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Generational Poverty! Sometimes it is more than just having a job or not having a job!

Posted by on Jul. 2, 2013 at 3:45 PM
  • 17 Replies

I want you to think for a moment..

Pretend your the teacher of a 3rd grade class. And you have 18 students. Everyone of your students is white,live in a small rural area and has at least one employed parent. Most parents work at the local factory or in some capacity with the town. All kids are on a fairly even footing.. no major problems right? Except you have this group among the children who are all related in some form or another.. Cousins,sisters or brothers. And all seem to really lag behind in education. Never come to school ready to participate in school work. Often showing up with either broken pencils or no paper and their clothes are clean but still stink of either pet urine or cigarette smoke. After several months of these kids missing classes or them being late frequently or worse yet showing up on time and never having the homework or materials to do work with... You start being a bit upset with Jimmy and Jessica and cousin Erica. All the other kids tease them and these three tend to get into fights alot and never take any blame for what happened. So you tend to be a bit sarcastic to them.. Saying things like "Well if you brought your own pencils you could do your work." or "Well if you didn't forget your homework all the time you could have recess time"

But now lets pretend that Little Jimmy and Jessica and cousin Erica all live in homes with greatly distressed families where they never have a new pencil and are fighting with the kids at school cause they are stealing the other children's pencils so they can do the work and these kids live with alcoholic parents who when they are angry lash out at the kids by ripping up that homework and breaking their pencils that they legitimately did do.. And where since mommy spent the grocery money on 2 big bottles of Jack Daniels for her and the current step daddy to drink.. Jimmy and Jessica and cousin Erica haven't eaten a dinner all week.

So they have a hard time getting to sleep at night when their stomach's are hungry. And mom can't get on welfare cause she can't read the documentation requirements as she never really learned how to read very well. And as a pride thing she won't ask for them to help her.. SO she gets denied time and again because she doesn't meet the guidelines. So there aren't any food stamps to fix their food problems..

Step-dad has a great job but since he technically lives and receives his mail at his mom's house 6 miles away.. He isn't being reported as living in the home anyhow.

And lastnight the kids ended up being woken up around 1am due to a physical fight between mom and step-dad. The fight was over who should Pawn what to get more money for booze. Step-dad got taken to the county jail until court for beating mom up. Mom didn't call the nosey neighbor called when she looked out the hallway door in their apartment to see step-dad pushing mom out the door and kicking her in the butt as she fell into the wall.. Mom is now mad at her neighbors for butting into a "family matter" Mom now is searching for a way to come up with the bail to spring step-dad until court.

So now that you have a few details about what these 3 kids go through... Is there any question to you why they can't really fully focus on their homework? Does that pencil you've been snotty to them about really mean anything in the grand scheme of things in these kid's situation?

These 3 children are living in what is called GENERATIONAL POVERTY.. They want to learn.. However the much bigger issues in their real life are making it very difficul to try to really care about some guy named Marco Polo.. As far as they are concerned the only Marco Polo that they know of is the game they played at the local pool last summer.

by on Jul. 2, 2013 at 3:45 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Countess79
by on Jul. 2, 2013 at 3:50 PM

∗ Education is key in getting out and staying out of generational poverty 

∗ Being in poverty is rarely about a lack of intelligence or ability 

∗ Individuals stay in poverty because they do not see "choice", or if they 

do, they do not know how to access proper resources or people to get 

them to the point of actually "choosing" to organize themselves, 

complete assignments, behave respectfully, plan for the future, and 

communicate in conventional register. 

∗ Schools are really the only places where students can learn about the 

choices and rules of the middle class or have access to people who 

are willing and able to help them. 

Countess79
by on Jul. 2, 2013 at 3:51 PM

While the American dream is to have your children enjoy a higher quality of life than you, sometimes this does not happen. Generational poverty refers to the ongoing poverty that is passed down from parent to child. In economics, this is sometimes called the cycle of poverty.

There are a number of reasons why generational poverty remains a problem:

  • A mother who grew up in poverty may find it hard to imagine any other way of life for her child; the "culture of poverty" is all she knows.
  • Parents struggling with drug addiction or mental illness that is not properly treated due to a lack of suitable health care options find it hard to properly supervise their young children.
  • Parents who did not attend college themselves simply do not know how to help their teens navigate the world of higher education.
  • Young adults with parents who are living in poverty miss out on the networking opportunities that can lead to finding stable employment.
RADmomma
by Gold Member on Jul. 2, 2013 at 4:45 PM
It sounds a lot like the rural areas of my state.
ditsyjo
by Gold Member on Jul. 3, 2013 at 1:01 AM

that is why caring teachers are so important... a teacher that can look passedc all the missed homework and bad additudes to see a childs potential can help children see a future different from the world they see at home.

Clairwil
by Silver Member on Jul. 3, 2013 at 4:04 AM


Sister_Someone
by Member on Jul. 3, 2013 at 5:30 AM

Nice story, but in my own experience, the way out of generational poverty is through education, not around it. I'm a scientist, make almost seven figures a year, I own a house and a car and take two vacations per year. I also come from a looooooong line of people addicted to all sorts of things, who lived in trailer parks or parks period. Hell, I have grown up in a trailer park with an alcoholic mother. I didn't get out of there and all the way to where I am today because I didn't bust my ass in school, I made it because the right people pushed me at the right time and inspired me to sacrifise what need be so I could have a shot at making something better for myself and my child.

jhslove
by Bronze Member on Jul. 3, 2013 at 5:59 AM
1 mom liked this

I don't think this should be a surprise to anyone.......it's no secret that kids are going to have a higher likelihood of replicating the example that their parents set. It has a lot to do with priorities and expectations. I come from a home where everyone goes to college, most people get graduate degrees and education is the absolute top priority. There was no question of WHETHER I would go to college, it was just a question of where. Not going was absolutely not an option. I had parents who cared about my education and made sure that I had what I needed in order to do my best in school. But they also knew how to help me in other ways--they knew how the college application process works, for example, and were able to guide me through it. They knew how important extracurricular activites are, so they prioritized my ability to participate in those. They understood how important it is to have a sense of work ethic and plan for the future, so they started instilling those values in us almost from birth.

My husband also grew up in poverty, but his mother's situation wasn't generational poverty. Her parents were middle-class, and she became impoverished through a combination of bad luck and poor decision-making. However, she always instilled in them a sense of the value of education, and as a result all four of her children have risen back out of poverty BECAUSE THEY GOT AN EDUCATION. Generational poverty is very different, and much harder to remedy IMO, than situational poverty.

My question for the OP is--what is your suggested solution? Did you post this just because you thought people didn't know about scenarios like the one you posted and you wanted to point it out, or do you have a particular solution that you want to propose?

jhslove
by Bronze Member on Jul. 3, 2013 at 6:09 AM
1 mom liked this

A big part of the cycle that I've observed in my experiences teaching people who live in generational poverty is that kids tend not to learn the "unspoken rules" of the middle and upper classes because their parents don't know them in the first place. They don't learn, for example, how to advocate for themselves to address a perceived injustice in a way that's going to help them.

Just one of many examples: I had a student who felt that she had gotten an unfairly low grade on a paper. If that happened to me in high school, my parents would encourage me to request an appointment with the teacher, ask why my grade was what it was, listen to the feedback and request the opportunity to re-write the paper. This student didn't do any of that. Her solution was to assume "the teacher hates me and is failing me on purpose", let loose a string of expletives and simply stop coming to class. Her mother also wrote me a novel of an e-mail expressing the same opinion and threatening to sue the school. Obviously, this isn't going to hurt anyone but the student, but that's how she had been taught to handle difficult situations by her parents and she didn't know anything else. If that's how you go through life handling adversity, clearly you're not going to have an easy time doing things like getting into college, holding down a job (or getting one in the first place), and maintaining relationships.

I had another student in my choir program--a really lovely, smart girl--and because her mother was upset with the fact that her daughter's individual choir didn't get a feature page in the yearbook, her mother's solution was to leave me a nasty voicemail and force her daughter to quit choir. Choir, as in, an extracurricular activity that actually could have helped her daughter to get into college and better her own situation. That was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my teaching career so far.

But for every example like the ones above, I can point out parents who KNOW how key education is to rising out of poverty and knock themselves out to make sure their kids have, if nothing else, the tools and support they need to do their best in school. They may not know the "unwritten rules", but they do everything they can and most importantly, they make sure their kids know that if they want a better life, education is the ticket. My husband's mother made a lot of mistakes, but she knew that education (and for them, that meant scholarships) was the way out of poverty and she raised her kids accordingly, with good results for them.

Countess79
by on Jul. 4, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Oh I agree with you! But the reason you did what you did is you had someone who was encouraging you..

Most Generationally impoverished children.. Don't have that!

Quoting Sister_Someone:

Nice story, but in my own experience, the way out of generational poverty is through education, not around it. I'm a scientist, make almost seven figures a year, I own a house and a car and take two vacations per year. I also come from a looooooong line of people addicted to all sorts of things, who lived in trailer parks or parks period. Hell, I have grown up in a trailer park with an alcoholic mother. I didn't get out of there and all the way to where I am today because I didn't bust my ass in school, I made it because the right people pushed me at the right time and inspired me to sacrifise what need be so I could have a shot at making something better for myself and my child.


Sister_Someone
by Member on Jul. 4, 2013 at 10:28 AM


No, I haven't explained myself well enough. I meant that in terms of teachers who didn't treat me any differerent just because I was poor and keeping me to the same homework/assignment/performance standards as the rest of my classmates who came for stable families.

No one ever told me that the way out was through studying and good grades. I figured that out all by myself. And since I wanted that bad enough but was still faced with the exact same expectations and standards as others who might have had better conditions to meet them than I did, I busted my ass to make it happen.

Quoting Countess79:

Oh I agree with you! But the reason you did what you did is you had someone who was encouraging you..

Most Generationally impoverished children.. Don't have that!

Quoting Sister_Someone:

Nice story, but in my own experience, the way out of generational poverty is through education, not around it. I'm a scientist, make almost seven figures a year, I own a house and a car and take two vacations per year. I also come from a looooooong line of people addicted to all sorts of things, who lived in trailer parks or parks period. Hell, I have grown up in a trailer park with an alcoholic mother. I didn't get out of there and all the way to where I am today because I didn't bust my ass in school, I made it because the right people pushed me at the right time and inspired me to sacrifise what need be so I could have a shot at making something better for myself and my child.




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