Saving the Poor With Science

| 2/14/2013 11:40:39 AM

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Little Pencil, photo by D. Sharon Pruitt 

Extra-curricular programs for poor children may help them succeed in school, but do they get to the root of the problem? Mike Rose argues that intervention programs actually reinforce the individualistic paradigm that creates and justifies poverty. 

A version of this blog was published as "Character Education Is Not Enough to Help Poor Kids" in the January 23, 2013 edition of The Christian Science Monitor. It is republished with permission from Mike Rose's blog.


The foster care system failed Sam miserably. There wasn’t a nurturing household in his long string of placements. He grew up on his own, got into trouble with the law, kicked around in odd jobs, and found the community college where he turned his life around.

Sam is 25, a big guy with a full smile who cares deeply about education and leading a meaningful life. Though he’s been sleeping in his car for a semester—we finally got him housing—he’s maintained strong grades, participates in student government, and works on campus as a tutor and in a summer program for middle school kids.

Sam’s progress toward his associate degree has been stalled, however, because severe budget cuts forced his college to limit course offerings during the year and pretty much eliminate summer classes. He had colds and the flu through much of the time he lived in his car, and illness made it harder to concentrate—though he maintained a full load. And he had to miss classes when his car was impounded because of lapsed registration and parking tickets he couldn’t pay. Still, as he puts it, nothing will stop him.

2/18/2013 4:03:13 PM

"Given a political climate that is antagonistic toward the welfare state and has further shredded our already compromised safety net..." Really? How much more money needs to be spent? How much more money wasted? How many new be-all, end-all, spend-all, save-em-all programs can be proposed by both the D's and the R's? More importantly, who in Dudes name will pay for them? When will we run out of other peoples money? No spending has actually been cut, even the dreaded sequester is just a cut in the increase of spending. Will we EVER see a program that stays in budget, reaches it's goal, and then goes quietly away? Read more:

Isa Kocher
2/18/2013 2:51:09 PM

there is an indecent cruelty in us american culture that nothing in my 70 years as an american has given me a clue how to fathom. people lucky enough to be born in a family living in a home with food on the table, an education, health care, and a job in a company that enjoys the publicly financed science, technology, regulation, peace, courts contracts, sanitation, water and air to breathe, and they can point to others and blame them for wanting a chance at a fraction of the handout they consider themselves entitled to. an ugly streek in the american soul going back to the people who put the second amendment into effect to insure there would be local militia to put down slave revolts. people who cleansed us america of its inhabitants as "savages." with rare exceptions that is our national heritage, and i don't understand how that dark force in our society is maintained with the certainty of immunity from consequence which certainty has always been so certainly wrong.

Brea Plum
2/17/2013 6:50:57 PM

"What happens, in short, if the material world around him continues to blunt his drive and hope?" What happens, in other words, if Sam hits the same walls that middle- and even upper-class college graduates hit in this economy and this socio-poitical world? It's an important question to ask, but few want to try to answer, because doing so forces one to face the dark side of the world we live in. We've all been brainwashed to believe that a college degree levels the playing field, period, and we all live happily ever after and that it is therefore worth the all the hardship and sacrifice. Not just sacrifices such as Sam's, but also that of students who are forced to work full time while also attending school (possibly with families), but also decades of crippling student debt.

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