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Poverty Stereotypes: Fact or Fiction? Evidence of this use of labels can be found in the 2006 motion picture The Ron Clark Story.

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Matt Bernstein Writing Seminar Essay 3 Poverty Stereotypes: Fact or Fiction? Is the notion that children in impoverished inner cities suffer academically a stereotype or a cultural fact? Schools in these poor communities are often at a disadvantage due to violence and vandalism, as well as a lack of funding and qualified teachers willing to put themselves into sometimes daunting situations. Families living in lower-class areas commonly have more than one child and live in unfortunate housing situations and conditions. By stereotyping all inner-city children to be of this environment, we are propagating common misconceptions of how we perceive and value each other. Many filmmakers rely heavily on one-dimensional, over-simplified portrayals of people or groups of people for the purpose of quickly and easily establishing a movie character?s traits. Evidence of this use of labels can be found in the 2006 motion picture The Ron Clark Story. The made-for-television film follows the inspiring tale of an energetic, creative, and idealistic teacher who leaves his small North Carolina hometown to teach in the sixth grade at a public school in Harlem. Through his passionate use of special rules for his classroom, highly innovative teaching techniques, and an undying devotion to his students which includes helping them cope with their problems, Clark is able to make a remarkable difference in the lives of the children. ...read more.


The problem isn't that their education lacks ?rigor??in fact, a single-minded focus on ?raising the bar? has served mostly to push more low-income youths out of school?but that it lacks depth and relevance and the capacity to engage students. As Deborah Stipek, the dean of Stanford University?s school of education, once commented, drill-and-skill instruction isn?t how middle-class children got their edge, so ?why use a strategy to help poor kids catch up that didn't help middle-class kids in the first place?? Mistilina Sato and Timothy J. Lensmire, writers of ?Poverty and Payne: Supporting Teachers to Work with Children of Poverty,? also disagree with Payne?s statement. They feel that the problem is not whether the students have the ability to achieve success academically, but that many educators do not teach in a ?culturally responsive? manner. ?Children from poverty are being labeled with deficit-laden characteristics that put them at risk of being viewed as less capable, less cultured, and less worthy as learners,? they explain. ?Rather than dwelling on children?s perceived deficits, we believe teachers should be encouraged to focus instead on children?s competence as cultural and intellectual people.? Themes from The Ron Clark Story also relate very well with bell hooks?s essay ?Seeing and Making Culture: Representing the Poor.? Several scenes in the film refer to hooks?s quote, ?If [the poor] cannot escape poverty, then they have no choice but to drown in the image of a life that is valueless.? For instance, when Mr. ...read more.


Through the objectification of the poor, educators are implicitly positioned as the true historical subjects with ability to act in creating social change. In the end of the movie?when the students not only meet, but surpass their standardized test goals?there is an overwhelming feeling of pride and accomplishment in the classroom. All of their families have gathered for an awards ceremony, where Mr. Clark gives out trophies distinguishing their individual accomplishments for that year. This directly ties in with bell hooks?s disagreement over the misconception that ?value is achieved when material accomplishment is achieved. Worth is gained only by material success.? These children put a high value on their educational achievements and their self-worth is elevated through their success. Their poverty level and their problems still remain; however they now feel that there is a chance to actually have a better life for themselves since they are on the same playing field with the better educated students. The controversy over education in lower-income areas continues. Academic writers throughout the country still debate what factor is at fault for poor students suffering academically. Is their low achievement because of negative stereotypic portrayals or because of uninspiring teaching tactics? It is still hard to separate the two claims. While stereotypes in the media might lower a student?s expectations of himself, poor education does not help his situation. There may never be a definite answer to this problem, but there are certainly some suggestions from both sides to help remedy the situation. ...read more.

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