Poverty and poor performance in school

It’s a known fact that the public school systems in communities where the majority of the population are living near or below the poverty line are failing the students. Many educators and policy makers are blaming poverty as the reason for the poor performance of these schools, but is this assessment short changing a whole generation of students? Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu thinks so.

This is why Kunjufu was inspired to write the book, An African Centered Response to Ruby Payne’s Poverty Theory. In this book, Kunjufu does a masterful job of proving that poverty and poor education are only associated together because it is convenient for policy makers and educators to pass the blame to parents and students rather than actually fixing the schools.

To prove this point, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu rebuts a theory championed by educational consultant Ruby Payne that claims that poverty is the major factor affecting the outcome of children’s academic achievements, hence the name An African Centered Response to Ruby Payne’s Poverty Theory.

In 1995, Ruby Payne wrote a best selling book titled “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” which received critical acclaim and launched Payne into a lucrative educational consulting career. Kunjufu believes that Payne’s consulting work is doing more harm than good as her work justifies failing schools and provides no benefit to children who are dealt the hand of poverty by God.

Kunjufu’s premise is that everyone must play with the hand they are dealt, and it is the duty of society to adjust their methodologies to provide an adequate education to students in poor communities. This is why Kunjufu believes that a more appropriate method than Payne’s “Framework for Understanding Poverty” is to teach students how to eliminate poverty and not waste resources on teaching educators how to “understand” poverty.

Kunjufu asserts that if Ruby Payne’s poverty theory is correct, then the way to correct the problem is to teach poor people the principles of wealth, money management, and capitalism. Kunjufu even goes as far as to say that capitalistic countries should mandate schools to teach economic literacy.

To achieve this, Kunjufu suggest that students should be required to study business magazines in class, write business plans, and learn how to read balance sheets and stock charts among other things. In addition, Kunjufu offers other suggestions to improve schools such as implementing a more culturally relevant curriculum, more right-brain lesson plans, utilization of cooperative learning, single gender classrooms, and higher teacher expectations.

Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu is to be applauded for taking on Ruby Payne and her theory that allows educators and policy makers to justify failing schools. This book does a magnificent job of not only rebutting Payne, but also providing realistic solutions that offer hope that one day all students will have the opportunity to be educated equally.

If society is serious about improving the public school system, there is no reason why the ideas this book presents should not be used as the basis to revamp the educational system in communities that are miserably failing the students.

With that said, this book is absolutely a must read for all educators, parents, and those activist who want to make a change in failing school systems!

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