Thursday, June 1, 2017

State of Mind

If there is one thing I have found since moving southward is that poverty is not just a state of mind it is a state of being. It has its own life, culture and divisions within it that mark race, ethnicity and gender. It is endemic and partially the result of extrinsic factors with some intrinsic components that to Dr. Carson refers to as a state of mind. To not defend him but to explain him as that is a standard thing in the Trump Administration, the equivalent of sign language interpreters, to elaborate on the idiocy that is a state of mind in said administration.

When you meet poor children most of them are resigned to the fact that mobility is a concept and a tool used to manipulate and in turn dupe them to believe in that mythical unicorn called Meritocracy. But many kids do believe and will click their heels three times to bring whatever goodness that will allow them or their family to move out and up out their circumstances. Who doesn't want things better when they are not?

But in the South this is unlike anything I have ever witnessed or experienced it is a desolation and resignation that little to no bait and switch will ever overcome. Tragedy is all I ever think about when I walk into the pubic schools as they are all so damaged there is not one thing one person can do to ever change that dynamic. It is a state of mind that is buried in decades of racism, oppression and subjugation. It is passed on generation to generation and it divides those within the same race and those of color against those of color. Each perceives the "other" as the problem and unity is not an option as the word unity is within that of community and I see none of it here.

And to have schools that address this kind of poverty you need money and you need trained willing staff that have specialized knowledge and skill sets. Right now restorative justice is not about helping children understand actions, reactions and long term affects of how to manage and handle anger or conflict it is about reducing suspension rates.  The same goes for matriculation of kids who are not at the appropriate skill set and in turn punishing/rating Teachers for failing to do something that took years to get to that point so what is the point?  I think this great article gets it and what needs to be done is not hands down but hands up and that argument is not one easily settled in Trump's America. (Like the hotels run by rich people dressed up to enable poors to think that is how they live)

Poverty is something that cannot be explained, it cannot be witnessed it must be experienced to understand it and that which cripples you can in turn destroy you and poverty is that crippling. The pathway to success is a rough road and like our infrastructure it is crumbling.

Does ‘Wrong Mind-Set’ Cause Poverty or Vice Versa?

Emily Badger
The New York Times
May 30, 2017

Ben Carson has proposed, in effect, a human experiment.

Consider someone with the right “mind-set.” Take away everything he owns, drop him onto the street, and he will soon lift himself out of poverty.

“And you take somebody with the wrong mind-set,” Mr. Carson, the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, continued last week in a SiriusXM radio interview with his longtime friend Armstrong Williams. “You can give them everything in the world. They’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”

Poverty, Mr. Carson is saying, is in part a state of mind. But while that idea holds truth, researchers who study poverty say Mr. Carson has greatly confused cause and effect.

Poverty is in some ways a state of mind, their studies show, in that it can cause people to think less clearly, to sleep less well, to contend with distraction and to internalize shame. But it’s the experience of deprivation that leads to the mind-set, researchers say. It’s not the mind-set that leads people into poverty, or that explains why many never escape it.

“There’s definitely evidence that poverty — particularly childhood poverty — does affect things like persistence, your executive functioning, your ability to control attention, to inhibit emotions,” said Gary Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell. “He’s correct in identifying that there’s this link. But I think he’s got the relationships backwards.”

The best evidence for Mr. Carson’s argument comes from his own life. He grew up poor in Detroit and went on to become a renowned neurosurgeon, a trajectory he attributes to his childhood outlook. “I had to will myself to see the opportunities that existed on the horizon,” he explained in a note emailed to HUD staff today, following up on his public comments last week.

His mother, too, had the right mind-set: “She willed me to find a way out,” he writes.

But Mr. Carson and his mother have hardly been the only people who have lived a form of his hypothetical experiment.

“That experiment has been done many times,” said Eldar Shafir, a Princeton behavioral scientist. “And if he knew some of that data, he would know that’s just wrong.”

Some of Mr. Shafir’s work, described with the Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan in the book “Scarcity,” suggests that poverty consumes much of the cognitive bandwidth we need to be successful at other life tasks. In experiments, they’ve shown that people who are asked to think about financial problems — or who experience financial strain — perform worse on spatial and reasoning tasks. Poverty, they argue, exacts a mental tax akin to lowering a person’s IQ.

And those mental costs have a way of reinforcing poverty. If you’re worried about eviction, you may forget a doctor’s appointment; if you’re preoccupied with how to pay the bills, you may be worse at making other decisions. That is a very different thing, however, from saying that people who don’t have the right attitude remain poor.

Mr. Evans’s work suggests that the kind of chronic stress experienced by many children growing up in poverty may damage the parts of the brain where researchers believe functions like working memory reside.

Other related research disputes the idea that public assistance undermines attributes like motivation, another common argument of welfare critics like Paul Ryan and Mr. Carson (he has also said that public housing shouldn’t be too comfortable, lest it induce long-term dependency). Studies of the poor have consistently shown that income much more strongly predicts life outcomes like educational attainment than time spent on welfare does.

Yet another strand of evidence says that the context of where people live, well beyond stressful environments in their homes or neighborhoods, shapes their chances of escaping poverty. One large recent study, led by the Stanford economist Raj Chetty, showed that poor children face very different odds of scaling the income ladder — of achieving the Ben Carson story — depending on where they grow up. Poor children in Montgomery, Ala., for example, are less likely than poor children in San Francisco to reach the middle and upper class as adults.

Looking at an interactive Upshot map done in conjunction with Mr. Chetty, it’s hard to argue that the “right mind-set” is what really matters. “It just so happens that everybody born in Montgomery has the wrong attitude?” Mr. Shafir said. “That’s just absurd.”

A similar logic applies internationally. A son’s adult income is more closely correlated with his father’s in the United States than in other comparable countries.

“What does that tell you?” Mr. Evans said. “What it says is if you’re born poor in the U.S., your odds are the lowest of any Western, economically developed country. That just so flies in the face of our American cultural beliefs.”

That statistic defies the idea that anyone who’s simply willing to try hard enough can escape poverty in America. But it also points to a tension in Mr. Carson’s ideology: Why is there so much more poverty here than in other wealthy countries? Are Americans more likely to have the wrong mind-set? If U.S. exceptionalism derives from particular strengths of the American character, can it also be true that a vast share of Americans — more than 40 million lived under the poverty line last year — lack the will to lift themselves up?

If anything, Mr. Shafir says, the mental toll of poverty can be worse in America than in other wealthy countries precisely because of views endorsed by leaders like Mr. Carson: “That’s part of the mind-set: When I’m poor here, I’m not just poor, I also failed somehow,” Mr. Shafir said.

Mr. Carson’s own story has functioned powerfully as a motivational tale. But that isn’t necessarily enough basis for devising policy. And we would not draw the same conclusions about groups other than the poor, Mr. Shafir said. John McCain’s life story doesn’t imply that veterans who struggle with PTSD haven’t tried hard enough. A cancer survivor’s recovery doesn’t imply that others fighting the disease lack the will to overcome it.

“One of the hallmarks of science is that we are taught not to overgeneralize from a single case,” said Mindy Fullilove, a professor of urban policy and health at The New School, who adds that she grew up in poverty, too. “The case is always true, but there’s always variation. So the fact that he as an individual — or I — could get out of poverty and go to medical school and have successful careers doesn’t mean anybody who’s in poverty could.”

To the extent that Mr. Carson is a man of science, she adds, he should know that.

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