the way that they did.
    Like I stated before, many of Payne’s critics believe that she Overgenrealizes and stereotypes the different social class, but I think that if you are just starting to peel away the many layers that involve truly understanding poverty this book did a nice job giving you some insight.

  23. I also just finished reading Payne’s book for a grad class that I was taking this summer. As someone who grew up in a rural area with working-poor parents whose income together was still below the poverty line, I took issue with many of her generalizations and stereotypes of poverty. I could not relate to hardly any of her hidden rules of poverty. My mom had a high school education and my dad had an associates degree, but after getting severely injured, he was no longer able to work. My parents never made me feel like we were living in poverty even though we were. I would have liked to have seen Payne breakdown poverty and its hidden rules a bit more. Just as she compared the hidden rules of poverty, middle class, and the wealthy, I would have liked to have seen the hidden rules of poverty divided among rural and urban, because they are very different. During my graduate internship I had the opportunity to work with inner city youth and based upon that experience I was able to draw some parallels between the students I worked with and the hidden rules of poverty Payne discusses in the book. I think Payne is bringing awareness to an issue that many middle class school districts are failing to address. There are children in our school districts who live in poverty and many of those children bring a whole different set of life experiences and risk factors with them when they walk through the doors of our schools. It’s important that we respond to those needs with effective interventions and awareness to the background of the child. However, in order for us to not pass judgments and agree with the generalizations and stereotypes that have been supported by someone like Payne, we need to get to know each child individually. The worst thing we as educators can do is assume that a child may behave a certain way or have certain difficulties just because of their socioeconomic status. If one of my teachers had known that I was living in poverty and had made assumptions about me based upon Payne’s hidden rules before even meeting me, they would have had a wrong picture and idea of me. According to Payne, the girl living in poverty isn’t suppose to have a father, know how to speak the formal register, isn’t suppose to value education enough to graduate from high school at the top of her class, and is only suppose to make jokes about people and sex. What a rude awakening she would have gotten if she would have met me while I was in school. I do, however, think Payne along with her critics make the important point that we need to build meaningful positive healthy relationships with the students that we work with. It is through rapport building that trust is established and that is a key element in working with any child, whether they come from a poverty, middle class, or wealthy family.

  24. Hello,

    I’m responding to this as a requirement of a graduate class I’m taking on enhancing student performance within the low-income subgroup. Our school has failed to meet our state’s requirements because this sub-group has failed to demonstrate growth. Our class was required to read Payne’s work but also visit blogs and other sites where criticism of her work was provided. I will admit that her work sounded fantastic until I read the criticism and that was my “ah ha” moment. I have taught low-income students for eight years now and I insist that we can do all the professional development under the sun, but we need the “right” teachers teaching this subgroup. Our school spends valiable resources focusing on re-writing and re-aligning our curiculum when I would make the argument that our content is fine but our instructional strategy is flawed. We need to put the most passionate, relatable teachers in these classrooms. There are somethings that you cannot teach (a teacher) such as a sense of humor, passion, and being able to understand the students and make the content relatable. You need a teacher in the class who can mix humor with teaching students when the appropriate times to use that humor are. The “best of” strategies that work for an honors level student may not work for a low-income student. My complaint with my school is that we have the wrong people teaching low-income students.

    Anyways, to Payne’s work. I believe she over-generalizes and paints with too broad a brush. Poverty and low-income students are not a monolithic “thing”. Sure some in poverty share the same values, work ethics, etc. but they also share these same values with others in every other income group. I found that Payne’s work was somewhat patronizing to the low-income student. It makes it seem like there is no accountability because there are larger forces that the individual cannot control. I do agree that there are institutional advantages to being middle-class and therefore are institutional disadvantages to being low-income; however, I also believe that with the right guidance that low-income students can navigate through these hurdles. Just my thoughts…

  25. I have also just finished reading Ruby Payne’s book for a course and I thought that it was well written and easy to follow. I feel as though many of Payne’s critics focus on Payne’s hidden rules of poverty and consider them stereotypical. While I do disagree with Payne’s idea of people in poverty being “stuck” in poverty I feel as though the stereotypes discussed in her book help me to identify needs of my students living in poverty. When I finished reading Payne’s book I did not want to blame the parents of students living in poverty like some of Payne’s critics think. I also did not come away from her book feeling that I could fix all of the students in my school living in poverty which is what many critics feel as though Payne tries to do. I did however find Payne’s ideas helpful in allowing me to reflect on my own teaching and how I can better meet the needs of all of my diverse learners, not just those living in poverty.

  26. I too have recently finished reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty for a graduate class and I can’t believe all of the criticism that surrounds this book. Before taking this class and reading this book I was not aware of the hidden rules of poverty. Ruby Payne laid out the rules for all of the classes not just those for people living in poverty. As a kindergarten teacher I was unaware of all of the things that my students from poverty were lacking at home. I feel as though some of Payne’s critics are extremely harsh and don’t believe that she makes valid points. However Payne has given me the opportunity to dig deeper into understanding the needs of my students in poverty and the rest of my student population. I feel more comfortable now, after reading her book, communicating with families living in poverty in my classroom and in my daily life knowing the hardships that they face and how I can help them.

  27. I just finished reading Ruby Payne’s “A Framework For Understanding Poverty” book for a class. The one thing that has struck me, and will stay with me, is the idea of “hidden rules” within classes. I grew up, and currently live in, the middle class. I am one of those people who assumed that everyone knew how to get a library card and how to set a table and that college is an option for everyone. After reading this book I am realizing that not everyone does know those things. I have been a teacher for almost 10 years and I have students from every class (poverty, middle, and wealth). Reading this book has got me thinking differently about how my students from each class learn. I know there is a debate as to if Payne is correct in her thinking or not. Honestly, for me it does not matter who is right and who is wrong. To me it is important that I am now more aware that people from each class view things differently. I think this book will make me a better teacher because it has made me aware that a person’s background does matter when it comes to their education.

  28. I came to teaching later than most people, at 44 years old. My first career was as a nurse where I worked most with maternity and then psychiatric patients. Many of the first and nearly all the second were poor. When I became too physically disabled to work as a nurse, I went back to school to become a high school math teacher. I have worked with the poor in various capacities and settings and I have seen many theories, many ‘experts’, many programs, etc., that are supposed to help the poor, end poverty. The result? The poverty rate is higher than before all these programs began.
    I found many of the things Ruby Payne said about the poor to be true. I have seen the difference between the generational and the situational poverty, in the maternity wards, the state psychiatric hospital, and my classroom. There is a difference in the mindset of the people of each group, but to operate on the assumption that this applies to ALL the people in any group is asinine. Unfortunately many of the fixes designed by governments, administrators and experts do just that.

  29. I recently reread Ruby Paynes Framework for Understanding Poverty. When I was first introduced to Ruby Payne I thought she provided some valuable insight into understanding poverty. However, after further consideration and reading other experts on the topic, I know believe that there is little value in her work. She deals in gross generalization and is lacking in hard research. The idea that all people in the lowersocioeconomic class have the same values is as ludicrous as suggesting that all those in the other classes have the same values. I look around at my coworkers and neighbors and we all have different motivators, find different things humorous, view money, education, etc., differently. Furthermore, my husband grew up poor. He and his family do not share the attributes that Ruby Payne assigns to those in a lower socioeconomic sitiuation. Nor do I consider myself to be an expert on poverty because I know some people who are currently or were at one time poor. She is, however, very charismatic (I have watched her video) and I can see how she built a business (very lucrative, I’m guessing) by promoting her work.

  30. I recently completed a grad school class in which Ruby Payne’s work was one of the texts. As I read her book, it certainly got me thinking. I have seen some of her generalizations in my classroom over the last ten years. I believe, however, that educators need to be very careful of broad generalizations. In the era in which schools are being judged on standardized test scores, I sometimes worry that school districts are looking for a quick solution that will “fix” the achievement gap between our economically disadvantaged and non-economically disadvantaged children. I think all researchers would agree that there isn’t one single answer to this pressing issue in education. I read your study, “Miseducating Teachers about the Poor: A Critical Analysis of Ruby Payne’s Claims about Poverty,” and thank you for this very in-depth critique of Payne’s work. I believe it is thoughtful and mind-provoking. I was also curious how she could “lump” all people into just three social classes, as there are obvious varying types of socioeconomic statuses within each of her defined classes. I enjoyed reading the way you examined so many of her claims, and most importantly, appreciated the way you made me think critically about my beliefs and practices as an educator.

  31. I just finished reading Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” for a class that I am currently taking. I think Payne meant to shed light on some differences that affect individuals in society, although I do not agree with her “lists” as a whole. Each list could be shortened or added to depending on one’s viewpoint or their socioeconomic status. I have taught for 25 plus years in schools that are predominately filled with poverty level students and basically little in her book has been offerred as a new tool to use in my teaching venue. We learn, adjust our teaching style and re-create new learning formats for each and every student that we encounter throughout our years in education. No two are the same. We need to remember that she is only one voice in the educational arena of today.

  32. While I question whether Ruby Payne’s assertions regarding a culture of poverty can be generalized to the population in poverty as a whole, especially since there doesn’t seem to be any scholarly research to back her claims, I don’t think we should just disregard her ideas as irrelevant or meaningless because of that fact. As much of the research points out, the majority of educators working with students in poverty come from the middle class, and it can be difficult for them to understand the circumstances that children in poverty live with. Payne’s work, largely based on anecdotal observation, nonetheless offers insight into the lives of many of the students with whom we work. And while her stories often point to a lack of discipline or work ethic in the families of students in poverty, and we should be careful about generalizing and assuming that all families in poverty are like that, in my experience many of them are. Many of the students that i work with have family members in jail or unemployed. Many of them have parents who work two or three jobs. Many of them have parents that can’t make school conferences or come in for meetings. While I agree that we have to be careful about stereotypes and generalizations, and each student and family should be treated individually, the larger point that many of these families live lives that are dramatically different from those of us in the middle class is important to recognize. Much like working with families from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, being open to the idea that there are differences among us and that we have to be sensitive to those differences is important for educators, and if Payne’s work does nothing more than raise our awareness of the fact that students living in poverty live in very different circumstances than those who do not, then it has served a purpose.

    • This is only one educator’s opinion. I am not an expert on poverty, but as I sit and read thoughts from Ruby Payne’s critics, including Gorski, Ng, and Bomer, I have to agree that these insights do have merit. I listened to the commentary of a fourteen year-old boy voicing his concerns of Payne’s generalizations and stereotypes about a subgroup of people. Did his thoughts hold merit? Yes. As do, Payne’s. What we must remember is that Ruby Payne researches a group of people – those living in generational, situational, relative, absolute, urban/rural poverty (whatever we want to label it) – poverty. The realization is that it is affecting an entire group’s social, emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual view on society and its institutions, including education. Her views in the hidden rules of economic classes do however exist in poverty. Because they do not hold true in every instance or that they ring out in other subgroups – they are stereotypes.
      If Ruby Payne’s work was on minority cultural groups – White (yes, in many communities white is the minority), Hispanic, African American, Native American etc. – these generalizations about people would also be valid. People are lazy. Some do not value education. They are violent and tend to abuse tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Children in these families lack discipline. Whatever stereotype we place on them – it has merit. It happens. The common factor among these minority groups would be that they are functioning with limited resources. Yes, these commonalities occur in other socioeconomic classes, but does that make them any less valid? I would say, no.
      As I first read A Framework for Understanding Poverty, I initially viewed her focus on the hidden rules, as giving those who function in poverty a break. They have learned these attributes and are applying them when forced to interact within societal institutions outside of their own economic class. I thought that she was taking the individual accountability piece out of the equation for change. I felt she was making gross generalizations about a group of people and creating stereotypes. As I read on and reread, I thought, “Yeah, she is taking some issues for granted, but she is offering some excellent insight into how to help educators deal with a group of people who may or may not ‘buy into’ what they are selling.” We in the public schools are working with a growing class of people who are learning to live within a class of their own. They are developing strategies, attitudes, and a set of skills that allow them to survive on limited resources. They are taking advantage of well-intentioned programs and societal institutions. I can honestly say that I could not do it. Not because I am on some morality kick or a value-driven soap box. I don’t have the knowledge base. I could not survive in poverty.
      I am not an expert, but I do teach in a school where 68 % of the kids in middle school are on free/reduced lunches. I will take any idea I can from Payne, Jensen, Gorski, Ng, Bomer, and other researcher to help work in building relationships, providing support systems, developing discipline plans, and helping a struggling group of kids feel included, supported, and successful. We all have to work together.

  33. I have also finished reading Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” It has some valid points about understanding the culture of your students. But we don’t really need to be entwined in their culture because for the most part success in life depends more on a middle class level of understanding. I als read an article in Educational Leadership by Paul Gorski titled “The Myth of the “Culture of Poverty”. I like the way this author aproaches poverty and talks about the myths of poverty but also things that we can do to help our students become successful. There is also another article by Robert Pondiscio “Student Achievement ,Poverty and Stress.” This article talks about ‘toxic stress’ and what effects it has on the cognitive functions of our soon to be students.
    Think about medicine in the dark ages. You were sick so the doctor let out a little blood. In the Civil War you had a sawbones cut your leg off with a saw. Now we ahve microsurgery. We don’t discount those who came before us but have gone past them. In poverty and education Ruby Payne was a ground breaker but the field has moved on and research of the cognitive functions of the brain is the new horizon. As educators we can know about our students but to make them successful we need to know how their brain functions. Yes, the culture matters but you can take someone out of their surroundings and change them. Nature v. nurture. So I say thank you to Ruby Payne for opening our eyes but also thank you to the new generation who push us into action to educate us so that we may help others to become more successful.

  34. I just finished reading Ruby Payne’s book for a class I am taking dealing with teaching students living in poverty. I have to say that I found the book to be very interesting. It really opened my eyes to issues that I had never thought about before. I always knew what poverty was but I don’t think I completely understood everything about it until I read this book. I now know a lot more about what my students who live in poverty may be dealing with on a daily basis. I understand more about their life style and their reasons for their priorities. Now, if I was not an educator I may think differently about this book. I have seen some of things that Payne discusses in her book first hand and it makes complete sense. If I was an not an educator my opinion of her theory on poverty may be completely different. She does tend to have a negative outlook on the lower social class. It is hard to say which side is correct since we as educators see many sides of poverty.

  35. I agree with Patricia. As I was reading Payne’s book, I found it to be quite interesting and much of it made sense. I am also currently taking a class on poverty in education. In doing so, I also read a book by Eric Jensen and an article by Paul Gorski. After reading these other to sources on the subject of poverty in education, I took on a completely different view. I began to see Payne’s book as stereotypical and many of the class descriptors and completely untrue. If anything, I am wanting to continue to learn more and reflect further upon my own teaching in regard to stereotypical tendencies and bias.

  36. I just read Ruby Payne’s book for a graduate class, and I definitely found the text interesting. I have been teaching in a low SES Title 1 school for years. I definitely found some of the things that Payne had to say to be true, but I do feel that she generalizes too much and lumps all people in poverty together. The part of her book that I found the most interesting was the part where you had to check off the boxes of whether or not you could live in poverty, middle class, and wealth. It really opened my eyes to the standards that are expected in each of the social classes.

  37. I don’t think Ruby Payne is trying to blame anyone. I think she is offering up a way to help. She is looking at it as a community wide effort not just the responsibility of one poor individual. I don’t agree with everything she says, however I think there are a lot of good ideas and strategies that she offers that could work if used in the right ways. All the material I read on the subject of poverty has the same underlying message: hope goes a long way in changing a person’s mindset and hope teamed with support from others can do a long way in changing a person’s situation.

  38. I have recently finished reading Ruby Payne’s book, A framework for understanding poverty, for a graduate class I am taking. Payne’s book was assigned along with another text and reading offering a different point of view on poverty. After reading all resources and doing additional reading on the web, I am struggling to accept Payne’s findings as unbiased and helpful. While I appreciate learning about the hidden rules and how members from different social classes make decisions and place value on life events, I find somewhat disappointing for an author to make such wide-sweeping assumptions about a group of people I wonder if we were discussing the disabled if there would be more outspoken critics of Ruby Payne. A major flaw I see with Payne’s research is her failure to recognize the social and cultural structure that contributes to inequality between social classes. She states over and over that the values and behaviors of the poor prevent them from moving out of poverty, stressing that poverty is a choice that the poor make for themselves. I would challenge Ruby Payne to examine the social structure of our culture and look at the accessibility of education, jobs, and health care to all people. If we truly want to improve the poor, we must first value all humans equally while recognizing we are all different. At best, Ruby Payne’s book is the beginning of a very long conversation if we hope to improve the education of the poor.

    • As a school social worker, I do agree that Payne’s book can provide some insight to educators who do not have the experiences working with students in poverty. Payne does give a general description on why students may be acting in certain ways. I do think this might be a slippery slope as we do not want teachers generalizing this onto every student they see on their free and reduced lunch lists. I do wish Payne stressed that we always need to look at the individual. Let’s face it we all can have a bad day and I do not want to see the teachers in building make assumptions just because a child is “poor”. We tend to try and always find a reason and Payne does shed light on these reasons but I just don’t want to see teachers jumping to conclusions without looking at the whole picture.

  39. I am just finishing up a class, which had required the reading of Ruby Payne’s book. I work in a school district that does not have a high population of children living in poverty, which has caused me not to focus too much of this issue before. Now that I am finished reading her book, and also have read articles written by critics of hers, I feel I fall somewhere in the middle. I was not previously aware of the hidden rules of classes she talkes about. I was forced to see some truth to them, so they should not be discounted as simply blaming the victim. But I also recognize there are strategies and programs that can be put in place to help those that fall in this category. As a classroom teacher, I need to be aware of what those strategies are and follow the practices of those schools who are succeeding with high populations of poverty students. What are they doing differently? Regardless of the theory I support the ultimate goal is to find a way to help these children succeed, despite their circumstances.

  40. After completing a graduate course based on Ruby Payne’s book “A Framework For Understanding Poverty” I’m very thankful I chose this class! I’ve taught teenagers in poverty for 25 years. I thought I understood them pretty well. Payne’s book has not only opened my eyes wider, she has unlocked the door to “understanding poverty” in my students. In order to reach and teach them, you have to understand their behaviors. This was the most important piece for me. While many of her critics feel she categorizes and generalizes the different classes and their motivations, I found her information enlightening and helpful. It was as though she were writing about my very students. Let’s face it, we as educators are not living in poverty nor did many of us come from poverty. We do not operate with the same value set our low SES students do. What works for us or our middle class students will often not work for those from poverty. I see this every day. Payne gives us tools, suggestions, ideas on ways to motivate these kids. But first we must establish a relationship with them. Without this, they will be difficult to reach and teach. As for her critics that have a problem because her work is not research based (tried and proved) or that she is self-published……I say thank God her book was published for educators like me who work with this low SES population. I will be a better teacher because of what I’ve learned and applied from Payne’s book. I will reach more of these kids. Therefore, I am doing my job in trying to reach ALL students in my classroom achieve academic success.

  41. I just finished reading Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.” I believe that Payne attempted to make poverty more understandable to those who do not live there or know anyone who does. By writing this book, she is providing a “Framework”, a foundation for understanding poverty (it was very eye opening to me, despite some of the stereotypes). It also provides accessible ideas to the average teacher, nurse, social worker, and citizen, on some practical ways to respond to, and genuinely help those, who are in poverty despite the inequitable conditions that exist. The “framework” that is shown wasn’t intended to solve all the problems that exist around poverty, but to give people a better understanding of poverty and how to begin to open up our minds and change our attitudes about the families that we work with that have a low socioeconomic status.

  42. The most extensive critique I found of Ruby Payne’s book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” came from, the article “Miseducating Teachers about the Poor: A Critical Analysis of Ruby Payne’s Claims about Poverty” by Bomer, Dworin, May, and Semingson. The article critiques that Payne lacks evidence to support her claims and she contradicts other research that has been done on poverty. The authors state that Payne’s “misinformation” may lead to teachers lowering their expectations for students in poverty. I think that it is helpful hearing opposing views and critiques. Although, Payne may present social stigmas and she may not be completely on target, I find value in her observations. I do believe that every person and family has different circumstances that affect them but there are some general patterns that can be observed that can help understand some behaviors from students. Even though her case studies and “hidden rules” may not describe all families in poverty, it does give examples of some circumstances. Regardless, any of her tips for helping students in poverty can be used with any student. The more stories, ideas, interventions, ect. that educators can be exposed to the better! Every teacher and every student are different so the more tools we have the better. We can accommodate and use what works best for our personality and students. I think the education system can have positive impacts on students; however, it is frustrating that more and more falls on educators but funding does not back up the demands. I addition, poverty specifically, is a societal problem that goes far beyond the reaches of educators to correct.

    Reference: Bomer, Dworin, May, & Semingson (2008). Miseducating Teachers about the Poor: A Critical Analysis of Ruby Payne’s Claims about Poverty. Teachers College Record, 110 (12), pg 2497–2531.

  43. I found Ruby Payne’s book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” to be very insightful. Her book made me much more understanding about the issues my students face at home and how those issues could spill over into their lives at school.
    A lot of bloggers seem to have a contentious attitude about Payne’s “hidden rules.” I think these readers have misinterpreted a lot of what she is saying. She is not saying that just because you know how to “physically fight” you are poor. Likewise, just because you live in poverty, does not mean you know how to “physically fight.” The checklist is merely to help her readers think of differences that may be seen between the classes.
    Some people on this blog discuss the “hidden rules” as being stereotypes. Some argue that these rules are offensive. If I were a member of the group in poverty I might agree but I think Payne’s purpose is to make her readers understand what members of different social classes likely experience. A previous blogger discussed these “hidden rules” as over-generalizations… I agree with that assertion. I’m sure they are over-generalizations but I think these rules are insightful for readers to gain a better grasp of what other social classes may experience.
    I enjoyed reading the case studies she discussed at the beginning of the book and the anecdotes she discusses throughout. I feel that these stories have made me more compassionate toward my students. I feel that Payne’s book gave a good perspective on the gap between the classes. I also enjoyed reading about the different types of poverty. Prior to reading, I thought of poverty solely in terms of money. Her book made me realize that poverty isn’t only about financial resources but also has to do with emotional resources, mental/cognitive resources, spiritual resources, physical resources, support systems, relationships, etc.

  44. I, too, am finishing the coursework for the class, In the Face of Poverty. Although I do not agree with everything that Ruby Payne writes in her book, I found it valuable. I never truly understood the culture of poverty. From my middle class perspective, I did not understand the different values that different classes of people hold and follow. As a special education teacher in a small, rural, Pennsylvania school, I have witnessed students and their families living in poverty. It is heartbreaking when students speak to me about their living situations. Some of my students live in generational poverty. In fact, I could easily believe that the diagram of Jolyn’s family on page 75 is modeled after that of one of my students. I found the information on role models and relationships very helpful. However, when I read the conclusion, I became distressed. Payne writes that it is not the role of the educator to save the individual but rather to offer support and opportunities. As a veteran teacher of 30 years, this goes against my own personal philosophy. I do believe in the “Starfish Story” that a person can make a difference and save individuals. I also do not fully agree that if given a choice, people in poverty would choose to continue to remain there. This may be true for some individuals, but I know from personal experience that some students who live in poverty want a better life for themselves and their future families.

  45. I think after reading this book that it did open up a different way of thinking about class in America. The way in which you structure the classes and how she reveals what they believe and what they think is helpful. Across the board not all of the theories are correct but, if you have no formal background on class in America, this could be a good start. The strategies offer are helpful to me as a teacher with students in poverty. I think the popularity of her book is based on a unique perspective that she brings to class especially the poverty class. Once an individual can highly organized and create new definitions on topics such as this, it brings value to a unknown world for the middle class and wealthy. I would recommend this as a good read to anyone who is teaching students in multiple economic classes. Of course there is a fault with many parts of the book because it doesn’t address the power structure that creates the classes and how the history of class in America was established. Overall, this book is a great way to start any conversation based around class then how it affects ones mindset.

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