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Resources for Teaching about Poverty

The following discussion of resources for teaching students about poverty took
place on WMST-L in August 2005.  See also an earlier related file entitled
The Poverty Game as a Teaching Tool (1999).  For addition WMST-L files
available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 10:31:30 -0700
From: sand9417 <sand9417 AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: poverty activity
For the Women and Poverty course I am teaching in the
Fall, I would like my students to get some hands-on
experience trying to make ends meet on minimum wage
work.  I envision an activity in which students must
make a monthly budget based on the current prices for
basic needs such as food, housing, childcare,
transportation, etc.  Before I do the extensive
research necessary to design such an activity
accurately, I thought I would check to see if any of
you know of a template I could use or a good source of
information on living expenses and the like.  

Thank you.
Sandra Anderson 
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 15:33:47 -0400
From: Jeannie Ludlow <jludlow AT BGNET.BGSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: poverty activity
Hi all,
In Tracy E. Ore's *Instructor's Manual and Test Bank to Accompany The Social
Construction of Difference and Inequality: Race, Class, Gender, and
Sexuality* (Mayfield, 2000; ISBN 0-7674-1168-4), she includes a classroom
"game" called "Life Happens." The game divides students into seven
groups--families--each of which is given a family structure, annual income,
living conditions, etc. Some of the families are quite "comfortable" and
several are struggling. There is one family of 4 in which the two adults
both work full-time for minimum wage. There's also a single mom who makes
about $20,000/year (which is about 9.50/hr., full time). The students are
asked to create a monthly budget for their family and are given the info
they need to do so (cost of food per person for one month, monthly car
payment for a Honda, a Lexus, or an Escort, monthly bus pass, etc.). After
they make their monthly budgets (and the poorer families do have to do
without some of the "necessities"), then the students take "Life Happens"
cards from a stack. The cards say things like "your company got downsized
and you lost your job" or "your stocks mature and you get $1,000 (of course,
if the family's assets list no stocks, then this card is useless to them) or
"your teenage son and his girlfriend are pregnant" or "your youngest child
broke her arm at school." There are pretty detailed directions in the game
for how to compute the impact of these cards on the families' budgets.

I find the game to be very effective in the classroom. Although it's a bit
older, the dollar amounts still work for the small city where I live (an
apt. in the city is $550 and a house payment in the city is $800)--people
who live in more urban areas and/or in states with higher minimum wage would
need to adjust some of the amounts. Still, the basic idea is educational.
For one thing, most of my students have no idea about how insurance works
("what's a deductible?"), so it is good to go over these basic details. But
also, the effects of living in poverty also become quickly apparent. Often,
the wealthier families want to give some of their savings to the poorer
families. I allow it, and we see how much money--and for how long--would be
needed to make a real impact.

Anyway, I highly recommend this game. I'm sure there are others out there,
Jeannie Ludlow, Ph.D.		jludlow  AT  bgnet.bgsu.edu
Undergraduate Advisor
Women's Studies
228 East Hall
Bowling Green State U
Bowling Green OH 43403
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 15:50:36 -0400
From: Janell Hobson <jhobson AT ALBANY.EDU>
Subject: Re: poverty activity
Sounds like a relevant and worthwhile activity.

However, I imagine its usefulness at awareness all depends on the kinds of
students that you're teaching?

I teach at a state university where our students ARE trying to make ends
meet doing minimum wage work while simultaneously pay for tuition and
study for their courses.

Just something to think about as you link the two groups: students vs.
minimum-wage workers.

Janell Hobson
jhobson  AT  albany.edu
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 13:53:07 -0700
From: Elizabeth Maynard <elizabethmay74 AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: poverty activity
I was thinking along the same lines..and, as someone who comes from a decidely
working class background, I wonder how students for whom poverty and economic
hardship are facts of life would take to seeing "their" historical reality
turned into someone else's "play-acting" even for educational purposes. I would
think that one would need to be very careful and treat the activity
seriously..making sure that  students from more economically privileged
backgrounds did not unthinkingly make negative or denigrating comments
concerning the lifestyle "compromises" that people living in poverty make as a
matter of course.

I do think that this type of work can be done effectively and sensitively, but
it is all too easy  to further marginalize the poor, and create of them a
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 17:05:04 -0400
From: Jeannie Ludlow <jludlow AT BGNET.BGSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: poverty activity
Hi all,
I just wanted to add that I've had several students from working class
backgrounds (or maybe not from working class backgrounds but who were
working their way through college anyway for a variety of reasons) do the
"Life Happens" game, and not one of them has expressed concern with being
stereotyped in any way. I think the strengths of the game are that it
includes a wide variety of family structures and economic situations, and
the cards introduce an element of randomness.

I must say, though, that a couple of times, students have said awkward
things about living in poverty while playing the game. In my experience, the
working class students speak right up and have their say, too--before I can
say anything at all.

Also, I've found that some of my faculty colleagues can be very insensitive
to class issues, too. If working class people are marginalized and made a
spectacle of, in my experience, it is just as often by educated
professionals as by students who are unthinking (Elizabeth, that's not meant
as a corrective to your statement, but as an additive).

Jeannie Ludlow, Ph.D.		jludlow  AT  bgnet.bgsu.edu
Undergraduate Advisor
Women's Studies
228 East Hall
Bowling Green State U
Bowling Green OH 43403
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 16:17:05 -0500
From: Genevieve G. McBride <ggmcbride AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: poverty activity
I had similar thoughts.  Most of my students at a state campus (as in
the initial query),  albeit also an urban campus, are self-supporting
working more than 25 hours a week, say our surveys -- and well more
than a third work fulltime, many for minimum wage.  Many also have

And even awareness of campus demographics does not necessarily inform
us of students' personal histories, of course.  Many students have
made erroneous assumptions about me and my background, too  -- and one
of my children who attended my campus told me of assumptions made
about her in class exercises that caused her to "shut down" from
discomfort in class.

By then she was the daughter of a "privileged" professor, but she
still can remember when her mother had to file for AFDC, and she had
to line up for subsidized lunch tickets in a suburban school, etc. --
as we all know that women  and children can find themselves suddenly
plunged into poverty for lack of court action on child support.

That it still is happening, many of my students can attest.  All that
said, I also can imagine that such an exercise could be undertaken
with sensitivity -- and with care for privacy -- so I also will follow
this thread for examples that have passed the test.

Genevieve G. McBride, Ph.D.
Director of Women's Studies and
     Associate Professor of History
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
gmcbride  AT  uwm.edu
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 14:34:53 -0700
From: Elizabeth Maynard <elizabethmay74 AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: poverty activity
  You make a good point Jeannie. I have not personally observed that kind of
behavior by faculty, probably because I have been around people who are used to
working with working class students at state institutions. I do however recall
one classroom situations in which the television program  "Roseanne" was
repeatedly characterized as representative of the "working class." Now, I know
that the particular professor teaching the class did not believe that all
members of the working class were like the characters on "Roseanne," but the
students, many of whom were working class themselves, apparently felt saw
something of themselves in life as depicted on the program or possibly  felt
unable/unwilling to speak out...I have no way of knowing which.   I was the
only student who spoke up and challenged the stereotype. But I am not sure that
I was the only one who was uncomfortable with it.

  I was also thinking that it is one thing to be financially strapped, but
quite another to be intellectually, "spiritually" and creatively impoverished.
I actually find the use of the term "class" problematic.  It seems to me to be
much more than a mere description of one's economic background.
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 17:56:47 EDT
From: Christina Fisanick <CLFisanick AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: poverty activity and why is Nickel and Dimed so popular?
I have not read Fink, but I have added her to my list. I have always  enjoyed
and thought well of Dorothy Allison's work on poverty and class  relations. 
It seems the most real to me.


Dr. Christina  Fisanick
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Xavier  University
Cincinnati, OH
clfisanick  AT  aol.com

Never doubt that a  small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. 
Indeed, it is the only  thing that ever has.   - Margaret  Mead
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 18:05:55 -0400
From: Daphne Patai <daphne.patai AT SPANPORT.UMASS.EDU>
Subject: poverty activity & the classroom
Maybe it's not the place of a college teacher to engage in
consciousness-raising exercises with her students, or other such activities
designed to give them a surrogate experience of a complex real world.

Maybe what's special about a university is that it's a place for intellectual
exploration, for reading about a subject, learning to appraise the research on
that subject, learning how to get information for oneself,and how to express
oneself in an intellectual environment. Maybe a college isn't and shouldn't aim
to provide the same thing as the many other sorts of
explorationsexperiences/therapeputic interventions that are available to
students in the rest of their lives.

Maybe it's not the place of a college class to try to be everything on all
levels to all students.  Maybe some boundaries are worth preserving, ome
distances worth respecting.

Maybe we should just try to do well that which we can reasonably hope to do,
without grandiose ambitions and too much meddling with our students' psyches.
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 11:00:35 +1000
From: Bronwyn Winter <bronwyn.winter AT ARTS.USYD.EDU.AU>
Subject: teaching and politicising (was: poverty activity)


1/  with relation to possibly coming up against the sensitivities of the
'real' poor when using 'life happens' or similar in the classroom:

i have played another consciousness raising game with relation to racism, in
a lesbian activist context in sydney.  i am going back about 15 years now
but it would still be relevant.  we were divided arbitrarily into 2 groups.
the one i was in (which i later found out was the 'racialised' one), were
taken outside, given no instructions, but our group leader chatted
pleasantly and inconsequentially to us.  when we came back inside, the
others were playing a human-sized board-style game, led by the other group
leader.  we wanted to play, but no-one explained the rules, we had to ask
things in a certain way and no-one explained how this was to be done
upfront.  and of course, there were different rules for each group, with the
'white' group being privileged (e.g. they were given play money upfront, we
were not;  they could land on our 'squares' and push us off, but we were
penalised if the dice, by chance, landed us on theirs, and so on).  the
group leader conducting the game played an extremely authoritarian role:
was punitive towards our group, but also encouraged participation in
imposing the rules in the 'white' group.  she played her role so effectively
that the 'white' group, even in rebelling (giving us money) did so in

the groups were ethnically mixed, e.g. my lover of the time (who 'normally'
belongs to a racialised group) was in the 'white' group and i (who am white
and gentile) was in the 'racialised' group. 
a third group, indigenous australian lesbians, as members of the group who
are the most disadvantaged by australian racism, were observers and
commentators.  this was a conscious political choice by the women who ran
the game and agreed by all participants.

*no-one* felt offended, stereotyped, misrepresented or damaged by this game
in any way.  in fact in our debriefing there was a lot of trust, a lot of
willingness to confront what was both painful and funny, etc...  but this
depended a great deal on bonds already built within our group as well as on
the skills of the women running the game.  these things need to be thought
through and run really well (like any sort of activity that potentially puts
people emotionally on the line.)

but the activity worked precisely because the groups were mixed arbitrarily,
so that 'real' racialised' and 'real' non-racialised people were in both
groups.  i would suggest that the class game would need to work in a similar
way i.e. teachers shouldn't be going out of their way to put those who are,
or who they assume to be 'working class' or 'poor' in particular groups.

2/ re defining 'class'.  one post talked about sthg to do with working class
culture/collective memory & experience as opposed to being poor
(temporarily, newly or otherwise.....).  i agree.  many students have
difficult making ends meet while they are students, for a variety of reasons
(i sure did).  this doesn't necessarily make them 'working class'.

there are also different regional and ethnic experiences of class. 
and women's experiences.....  as the grandaughter of a dressmaker who left
her husband around the time of the great depression, as a fairly recent
immigrant to australia, and brought up her 2 daughters working 10-14 hours a
day making clothes for private clients, i also know that women who do not
have an ongoing connection to a particular 'class' through husbands, tend to
fall outside our definitions altogether. 
3/ re daphne's comment about the role of the classroom in relation to
politics and CR etc.  well, frankly, i consider my role as an academic to be
that of a 'public intellectual', and to quote the title of a well-known
'radical teaching' book from several decades back, i see my teaching as a
'subversive activity'.  as a feminist, and as someone with access to
intellectual and cultural capital, i have a *responsibility* to encourage my
students (and the wider public where i can) to think outside the dominant
views (lies) about 'reality'. our intellectual endeavour, our querying, our
research, our debate, is to do with real people in the real world.  our
students can only *really* be open to the intellectual enquiry, and *really*
relate it to people's lives, if they are also challenged in their own
assumptions and complacencies, if they are engaged emotionally on some

so, i definitely see my classroom as a place for consciousness-raising! -
all the more, in fact, because i am *not* located in women's studies (i
sometimes have students - incl. female - saying my classes are 'too
feminist' any time i put women as the subject or have more than one female
author on the reading list), and teach at one of the most elite universities
in australia, that has traditionally trained a large proportion of the
country's intelligentsia and political leaders, of all political

so, university teaching as CR?  absolutely!!!


Dr Bronwyn Winter
Senior Lecturer
Dept of French Studies School of Languages and Cultures
Mungo McCallum Building A17
University of Sydney  NSW 2006
email: bronwyn.winter  AT  arts.usyd.edu.au

Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 21:38:50 -0500
From: Muriel L. Whetstone Sims <mlsims317 AT HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: poverty activity & the classroom
As an older-than-the-average graduate student, I find it distressing that so
many emerging adult students privileged enough to attend college so often
graduate into "a complex real world" absolutely unconscious of life lived
beyond the boundaries of their typically entitled existence.

I think that all too often contemporary students leave campus and go on to
take positions as social workers, bank managers, policy makers, human
resource executives and others who lack empathy for people living less
fortunate lives over whose lives they hold tremendous sway.

And what difference do "the many other sorts of
explorationsexperiences/therapeputic interventions that are available to
students in the rest of their lives" make when  interest in pursuing such
experiences is absent as it so often is?

The U.S. government's total disregard for economically poor and poorly
educated women and their children living in this country is atrocious.
Personally, I would be willing to "engage in consciousness-raising
exercises" of any sort with my students if I thought it might help them
understand in the future the realistic impact of their authoritative

Texas Woman's University
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 13:42:23 EDT
From: Nancy Meyer <NancyJMeyer AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: poverty activity

I don't have the template you requested but wanted to suggest that your 
students might read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting  By in 
America.  Ehrenreich not only describes her own experiences in trying to get 
by on rock bottem wages but the exhausting effort required by the jobs 

Nancy Meyer
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 23:44:28 -0400
From: Jennifer Musial <jmusial AT YORKU.CA>
Subject: Re: poverty activity & the classroom + exercises in the classroom
Muriel has brought up some great points about the "sheltered"
nature of some students graduating university.
I would posit that students who attend universities with a
largely homogenous student population + students who are
predominantly "traditional" university age would benefit most
from these types of games/exercises.  The pedagogical value in
these exercises is that it forces privileged students to step
outside their privilege for a few minutes in such a way that
provides a "teachable moment" - ex. I rarely hear a "why don't
*they* just pull themselves up by their bootstraps" argument
after playing the "Life Happens" game.  I've yet to have a
student approach me about how the game was silencing or
oppressive to him/her.   Quite the opposite - in their
evaluations, most students cite these exercises as most
memorable.  (I'll bet there are some students who hate it,  I
just haven't heard rumblings of it)

I've used the "Life Happens" game Dr. Jeannie Ludlow suggested
with great success (I taught at Bowling Green State University
and benefitted from Jeannie's great pedagogy ideas - thanks
Jeannie!!)  I've also used the "Allegiances, Coups, and Colour
Wars" activity (as suggested by Jeannie and outlined in
_Transformations_ by Kristen Myers Volume 9, No. 2, Fall
1998-Special Issue on Race * Color * Whiteness).

In "Allegiances, Coups, and Colour Wars", groups are divided by
mythical colours - blue group, red group, green group, purple
group, orange group.  Each group has a different stereotypical
schema attached - blue has most power, red group cannot speak the
dominant language, are undocumented workers, etc.  The "goal" is
to have each group speak at a town-hall meeting trying to
advocate for their rights, while the blue group mediates the
interaction.  This works for a number of reasons:  1)  I like to
see what strategy they use to get power, 2) I like to see if they
work together or separately, 3) I like to see how the blue group
tries to maintain power (divide & conquer usually), 4) and I like
to see if any groups subvert the system - haven't seen this
happen yet.

I've used this activity in 2 VERY different universities -
Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green Ohio)- a mid-sized,
public university with a conservative, predominantly white
population and here at York University (Toronto Ontario) where
we're one the largest universities in Canada with a diverse
student body - racially, ethnically, class positioned, etc.
The results were very different at each institution - when I did
it with my "racism in Canada" class here at York, they didn't
"play along" with the game.  The blue group gave in to almost
every demand (perhaps the result of learning via the course how
dominant groups maintain power - blue guilt going on perhaps?).
But one of the other groups did use a strategy of "using the
blues language" - an assimilation type of approach that we talked
about in detail afterwards given that assimilation was one
concept that figured into the course.

Ultimately, the success of these games lies in the debriefing
that happens afterwards.  This is the most important part of the
session.  We talk about how these fictionalized situations play
out in our society, and the role powerful groups play in
maintaining the status quo - these are great activities to talk
about the concept of hegemony....and hopefully they have some
impact on students who will go out into the workforce in
positions of power - like teachers, social workers, policy
makers, etc. as Muriel mentioned in her email.


Jennifer Musial
School of Women's Studies - Graduate Programme
CWTP (Centre for Women and Trans People at York University)
Collective Member
York University
Toronto, Ontario  M3J 1P3
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 08:59:48 -0400
From: Alice Bach <asherah1 AT ADELPHIA.NET>
Subject: Re: teaching and politicizing (was: poverty activity)
I have taught Barbara Ehrenreich to great advantage.  These days I teach
mostly Midwestern sort of suburb kids. Not wealthy suburbs.

They were all very discomfited to face the reality that people would have to
spend their whole lives doing the kid of jobs they thought of as summer
jobs, Christmas extra-money jobs.  Perhaps it is too close to home?

 I¦ve never had wealthy kids put down working class jobs (and it may be
manners more than actual feelings).  As a matter of fact  even when I taught
at one of the wealthiest universities in the US~K it was the poor kids who
mouthed off about the undeserving lazy people who could not get out of the
Nickel and Dimed jobs. I am most offended by students who can define the
undeserving poor.  

In both institutions , students are eager  to ¦help the poor.¦  In neither
place do students admit to being poor.

I find that the best antidote to books about the working poor is to have
students wait for a bus on a cold wintry night (they are used to cars).  And
then cook/ serve dinner at a soup kitchen, clean up, mop the floor, and wait
for the bus home.  Then they begin to see the shortfall between what people
say about being poor and  working nights or being cold ~K and actually doing
it for a semester.

In peace,

Alice Bach
 Archbishop Hallinan Chair of Catholic Studies
Associate Professor of Religion
105 Mather House 
CWRU 10900 Euclid Ave.
Cleveland OH  44106

"The poor tell us who we are,
The prophets tell us who we could be,
So we hide the poor,
And kill the prophets" - Phil Berrigan
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 09:57:05 EDT
From: TsunamiInc AT AOL.COM
Subject: Re: poverty activity and why is Nickel and Dimed so popular?
I really enjoyed "Nickel and Dimed." It mirrored my own experience as a 
working class woman. I didn't find Ehrenrich condecsending. In fact, she seemed 
very aware of her class privilege and brought it up more than once. Also, I found 
her writing very accessible. If a women's studies teacher had used this book 
in one of my classes I would have been delighted.

I agree that Dorothy Allison's work is a great illumination of some aspects 
of working class life.

One of my songs, "No Damn Factory," deals with class issues in my own family.


Jamie Anderson
Feminist Singer-Songwriter-Comic
Touring nationally for 18 years
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 08:33:29 -0700
From: Betty J Glass <glass AT UNR.EDU>
Subject: media coverage of the poor vs. the not-poor
 I've found that some of my faculty colleagues can be very 
insensitive to class issues, too. If working class people are 
marginalized and made a spectacle of, in my experience, it is just as 
often by educated professionals as by students who are unthinking 

This reminded me of a recent incident in Reno. 

This summer, the local newspaper ran a story about one of their own
paper delivery workers, a single mom, who had gone into the newspaper
building with her baby daughter, but had left a toddler son in her car.

An employee arriving for work saw the toddler alone in the car and
called the police. The mom was arrested for leaving the child in the
car. A photo of her being arrested and a separate photo of the boy in
the car were included with the story, which noted that the mom was an
independent contractor and not an employee of the newspaper.

Several years ago, the wife of a Reno attorney returned home from
running errands. Later, her baby was found dead in her car. She'd gotten
the older children out of the car into the house, along with whatever
she'd purchased during running her errands. She'd simply forgotten to go
back out for the baby in the childseat in the back, and it was a hot
day, and the baby died.
No photographs of any of the attorney's family were placed in the
newspaper. The mom was not arrested for child neglect, and the matter
quietly disappeared from the news.

Our campus lost a wonderful Journalism professor a few years ago, Travis
Linn, and one of his beefs was the unevenness of media coverage, based
on socioeconomic position in the community. He opposed having
photographs of poor children in the newspapers while the privacy of
well-to-do children is protected.

Poverty exercises could certainly help more privileged students grasp
how life experiences can be very different for people, depending on how
they 'rank' in our society.

Betty J. Glass
Resource Analysis & Support Librarian
Getchell Library/322
University of Nevada, Reno
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89557-0044
glass  AT  unr.edu
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 13:09:54 -0400
From: Jennifer Hatten <J_Hatten AT ATT.NET>
Subject: Re: poverty activity & the classroom + exercises in the classroom
The beauty of the "Life Happens" exercise is that privileged students can
see how they've benefited from their privilege and those who have struggled
with these issues can get beyond the self-blame/self-doubt instilled in them
by the individualistic notion of the "American Dream." When students are
shown how institutional forces control more of their life circumstances than
often their own efforts, it is very freeing for them--I've also seen this
exercise promote a lot of social activism from students. I use my version of
this exercise as springboard for discussions on the high cost of daycare,
gay/lesbian couples whose partner and children cannot get health insurance
coverage, cuts in funding for schools/education/aid, pay inequity, and other
issues beyond the control of individuals simply not working "hard enough" or
properly picking themselves by those damn bootstraps. This is far from

On a side note, last year I used this as a semester-long project for a
social problems course and a student who was a full-time student, full-time
worker, on-and-off welfare, single mother of two told me this was the first
time she every felt her background was an advantage in college. She
especially enjoyed seeing how her group members were "enlightened" by what
had been her reality for so long. 

Take care,

Jennifer M. Hatten-Flisher
Eastern Michigan University
Dept of Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminology
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
 <mailto:jhatten  AT  emich.edu> jhatten  AT  emich.edu 

Women's Studies Program
Wayne State University
Detroit MI 48202     
 <mailto:jhatten  AT  wayne.edu> jhatten  AT  wayne.edu 
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 10:55:46 -0700
From: Barbara Watson <mbwatson AT MAIL.SDSU.EDU>
Subject: poverty activity and the classroom
I have followed this discussion and write only now because, as I admit, I
was initially offended, that there could be something like
"poverty-exercises". Poverty is real and painful, but knowing that I also
know that, indeed, it is important to have this awareness in the classroom.
I used Carolina Maria de Jesus's Child of the Dark to discuss poverty. The
book shows it all, that poor people suffer, have fewer opportunities - and
that they have lives, a sense of beauty. It was always my impression that
the diary of Carolina made students see her as a PERSON and a fight against
poverty cannot succeed without understanding that. Barbara Watson

Maria-Barbara Watson-Franke, Ph. D.
Professor Emerita
Department of Women's Studies
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182
e-mail: mbwatson  AT  mail.sdsu.edu
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 13:49:34 -0400
From: Barbara Jago <bjago AT comcast.net>
Subject: Re: poverty activity

Also check out the Economic Policy Institute at http://www.epinet.org/. They
have lots of info on the minimum wage, living wage, and poverty.

Barbara Jago
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 00:29:16 EDT
From: Anne D'Arcy <CoonHollow AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: the role of a university
I use a think piece at the beginning of many of my classes that brings these 
issues into focus.   Class discussions are lively and spirited once students 
digest the essay.

Lakeland, Paul.  "Preserving the Lifeworld, Restoring the Public Sphere,    
   Renewing Higher Education" - http://www.crosscurrents.org/lakeland2.htm

If you end up using it, I've developed a long list of study questions and 
activities I can share.

Anne D'Arcy, Ph.D.
Solano College
Suisun, CA.
Coonhollow  AT  aol.com
Date: Sat, 27 Aug 2005 01:17:17 +0000
From: Mary Schweitzer <marymsch AT COMCAST.NET>
Subject: Re: poverty activity & the classroom
Years ago this would have fallen under the heading of "nontraditional methods
of teaching" and would have been considered a very good idea educationally.

Those of us who teach in universities seldom get to spend much time discussing
or working on the actual process.  My undergraduate major, for a time, was in
the new ideas in education such as open classrooms - it helped me a lot when I
eventually taught at a university.  For example, a regular assignment in my
U.S. history course, Civil War to the present, was to ask the students to get
interviews of their grandparents or other relatives about the Great Depression. 
(I would make sure they knew enough about the Depression beforehand so they
didn't embarass themselves). 

Technically, I should have had them do the next part, but there wasn't time set
aside, so I just did it as a  present to the students -- I would turn it into a
little book, written by them, and give it back as a present at the end of the
semester.  They not only REALLY understood what the Depression felt like by the
time they got their book - but they also learned that the particular is not the
generalm, a very important lesson in life and college.  Finally, in addition to
learning about the Depression, the exercise of writing something that others
will read taught them the importance of writing well. 

Most of them had never experienced dire poverty.  Hearing their grandparents
tell of their experiences (in some cases there were stories of siblings who
died of malnutrition - there were numerous stories of marriges delayed for
years and years because there was not enough money for a household, i.e.,
children).  The students could not have imagined that otherwise.

There were always a couple of students whose relatives did very well during the
Depression - comparing those stories with the majortiy of stories showed that
you could do well while sujrrounded by people who didn't.

When I taught women's studies, the nontraditional method I used I had borrowed
from an English women's studies course at Duke when I was a senior there (three
decades ago ...) -- we did reading diaries.  There was a fixed assignment that
involved doing the readings and having to face alternate interpretations of the
same events - then discussions about it in class - but I also let them include
a part about how the readings had affected them personally, if at all.  WOW was
that part interesting to read.  Later they would come back to tell me that they
learned how to make a reasoned argument about anything (including women's
rights), how to be verbally articulate and bold.  They liked it.  And it was
amazing how many started out thinking women's history would be interesting but
would have nothing to say to them in the present.  They never finished the
course thinking that.

There was a professor at Villanova who would ask his students if they HAD to
choose, would they change their race or their gender.  (He was
African-American).  It was a VERY interesting exercise and led to very
interesting discussions.

There are many things that cannot be taught in books, by just reading.

If a university is a universe - city, if it teaches "universal truths" (as they
once believed a university did) - there is much in the world that these
students will never understand unless you find a way to help them make contact
with it.

My students seemed to have trouble immersing themselves in books the way I used
to (some of my colleagues and I used to discuss that) - I once assigned Malcom
X's autobiography - now, I had squirmed when I read the part where he's happily
watching Gone With The Wind in an integrated theater in an integrated Michigan
suburb - and Prissy comes along doing that homemade idiot act.  He said he
wanted to dive under the chair in the theatre.  Reading it, so did I.  But my
students did not GET that.  They could not get past the anger in the middle of
the book.  They could not get past who THEY were to think of how it must have
been to have been HIM. 

In conversations with my daughter (now 23), who was an avid reader and could
empathise with the protagonist (though she told me she had great difficulty
empathizing with a male protagonist - something I got used to doing because
there was little else to read when I was growing up!) -- she suggested that in
video games you don't have to empathize with anybody, and that's what a lot of
smart students spent their intellect on. 

So we had to think of ways to teach empathy outside of novels, which would have
been my first choice.  Movies are another obvious choice, of course - but so is
nontraditional teaching methods.

If the students (and I don't mean all of the students, but in my case it was a
hefty slug of them) cannot access that sense of transcendence, of empathy, of
walking in someone else's shoes, through literature, we owe it to them to find
creative ways to accomplish the same thing. 

In my mind, it has nothing to do with poliics - but everything to do with what
you think an educated person is.

I believe that a truly EDUCATED person should learn how to empathize with
people who are not like them - Muslims (in a Catholic school); women who lived
at a time when they had no property rights; slaves; members of diferent native
American nations. 

And they should know what the experience of poverty is -- particularly in a
women's studies program, because poverty in this country highly skews female.

Mary Schweitzer, Ph.D.
marymsch  AT  comcast.net
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 10:55:19 -0700
From: Preethi <preeti_shekar AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: poverty activity and why is Nickel and Dimed so popular?
Much as Ehrenrich's Nickel and Dimed is a valuable book - I used it in a 101
class myself and the students found it very enlightening etc. - But I think it
is highly overrated - Ehrenrich often gets condescending and her white
overprivileged background seeps in every now and then. It is a wonderfully
researched book dont get me wrong - but we could do with more dynamic,
suabltern voices.

Thats literally my 2 cents - pun unintended.
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 13:59:40 -0400
From: Hagolem <hagolem AT C4.NET>
Subject: Fwd: Re: poverty activity
For his cable TV show, Morgan Spurlock and his girlfriend tried to live on
minimum wages for a month.  They both got rock bottom jobs.  They were done
in by the costs of health care and didn't survive the month.  It would be a
good thing to show them if you can find a copy of it.  30 DAYS, it was
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 14:06:25 EDT
From: Christina Fisanick <CLFisanick AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: poverty activity and why is Nickel and Dimed so popular?
Having come from the social class and working positions that Ehrenrich 
"exposes" in Nickel and Dimed, I can tell you that I found her work 
disappointing  and inaccurate.  Instead of illuminating the challenges (and 
joys) of this socio-economic class, Ehrenrich further marginalizes it.  
However, if it makes people pay more attention to the plight of the working 
poor, then I guess it is something.


Dr. Christina  Fisanick
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Xavier  University
Cincinnati, OH
clfisanick  AT  aol.com

Never doubt that a  small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. 
Indeed, it is the only  thing that ever has.   - Margaret  Mead
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 14:11:11 -0500
From: Dan and Velana Huntington <d2v AT AVALON.NET>
Subject: Re: poverty activity and why is Nickel and Dimed so popular?
i agree, christina.  someone who deals well (i think) with poverty/class in
terms of race and gender is deborah fink; she wrote "cutting into the
meatpacking line" and describes her experiences with men/women (but usually
the latter) who were working two and three jobs in order to make ends meet.
she further went on to analyze how race and class compounded these
experiences within iowa's meatpacking industry (both in the community in
general and within the plant itself).  just a thought...i've taught it in
intro to anthro classes and the students really connect with it.  it's not
about women and poverty per se, but it's a good book that addresses all of
the complexities of the wider topic.

Dr. Velana Huntington
114 Macbride Hall
Department of Anthropology
University of Iowa
Iowa City  Iowa  52242
velana-huntington  AT  uiowa.edu
There are times in life when the question of 
knowing if one can think differently than 
one thinks, and perceive differently than 
one sees, is absolutely necessary if one 
is to go on looking and reflecting at all.
                          --  Michel Foucault
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 13:10:48 -0500
From: Jodie Hertzog <Jodie.Hertzog AT WICHITA.EDU>
Subject: Re: poverty activity
This summer Morgan Spurlock (who did "Super Size Me") did a reality show 
on FX called "30 days." 
[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/30_Days - ed. note: this URL was substituted for one that no longer worked] 

In the very first episode, he and his fiance lived a minimum wage life in 
Ohio for 30 days.  I thought it might be an interesting tool to get 
discussion going in class. 

Jodie Hertzog, Ph.D.
Sociology Dept., Campus Box 25
Wichita State University
404 Lindquist Hall
Wichita, KS  67220
jodie.hertzog  AT  wichita.edu
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 11:51:23 -0700
From: Rabbi Alana Suskin <alanamscat AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: poverty activity
Actually, Jewish Fund for Justice has a terrific
curriculum; our synagogue used it last year as part of
a tzedakah (justice, which is how we spell charity)
and poverty family education day. It isn't religious,
except, of course, in the sense that religious folk
ought to be involved and aware on the topic.
You can reach them in New York at (212) 213-2113

Alana Suskin
alanamscat  AT  yahoo.com

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