Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Culture of Poverty

This type of thinking has been only for conservative thinkers? So much for that "reality-based community", huh?

For more than 40 years, social scientists investigating the causes of poverty have tended to treat cultural explanations like Lord Voldemort: That Which Must Not Be Named.

The reticence was a legacy of the ugly battles that erupted after Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant labor secretary in the Johnson administration, introduced the idea of a “culture of poverty” to the public in a startling 1965 report. Although Moynihan didn’t coin the phrase (that distinction belongs to the anthropologist Oscar Lewis), his description of the urban black family as caught in an inescapable “tangle of pathology” of unmarried mothers and welfare dependency was seen as attributing self-perpetuating moral deficiencies to black people, as if blaming them for their own misfortune.

Moynihan’s analysis never lost its appeal to conservative thinkers, whose arguments ultimately succeeded when President Bill Clinton signed a bill in 1996 “ending welfare as we know it.” But in the overwhelmingly liberal ranks of academic sociology and anthropology the word “culture” became a live grenade, and the idea that attitudes and behavior patterns kept people poor was shunned.

Now, after decades of silence, these scholars are speaking openly about you-know-what, conceding that culture and persistent poverty are enmeshed.

I'll bet teachers can tell you about what a "culture of poverty" means regarding attitudes at and towards school.

So you think this might be progress? You think the lefties are going to see what's clearly right in front of them? Think again:

With these studies come many new and varied definitions of culture, but they all differ from the ’60s-era model in these crucial respects: Today, social scientists are rejecting the notion of a monolithic and unchanging culture of poverty. And they attribute destructive attitudes and behavior not to inherent moral character but to sustained racism and isolation.

Of course it's racism; they have no other explanation for anything. Broken record. What's interesting though, is that that statement isn't justified by the two paragraphs that follow it:

To Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard, culture is best understood as “shared understandings.”

“I study inequality, and the dominant focus is on structures of poverty,” he said. But he added that the reason a neighborhood turns into a “poverty trap” is also related to a common perception of the way people in a community act and think. When people see graffiti and garbage, do they find it acceptable or see serious disorder? Do they respect the legal system or have a high level of “moral cynicism,” believing that “laws were made to be broken”?

None of those beliefs or actions has anything to do with racism.

For people who call themselves members of the "reality-based community", they sure do choose to ignore a lot of reality.


Carol said...

I think nowadays "racism" doesn't mean discrimination, it means "something to do with race..."

High School Tchr said...

Isolation??? Where in the heck do these scholars live and dwell??? If anyone is isolated, it's them!!