If everybody had a mother like mine, nobody would be in poverty. She was a person who absolutely would not accept the status of victim.
This research hypothesis emanates from the serious social and cultural problem to be studied, namely, poverty is the result of a "poverty mindset" often reinforced by family and social conditions that can cause a person living in poverty to view oneself as a victim of the "cycle of poverty."
In a The Hill op-ed, Armstrong Williams defines the poverty mindset which, in turn, fosters the belief in an inevitable cycle of poverty from which people are incapable of extricating themselves:
Your children grow up without role models of success. Most of the people around them and with whom they associate are also in the same conditions--growing up in broken homes, without intact families, supported by government assistance. They begin to believe this is the norm. Why can’t they do it too? So they end up dropping out of school, having kids out of wedlock, and failing to advance to a middle-class lifestyle. This is what's known as a "poverty mindset."
- graduate from high school;
- get married; and,
- delay the birth of children until after marriage.
In sum, the average person with average abilities can avoid or alleviate poverty.
How so? Data indicate that these 3 behaviors alone filter out almost 95% of all people in the U.S. who the federal government defines as "poor."
Why does this formula work? Committed marriage and family life:
- forces an individual to get "out of a situation in which you are merely focused on yourself and your own wants and needs";
- strengthens the "responsibility muscle";
- commitment challenges an individual "to seek opportunities and to develop skills that enable you to expand your earning potential";
- develops a sense of economics "as you share your income and decide on priorities involved with raising a family; and,
- over time, "this process of growing to manage additional responsibilities increases your wealth."
Considering the data, all of this seems pretty much to be nothing more than good, old-fashioned commonsense.
It also happens to be the judgment of a man who was born to a mother who didn't finish high school, eventually was married with 2 children to a bigamist, was forced out of that marriage, and fell into poverty.
Due in large part to his mother's character and courage, he learned from her example and chose a different path:
- attending and graduating from college and medical school;
- marrying his college sweetheart; and;
- delaying the birth of their children until after both completed their education and got married.
A "success" story testifying to the validity of the data collected about how to alleviate if not eliminate poverty in the United States, no?
Not so in the opinion of 4 stormy petrels, care of the New York Daily News:
- From "Star Trek" alumnus George Takei regarding the statement that poverty is a "state of mind": "You know what else is a state of mind? Always being a blithering idiot."
- From former Labor Secretary Robert Reich: "So 15 million American children in poverty just need better attitudes and they'll have food in their stomachs and roofs over their heads?"
- From the former New York City Council Speaker: "It's a convenient, intellectually lazy argument that lets politicians blame the victims of structural inequality, instead of doing the hard work of helping them."
- From the New York Daily News columnist, Leonard Green: Calling himself "mind blown," Green observes that no one--including this "rags to riches" man--can ever say "If everybody had a mother like mine, nobody would be in poverty. She was a person who absolutely would not accept the status of victim." Why not? "So, why not just insult everybody’s mother, while you’re at it?" In addition, Green asserts that this fellow "seems to think that growing up in poverty himself gives him the right to pass judgment on on poor people and their small-minded mothers. It doesn’t."
In the collective opinion of these 4 individuals (and that's all it is, an opinion not fact supported by data), this prescription to alleviate if not eliminate poverty is nothing but a cruel, tone-deaf hoax.
Why? For these opinion makers, this prescription blames poor people for the plight in which they find themselves.
But, notice their singular argument: Ad hominem. The hypothesis that's supported by research data is stupid because the person stating the hypothesis as well as offering the evidence of research data and personal evidence is a "blithering idiot" and "intellectually lazy."
That's the story the mainstream media is running with today.
Why? They can't countenance data which indicate that impoverished people can solve poverty. The government can't. Even more importantly, they can't countenance data which suggest that it's entirely within the power of average human beings to change the way the conduct themselves way. In short, stop blaming others because those living in poverty don't have to be "victims." No, they can be "victors."
All of that pales in terms of one additional item they can't countenance: The fact that self-esteem--if it is to be "self" esteem--comes from not from without but from within. There's absolutely nothing wrong with offering a helping 'hand up." In fact, it may be necessary and can even be empowering. But, providing an ongoing a "hand out" can be debilitating to an individual's sense of self-esteem and be disempowering.
It doesn't matter who asserted the hypothesis (it was Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of Health and Human Services). What matters when debating important social and cultural issues, is supporting hypotheses with data not opinions. Yes, an opinion may generate a research problem that needs to be studied (and the causes of poverty certainly do). But, deriding a person's integrity and acumen with ad hominem arguments and rejecting data doesn't "prove" anything.
Or maybe it does.
Let the discussion begin...
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