As we come into the new year we find ourselves in the midst of a new-style political campaign, one many of our analysts and pundits can’t seem to get the handle on. We hear all kinds of things, mostly negative, mostly all designed as scare tactics. I see the quick electronic sound bites in my email boxes and some that family and friends re-post on my Facebook page. Wow!
Not too long ago I was reading about poverty in America. I do have an EdD and I do keep up with trends in education and what is otherwise going on there, which isn’t much to talk about, honestly. In that regard, the more the thrust of the research centers on catering to the “poor downtrodden,” whoever they are, and adjusting things to accommodate them, the further removed we become from actually educating them and making them prepared to make their way in today’s world of work. That’s it in a nutshell. Sorry for the cliché. Some of my colleagues and I would be happy to share what we know does work, but the forces out there have an alternative agenda, one that is designed to only make it appear as if they care and are doing something about the issue when in reality their true agenda has nothing to do with those in need, education-wise or poverty-wise. Not conspiracy theory. Reality. Telling them what works is talking to the wind. One must assume that those in power are smart, formidable, and know the real score. One must assume then that if it were in their best interests they could surely fix things. So why, then, are things not fixed and why do we not even see some real progress toward fixing things? One must assume they are working toward their best interests and, as said, those interests do not coincide with the interests of the “downtrodden.”
So as regards poverty, this all is linked, even intertwined. Many of the poor in America are children. In fact, an estimated 22 percent overall, and if that isn’t dramatic enough, the ranges by demographics and regions are even more staggering. How does this happen in America? How does this happen here?
The answers aren’t simple or easy. They are as complicated and as complex as our society. Worse, further obfuscating mattes is politics, the characterizations of the Democrats and the Republicans as drawn by each side, Democrats depicting Republicans as cold and heartless, Republicans depicting Democrats as fostering government dependency with handouts for the purpose of buying and maintaining a voter base. Then even more horrible, the candidates pander to these depictions and play upon them. There isn’t one presidential candidate on either side who is not guilty.
Since the war on poverty began, around 1965, we’ve thrown nearly twenty-two trillion dollars (in constant 2012 dollars) at the poverty problem and the poverty rate has not noticeably diminished. That’s beyond incredulity. If I were CEO of a company whose performance was so abysmal, I’d have been voted out forty-five years ago. Nevertheless here we are in the endless throes of the war between the heartless and those who would give away the store to stay in power.
Even in the movies, when the stuff hits the fan and things seem to be at the precipice, the internally opposing forces join together to fight the common enemy. So what’s going on here?
Two of the major factors involved in the poverty issue are ones that might not be first-obvious as considerations. They are single-parent families, since children born into single parent families are at much greater risk for living in poverty, and government handouts, since even when combined programs are at work, recipients of welfare tend to live in poverty and do not effectuate change in their status. The first one mentioned is pretty standard knowledge when checked against any poverty statistics, think-tank or government produced, and for the second one, check out Ron Haskins and the Brookings Institute, and don’t go at Haskins for political bent, but read the statistics he presents to the effects of what dependency does.
There it is: about poverty, about kids, about America and the people in charge and who want to be in charge. The more we indulge in excuses for the downtrodden and bail outs for them that keep them downtrodden, the less we do to find solutions to helping them climb out of being down. The more we cater to the feelings of those we perceive as downtrodden and shy away from the realities of what truly must be done to help them help themselves, the longer we will have this discourse because that is how long the problem will be around. The longer we have leaders whose interests are not aligned with fixing the poverty issue or the education issue, the more we approach an irreversible precipice.
Don’t give them fish, teach them to fish. Wasn’t that how it went?