Paul Gorski on Defict ideology and Poverty

Paul Gorski on Defict ideology and Poverty



we're all familiar with the history in the u.s. of white colonizers European colonizers framing African slaves as well as American Indians as as savages in fact there's this famous quote from Mark Twain and what she says there are many humorous things in this world among them the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages so when I read a quote like that which i think is brilliant and I think Mark Twain was quite brilliant and pretty radical politically what I think about is what what was the function what is the function of what Twain is talking about their twin was actually talking about u.s. imperialist intervention in the Sandwich Islands which we now call Hawaii where people from the u.s. ytt colonizers went into Hawaii colonized the the Sandwich Islands and just to find this by calling the people of those island savages so we are going in there murdering them killing them take colonizing against no military force these islands and justifying it by calling them savages in the same way slavery was justified right taming the wild beast or the the annihilation of Native American communities was justified so the question is what was the function what is the function of framing whether it's African slaves or American Indians or any other group and savages we know racism as a root of that well what was the practical function of that today we have this notion deficit ideology to describe what I would argue is actually the function of that which is to socialize people to comply with these horrible impressions by and to justify the oppressions by framing those who are being oppressed as the problem and those were the oppressors as the solver of the problem so I want to talk a little bit about this notion deficit ideology how it plays out in society today and in schools today and how can we spot it because one of the ways that I think even those of us who are committed to equity and social justice one of the ways I think we often slip into ways of talking about these issues that contribute to the very inequities we would like to destroy is by participating in this deficit ideology so let me start with this many of us are familiar with the notion of the deficit perspective the deficit perspective of course is waiting for a sense a teacher approaches a group of students based on assumptions about those students weaknesses rather than those the assumptions about the students strengths and so we've developed like this whole sort of vocabulary around challenging the deficit perspective and education you know all students are gifted and talented all students can learn that sort of thing which is pushing back against the deficit perspective but like every perspective the deficit perspective has an underlying ideology that that puts more of a sort of social context around that perspective and for the deficit perspective that bigger context is deficit ideology deficit ideology is in essence is kind of a worldview that explains outcome inequalities like for instance the court unquote achievement gap in schools as resulting from suppose it moral intellectual or cultural deficiencies with and disenfranchised communities and individuals right so we talk about the achievement gap in those sort of schoolhouse chatter that happens around the achievement gap where you know when who's blamed for the achievement gap right so the notion that the chima gap is largely the result of parents who just don't care about their kids education that would be a classic example of deficit ideology and I'll talk about wind in just a second think about a bigger issue think about poverty as even a bigger issue and the notion that poor people are poor because they are lazy right again that would be an example of deficit ideology it takes some kind of inequality and explains it based on perceived or assumed deficiencies within the group at the bottom of a hierarchy another example would be trust us the glass ceiling and people making the argument that well women just aren't very good leaders another classic example of deficit ideology another sort of example of deficit ideology another way to think about it would be that deficit ideology is kind of a worldview that where these bigger social conditions are completely ignored and dismissed right so we're so we don't think about for instance the issue of poverty we don't think about poverty if we're gonna make the argument that poverty is due to the laziness of poor people then the question is what are the different social dimensions that we have to ignore in order to make that argument for instance we have to ignore the lack of living wage work in the u.s. in fact we even we'd have to ignore something like the unequal access to education that low-income people are sent disproportionately to schools that are less funded where they have less experienced teachers where they have where they're under-resourced and those sorts of things take for instance another example the racial achievement gap that if we argue that the achievement gap exists because some parents say families of color just don't care very much about education we have to ignore all kinds of social conditions again about what kinds of schools different people are sent to lifetimes of race we have to ignore it in order to buy into deficit ideology um I would argue my just being around these conversations about education I would argue that deficit ideology drives a lot of these conversations and education today even among people who are pretty well intentioned and pretty committed to equity or diversity or multiculturalism or even social justice so the question is why why do people buy into this I think one of the reasons that people buy into it is that deficit ideology draws on the stereotypes that already are embedded in the mainstream psyche so for instance the stereotype that poor people are lazy or that poor people don't care about education the fact is that in the u.s. people for the most part already believe in those stereotypes which in fact is a fairly in the long sort of scheme of things is a fairly new phenomenon if you go before the mid 1970s in the u.s. Paul's about why people thought poor people were poor review that most people thought that poor people were poor because of a lack of opportunity and a lack of access but after the mid 1970s which a lot of people sort of define as sort of the birth of the neoliberal movement since then in in through today most people know us actually believe that poor people are poor because of their own deficiencies and so we have a whole sort of education dialogue that happens around that and of course I think Ruby pain is part of that dialogue people believe the stereotypes and her work because you know they already come into her work believing that poor people are lazy that poor people have bad language skills that poor people are violent of course you know having done the research about all of this what's interesting is that all these stereotypes are actually false stereotypes there is no evidence that poor people on average or easier than wealthy people or even that they don't care about education as much as wealthier people so when you draw on these stereotypes that already exists that people already bring into the conversation it can be really easy to engage people in this kind of deficit ideology but it also works because we as individuals are conditioned to stereotype in the worst ways people who fall outside of our identity groups and so there's this whole kind of psychosocial research that talks about this how we tend to see our own groups as being very diverse right so you might hear somebody say well don't lump me in with all those other white people you know that kind of thing on the other hand we see people outside of our identity groups as being as being more monolithic and that's why you'd have a situation like somebody who would never look at Timothy McVeigh blowing up a building and and all of a sudden think that all conservative Christian white men are terrorists and all of us so and when Timothy McVeigh blew up that building you didn't all of a sudden have white Christian men being pulled out of cars and beaten up because they were white Christian men right and that's because white people saw Timothy McVeigh as not like them right but then you know 9/11 happens or other events like that happened and all of a sudden oh people they don't even have to be Arab or Muslim they just have to look like they might be and all of a sudden people are responding in that way and and also the research shows that we are conditioned to stereotype target groups even when we're part of that target group and that's people talking about internalized oppression so in other words we're socialized to through the media through our religious organizations our families our peer groups and that sort of thing to stereotype groups who are already at the bottom of the social hierarchy and talk more about that in just a second oh the other question to go back to here is well then what is the function of deficit ideology if this is the way we're going to talk about poor people in education and I'm going to give you an example of how this works in just a second what of poor people of students of color what are what are the functions of that what purpose does it serve whose interest does it protect one of the functions of deficit ideology is to morally justify existing social conditions and it does this by locating the problem of outcome inequalities as existing within disenfranchised communities as opposed to being leveled against disenfranchised communities right so so this is where we hear this chatter like well those people just cared more about their children's education if those people just weren't so lazy those people would you know stop drinking and doing drugs and that last one by the way is really interesting because for instance white people are more likely to be substance abusers than people of color and wealthy people are more likely to be substance abusers than poor people so again the stereotypes don't even have to be accurate if people are socialized to believe that they're accurate but this is a way that these social conditions to be can be justified look at all the deficiencies in those communities and that's why these inequalities exist but the other function of deficit ideology is to divert our attention away from systemic conditions that exists so if I am talking about the economic achievement gap all the in terms of poor people supposed deficiencies then the question is what am I not talking about I'm not talking about unequal educational funding that disproportionately privileges wealthier people and the yes I'm not talking about increasing re-segregation re-segregation racially of public schools in the u.s. that has benefited that's some would argue has benefited white students because those students end up tend to end up on average of the better resourced schools than students of color right so rather than talking about economic and justice rather than talking about racism rather than talking about sexism a deficit ideology has us talking about how to fix disenfranchised people right and so it's not about how to fix the inequitable school funding but how to fix the people who are the worst affected by an equitable school funding I call this I call this I refer to this as a scornful gaze so if you take any sort of social or political hierarchy and yeah so this is the wealth hierarchy here yeah but wealthy people at the top and you have the poorest people at the bottom and this function of deficit ideology is to focus our attention down that pyramid down that hierarchy so that we're identifying the problems at the bottom of the hierarchy rather than at the top of the hierarchy and more about that in just a second the result of all of this and how you can see this playing out in educational policy is that deficit ideology helps to ensure that the solutions that we popularly come up with to fix these are all coming equality's like the achievement gap focus on fixing disenfranchised communities rather than fixing those things that disenfranchised communities right so let's stick with the issue of class on poverty for just a second if we look at some of the most popular ways in which schools are putting resources into addressing the economic achievement gap you have things like you have things like tutoring programs for low-income students mentoring programs for low-income students parenting workshops I'm the one that I you know as a product of you know as a product of a family from poor Appalachia find the most offensive are all of these workshops on parenting for poor low-income parents so the assumption is that the problem that exists exists in the poor community they don't have good parents they don't have good role models they don't have good mentors and all of the resources going into these sorts of programs that assume that the problem exists within the poor community now let me be very clear about this I of course believe that anybody who needs access to a tutor or access to a mentor regardless of their economic status or their gender or sexual orientation or race or whatever ought to have access to those things of course I'm sure we all believe that but then but identifying the problem of the economic achievement gap where the racial achievement gap or any other form of the achievement gap identifying that problem solely based on what poor communities lack without addressing those bigger those savage inequalities that Jonathan Kozol has talked about that is classic deficit ideology so let me just run you through sort of a kind of a quick snapshot of an example of how this works oh so definite so classic deficit ideology you start with any kind of myth or stereotype so low-income families do not value education that is a stereotype you can find it in Ruby Payne's work you can find it it's sort of rolling easily off the tongues of people all over the education spectrum the problem is low-income families don't value education and then we use that myth of that stereotype to justify an outcome inequality so for instance because low-income families don't value education poor students don't do as well in school as their wealthier peers right it's the parents fault or if only though income families cared more about education this achievement gap wouldn't exist right so that's a classic deficit ideology you define the problem as solely as existing within the low-income community or the disenfranchised community now the other thing that we have to do for most of these stereotypes is that nor the fact that this is completely false we have research going back to the mid 1970s right through today that show that poor families low-income families have the exact same attitudes about the value of education as wealthier families exact same attitudes which is quite remarkable when you consider that low-income families don't have the same access to education as wealthy families do so despite the fact that they are denied the same access they still value education in the exact same way so the next step in this is trim the gaze downward that scornful gaze down remember that hierarchy down the hierarchy right by ignoring the larger social context as larger inequities right so so this is the point where we just conveniently forget about things like funding disparities these choice programs that people talked about as if they were about equality which research have shown has shown have actually given the people who already had the most access additional access rather than the people who didn't have the same kind of access and of course even curricular and pedagogical disparities where you go into wealthier schools and see students being engaged with much higher level curriculum and pedagogy than you see at lower income schools on average or even taking a step back the scarcity of living wage of work the lack of access to health care I mean in this sense we can start talking about the achievement gap what actually I would argue as an opportunity gap not an achievement gap and achievement gap framing in and of itself I would say is deficit ideology but we could start that conversation if we want it to be completely accurate about this we could start that conversation at prenatal care and who has access to prenatal care but the deficit ideology view ignores all of that ignores all of that context so the next step is so we develop solutions through the lens of this ideology so we develop solutions to say the economic achievement gap or opportunity gap through these deficit lenses right so this is where again we have the parenting workshops for low-income families mentoring programs tutoring programs and that sort of thing classic example of how this plays out is the popularity of that culture of poverty myth where the whole idea of why the achievement gap exists is blamed on the culture of poverty and by the way the culture of poverty we have studies from the starting in the early 1970s that show that there actually is no such thing as a culture of poverty an interesting little factoid by the way the term blaming the victim was actually coined in the early 1970s by a social scientist named William Ryan William Ryan it was wrote a book responding to the culture of poverty mythology and how it contributes to a deficit view and in his response to the culture of poverty he coined the term blaming the victim so that whole term was that was coined in response to the culture of poverty model and then the next step to this of course is that we never address the underlying injustice that exists right so as a result as a result what we've done is we've taken a problem the economic achievement gap or what I would call the Economic Opportunity gap and we try to fix it by fixing supposed deficiencies in the poor community without ever fixing the ways in which the poor community is denied access and opportunity wealthier communities I take your penis so there's no redistribution of resources here there's no redistribution of opportunity all it is is about fixing that's low-income community now there are a couple of ways in which we as teachers or whatever role you play in society that we I believe are socialized to buy into deficit ideology I think there's a couple of layers of this one of the layers is are sort of the these big myths about the US so this would be like meritocracy meritocracy is the notion that what people what people achieve they achieved through merit what people accumulate they accumulate through merit so that the idea is that anything you want if you work hard enough you can you can get it if you merit it you will get it and then of course is one of the big myths of the US and actually education is used as a pawn in that in that myth because the education system is often framed in the US as the great equalizer despite the fact that the wealthiest students go to the best schools and the lowest income students are sent to the most under-resourced schools and so in that sense and and of course many people have written about this and that sense schools seem to be seem to basically replicate the inequities that exist in the larger society so those kind of big miss those rags to riches type stories those kinds of things that we all grew up with um another sort of layer of this are the kind of social construction of identity myths right so again this goes to all the stereotypes of poor people for example as violent lazy substance addicted and those sorts of things so those kind of stereotypes and so that's why I can be very easy even for sort of the the most well-intentioned of us to buy into these stereotypes and then buy into deficit ideology and that's why I would argue even you go even people who are really committed to educational equity to social justice are kind of trapped or stuck in this achievement gap conversation in this achievement gap discourse that frames the whole conversation and in a way that I would argue reflects deficit ideology so now the question is how do I spot deficit ideology how do I spot it in my own mind how do I spot it when I hear colleagues buying into it and those sorts of things so here's what I would suggest you look for one is to look for stereotypes and myths if you want a great example of this look at you can look at for instance ruby ponds work and look at all the stereotypes the false stereotypes that were just all through her work and they're very prevalent and her work poor people as lazy poor people as violent poor people as addicts even though there is no evidence that poor people are any more have any more of a propensity for violence are any more likely to be substance abusers are any more likely to be lazy than wealthy people so that's one thing to look for another thing to look for is the practice of locating the problem within the most disenfranchised communities right so if we're talking about the racial achievement gap and the whole conversation centered around what we have to fix about people of color that is a clear sign that it's deficit ideology and then also the lack of acknowledgement of systemic conditions so I'm going to sort of close this with a story that I think illustrates us really well this is a true story from about six or seven years ago when I lived in Minnesota I got a phone call from an aide of one of the local legislators and the aide was pitching this program and asking for my support and them the program is basically this legislator wanted to wanted to pass a bill that would require all eighth grade female eighth grade young women eighth grade students to take self-defense classes as part of their experience in eighth grade that this would be required for all eighth-grade young women when I asked why they wanted to do this they explained to me that this was in response to the growing problem of sexual assault and sexual harassment in schools so think for just a second about why would that be an example of deficit ideology as you're thinking about that let me share with you how I responded to that I said well I think it's an interesting idea and I said I will get behind this on one condition you will have my full support I'll put the support of my organization it change behind it under one condition and the condition is while for every minute that those eighth grade young women are spending in those self-defense classes I want the young men and anti-sexism training so for every four while the young women are in self-defense classes the young men ought to be in anti-sexism training to me the problem with the initial proposal was that it assumed that the reason sexual assault was a growing problem was because young women didn't know how to defend themselves from sexual assault and you could see the classic response is okay so if that's my mindset what is my policy response if my mindset is that women can't defend themselves and that's why sexual assault is a problem the policy response is to fix that disenfranchised community well we'll teach women how to defend themselves but what are we ignoring we're ignoring the bigger social context of that problem which is sexism which is patriarchy which is male privilege and those sorts of things right so the other thing to look for are those bigger context being addressed now I might feel if I'm an individual teacher that those bigger context you alot of my purview are not part of my sphere of influence but if I don't at least the Brittany's understand my work in the context of that larger social context then it'd be very easy for me to fall into that deficit ideology and like always I want to clarify that this is not about bad intentions as is not about purposefully racist teachers doing purposely racist things this is about us this is about how we're socialized this about how I'm socialized is about the most well intention of us you know being susceptible to the ways in which we're socialized so how do we look for the ways in which our own socialization might open us up to fall into this kind of deficit ideology so once again thank you for listening if you have any questions of course as always you can email me at Gorski G or s ki and EDD change.org

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