A brief comment on Connell's Poverty and Education

Essay by richardvanraay June 2008

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Connell (1994) writes that students from poorer families are often "…the least successful by conventional measures and the hardest to teach by traditional measures" (p.125). This is not the result of the problem of poverty but the institutional character of the school system and the cultural processes that occur in them.

Connell (1994) writes of the definitions of poverty and the context in which it exists. For example, in countries such as Australia with high average incomes, the problem of poverty is not in its lack of resources but in the unequal distribution of wealth. Connell (1994) writes of the complexity of the poverty situation referring to an inner-city school in Australia deemed to be disadvantaged where there may also be ten or twelve languages used in the playground. Poverty is often believed to be caused by "cultural difference or a psychological or genetic deficit" (p.134) but in truth poor people are simply short of money.

Some people assume that poor people do have a high interest education (Connell, 1994) but they often simply do not have the money for educational resources such as books.

Poor support, low aspirations and low educational achievement are credited by Connell (1994) as leading to a cycle of poverty as the inability for students to attain well paid jobs paves the way for poverty in the next generation. To break this cycle Connell (1994) believes in the power of the teacher to provide a shift to a more negotiated curriculum, one that is more relevant and engaging, a move away from the mainstream authoritarian style that creates pressure to 'teach to the test'.

Curriculum developed by white upper-middle class people would be vastly different to one that was developed by Australian aboriginals. Curriculum development includes or excludes the knowledge defined by the dominant group...