Monday, September 17, 2007

A letter to the editor and response

I submitted the following letter:
Dear Letters Editor:

If I were to state the following, wouldn't you think that I had lost my moorings?

"Your class determines everything: your eating habits, your speech patterns, your family relations. It is possible to move out of the class you were born into, either up or down, but the transition almost always means a great disruption to your sense of self. And you can ascend the class ladder only if you are willing to sacrifice many of your relationships and most of your values — and only if you first devote yourself to careful study of the hidden rules of the class you hope to enter."

Wouldn't you be offended? Wouldn't you wonder why I am advocating the class conflict theories of Karl Marx?

Yet, this reasoning — from Ruby Payne's book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, as reported in the June 10, 2007 edition of the NY Times — was recently adopted by the Olentangy board and administration as part of "the literature that forms the research base" of the district's Continuous Improvement Plan.

Keep in mind that the only research conducted on the content basis of this book and its framework concluded that Payne is way off the mark (Bomer, et al, Teachers College Review, Teachers College, Columbia University, 2007). Regardless, the book, and its errant ideas and ideals, were the basis of the district's recent teacher in-service/curriculum day (9/17/2007).

Yes, the district has spent close to $400,000 (when including employee costs) on Payne's "framework" which our elected officials knowingly approved and applauded.

Twenty years from now, as we wonder what has happened to this nation, remember the programs that our elected officials approved, and advocated. And, remember that we paid for those programs with our tax dollars.

Jim Fedako
I posted a letter similar to the one above on an education listserve and received a response from a Framework trainer. The woman applauded Payne's work -- no kidding, did I mention that she was a Framework trainer -- and stated the great things resulting from its application in schools nationwide.

As there is no positive research on Payne's framework that I can find, and since Payne self-publishes, thus bypassing editorial review, the writer kept falling back on the fact that Payne is a "high-dollar consultant."

Sure, in the land of fools, the charlatan is always highly paid. My response:
Please note that the quote was pulled from the NY Times article on Payne and her framework; an article in praise of her work. The quote was a paraphrase of Payne's beliefs -- and it is in-line with what I have read from her elsewhere. It does sound oddly like Marx though.

Just as with Marx, no one has yet defined middle class and poverty class. Can someone provide a succinct definition? Marx never did either, though he used classes for his purposes also.

And, just like Marx's system of class logic -- Ludwig von Mises coined the term polylogism to describe this nonsense, Payne creates a system of class values without any definition of class. Nice!

If, as stated, Payne's message resonates with urban districts, why are they still abject failures? Come on, after 30 years of her influence, where's the improvements? High dollar? Yes. Effective? It appears not.

You have to love consultants who live off tax dollars yet never seem to produce results. I have come to learn that my district has used Payne consultants before. Yet, we fail our lower socioeconomic students year after year. So, what's another $400K wasted out of a $120 million budget?

I have experience teaching impoverished students. I never could pigeonhole their value systems anymore than I can pigeonhole my neighbor's value systems. But, then again, I am not the high-dollar consultant.

Though, I would put Grigori Rasputin in that category -- a high-dollar consultant. So, high-dollar consultancy is not always such a safe neighborhood.


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