Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Thursday's Ruby Payne presentation was an eye opener

  • Ruby Payne graced the Crookston High School auditorium stage Thursday morning for a special presentation given first to the public.
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  • Ruby Payne graced the Crookston High School auditorium stage Thursday morning for a special presentation given first to the public. There were many professionals from Social Services, Polk County Public Health, Tri-Valley Head Start and Tri County Community Corrections in the audience.
    Payne, best known for her best-seller "A Framework for Understanding Poverty," began her presentation with mentioning that she had a strange accent. She then asked the audience to guess where it was from. After a few guesses, she replied that she grew up in Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and then moved back to Texas. Payne considered herself "half southern, half midwestern." She also let everyone know that she grew up a Mennonite. Payne joked that she "got kicked out" and moved to Haiti for three months to study poverty. While there, she learned that someone could study poverty and wealth in the same setting. And that's what she did.
    Payne talked about poverty and how it related to the United States. She added that 67 percent of American people in poverty are white, which opened the eyes of most in the audience. The main causes of poverty relate to "behaviors, human and social capitol in the community, exploitation and political aspects," she said. One thing that Payne also associates with poverty is entertainment. It "takes away the pain of poverty, therefore most people would rather pay their cable bill than their rent."
    She told about visiting a wealthy friend. Payne noticed a painting by Picasso hanging on her wall. Her friend then told her that it was an original and worth $1.4 million. Payne then asked the audience what they would do with such an expensive painting. Everyone replied that they would sell it.
    Payne next led into growing up in poverty and how it "shapes your thinking." A research study, noted in Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children by B. Hart and T.R. Risley, 1995, about language in children, ages one to four, in stable households by economic groups showed:
    • In welfare households, children were exposed to 13 million words
    • In working class households, children were exposed to 26 million words
    • In professional households, children were exposed to 45 million words
    These numbers shocked parts of the audience, but Payne explained that this can also change if those children grow up in a religious household.
    Payne then brought up Charles Murray's book Coming Apart which "shows how the top 20 percent of upper class and bottom 20 percent of lower class are defining roles in different ways." She explains that when men, in particular, who are known to be the "providers" don't work, they revert back to their specific gender. It is a shift in identity where they are seeing themselves as only a physical protector. Women see themselves as being a bearer of children when brought back to their gender role.
    Page 2 of 2 - Payne opened eyes Thursday for the public and professionals that might work specifically with families in poverty. Not everyone knows someone in poverty, so it is tough to gauge how exactly you can understand what they're going through, she said. All educators and the community as a whole can do is help one another and hope this country continues to have enough resources for those in need.
    Payne's fee for her time in Crookston Thursday was $8,000. The Crookston School District partnered with schools in Ada, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Crookston, Fertile, Fisher, Kelliher, and Warren-Alvarado-Oslo to sponsor her visit.
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