Eight Reasons America is Losing the War on Poverty - Page 3
Published: June 21, 2011 at 11:22 am
5. In poverty neighborhoods, violence and gangs are a type of support system: Gangs provide a support system that impoverished children do not have at home, in their neighborhoods or in school. Fighting, drugs, and alcohol abuse are part of the survival culture of criminal gangs. During all of my early years, I fought most every day, not because I enjoyed fighting, but because it was necessary for survival. If an impoverished child is unable to defend themselves then they often seek gangs for protection.
Middle class children use space to deal with conflict and disagreement. They go to a different room and cool off. But in poverty neighborhoods, especially in the housing projects (picture above right) where I grew up, separation was not an option. Many children in poverty do not call the police when they encounter teenage bullying for two reasons: 1. First, the police are likely looking for them, or a member of their family or someone in their circle of friends. 2. The police are going to be slow to respond.
Teachers, parents and government programs can teach children coping behaviors to avoid violence. They can help the child obtain an alternative support system--using school mentors, and in the neighborhood youth support groups like Big Brothers. For many children, their local church is an excellent support group for impoverished children. Give impoverished children good role models as a support system and it will dramatically improve the quality of their lives.
6. Enhance the sense of self-worth. People who live in a poverty culture have pride, but it is often misdirected. Impoverished children have a deep resentment of anyone who assaults their dignity or puts down their self-esteem.
It could be interpreted by members of the middle class as arrogance or “a chip on the shoulder,” but in the real world of poverty it is usually a simple desire for respect. Teachers, parents and government programs can help children learn coping skills in a way that changes their behavior such that it enhances their sense of self-worth. Teach a child how important their character is to their future success. The Job Corps was very effective at using pride as a motivational tool for corpsman to achieve short term goals. That's me on the right with one of my many friends in the Job Corps.Continued on the next page