EDU692: Culture of Poverty, Material Consumption Activity

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Topic 5: Poverty, Stereotypes, and Curriculum Assignment 5: Read, “The Myth of the Culture of Poverty,” by Paul Gorski

The article seeks to break apart and provide evidence to dispel misconceptions of how poverty influences student performance. Gorski chiefly seeks to undo the work of Oscar Lewis who in the 60’s coined the term Culture of Poverty in which Lewis suggested all the issues he was seeing in small Mexican communities were concretely rooted in their shared experience of poverty(Gorski). He counters Lewis’ argument by citing multiple studies that come to the same conclusion that no culture of poverty exists. The research does this by countering blanket statement myths that associate poverty conditions with generalized assumptions on poor students and parents motivations, pastimes, and engagement with facts that prove the myths or assumptions false. Gorski then proceeds to open up the dialogue that these myths and assumptions are a distraction from the true issue at hand, the culture of classism. What people are automatically setting “low expectations for low-income students” when they should be treated no differently based on their socio-economic status. A lot of this is rooted in “deficit theory” where we define our students by weakness rather than strength, and being poor by many is perceived as a weakness. What Gorski challenges the reader to do is think about all the issues a low-income student may face and work their best to address their personal needs, and do this in school without any preconceived ideas of their engagement in school. One must do this while being sensitive to the challenges those in poverty face, but one must also fight for those experiencing poverty to be properly challenged and provided proper basic human rights such as food, activity, and other academic resources.

Activity: Material Consumption

Throughout projects students must keep a spreadsheet recording how much material they have used. Students must log how much wood they have used in Board Feet or 3D Printer plastic filament in kilograms. This data must be converted into a dollar amount based on supplier costs and then totaled. Students must also break down how much money they have spent per project on prototyping, mistakes, and for their final models. Students will then combine their data with their section of the class in a communal spreadsheet where material usage and costs will be sorted and visualized. While this is an ongoing project throughout the year after the first project a group project will be undertaken by students to determine how they think materials for projects should be managed through the lens of consumer culture. Students are to use Berger’s four types of consumer cultures to propose how and why common prototyping materials should be managed a certain way in the class. They must align with either the elitist, individualist, egalitarian, or fatalist (22, Berger) consumer types and relate their choice to the data their class has generated. After each major project students must also then must propose the quantity of prototyping materials that should be ordered for future classes based off of their consumer culture alignment(which may change) and interpretation of their classes data. Towards the end of the year (ordering time for teachers) all groups in the class must propose their findings via poster and each class will vote on the most viable material distribution methods and quantity of materials for the following year. Each poster must outline a system of material distribution that is rooted in one of Berger’s four types of consumer cultures.

  • “Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture: Advertising’s Impact on American Character and Society.” Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture: Advertising’s Impact on American Character and Society, by Arthur Asa. Berger, Rowman & Littlefield, 2004, pp. 22–25.
  1. Ensure that learning materials do not stereotype poor people.
  2. Fight to keep low-income students from being assigned unjustly to special education or low academic tracks.
  3. Make curriculum relevant to poor students, drawing on and validating their experiences and intelligences.
  4. Teach about issues related to class and poverty—including consumer culture, the dissolution of labor unions, and environmental injustice—and about movements for class equity.
  5. Teach about the antipoverty work of Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller, the Black Panthers, César Chávez, and other U.S. icons—and about why this dimension of their legacies has been erased from our national consciousness.