The comeback culture
Since the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s much-discussed 1965 report on the “Negro family,” the “culture of poverty”—the idea that the poor adapt to poverty in ways that ultimately reinforce and perpetuate their condition—has been a taboo topic in polite (er, politically correct) society. Lately, though, sociologists have again begun to investigate this phenomenon, seeking a clearer understanding of why poor families tend to stay that way from generation to generation. What this means for education is particularly interesting. New findings indicate that income alone does not determine a student’s ability to succeed. Great schools and programs change lives and life prospects, while helping to create support networks for children and parents alike. (See David Whitman’s excellent book, Sweating the Small Stuff, and Casey Carter’s brand-new one, On Purpose.) It is not the role of schools to cure every social ill. But, for better (and sometimes for worse), they affect cultures as well as individuals.
“Culture of Poverty Makes a Comeback,” by Patricia Cohen, New York Times, October 17, 2010.
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