a seminar at U.T. SAGE, QUEST, & Senior University



Third age education home


What can I do?


























We will cover the following aspects of poverty in the U.S. and some in the world at a rate determined by group interest. Handouts will include bibliography and a list of web sites.

Goals for this seminar are:

  • explore the multiple realities of poverty.
  • discuss whose "fault" poverty is, or whether it is a response to stimuli or causes, and whether government should organize to fight poverty
  • explore methods to combat it individually and societally and how effective they have been.

I. What is poverty (it's more than money!)
Situational and systemic or generational poverty or "the culture of poverty." Systemic poverty includes language, value system, survival methods

In many school systems newest teachers are sent to poorest schools; less investment in poverty schools shown in Austin ISD's reaction to cross-town bussing; see the movie To Sir, With Love set in a London poverty school.

Schools' staff must understand poverty language and value set

How the Alliance Schools program worked and its effects. Zavala Elementary as an Alliance School went from the bottom to the top in AISD; how it improved and the strange fight over a health clinic. How it was sabotaged by the Legislature!

Two books have revealing research into causes of poor education;

The "digital divide" is significant for education and for future jobs. The recent One Laptop per Child project; see laptop.org and olpc.com.

President Lyndon Johnson spoke about education as essential for our nation.

Health care
Why isn’t health care an inalienable right? If we provide full health care for all pregnant women who want babies, we reduce high-risk births, premature births, retardation, and other results of poor pre-natal care and have healthier children for future school and work performance.

Money as secondary cause
Economics of poverty: wages, income, expenses, and minimum or living wage. Why work creates a permanent underclass or lowerarchy with minimal hope, and what is being done.
Income changes from lowest fifth of the population to the highest are striking.

II. What can we do locally?
Neighborhood conditions and the effects of Model Cities improvements; what residents told the CDC; and methods for cooperative home improvement and building, such as Habitat for Humanity, local rebuilding, and sweat equity.

Find, evaluate, support community food banks, clothing collection, feeding programs. Is their attitude helping our neighbors or condescending?

Ways we legally rob the poor and elderly. By contrast volunteer groups assist the poor, such as financial specialists helping prepare income tax returns so they receive the EIC they are due.

Members of the Houston Sierra Club created an imaginative way to sensitize children to the effects of poverty around them while enhancing children's creativity.

The Johnson war on poverty was a whole new framework that encouraged and involved those in poverty to decide and plan what they needed. They were in charge, and programs provided support staff to work with them in fighting poverty. Local authorities often sabotaged this and undermined the war on poverty.

Effective tactics to combat poverty:

  • "The Iron Rule:" 'never do for anyone what they can do for themselves.'
  • Training welfare recipients for work with a case manager that includes education, interest finding, learning social and work skills, finding an appropriate job for each, and continuing work with people so they adjust to the work world.
  • Child care that develops children's skills and health, so parents can be trained and work. Quality child care must be subsidized and available to all welfare recipients trying to learn to work.
  • SROs (single residency occupancy) were boarding houses where several people could each rent a single room very cheaply, providing shelter and basic comfort with as much interaction as people wanted. Most SROs were torn down for development or urban renewal and were not replaced. Their disappearance may be a major cause of current homelessness.
  • Cities that save money putting homeless individuals into housing units with case managers.
  • San Antonio linked small, starting entrepreneurs with professional resources.
  • Criminal justice system causes minorities to be over represented — Gideon's trumpet.

III. Larger scale weapons to attack poverty
Making small loans without collateral to persons—mainly women—who use their creativity to build out of poverty, using the Grameen model of village banking, was pioneered by Muhammad Yunus. It is based on support groups of women who do the work of banking —repayment, records —and mutually support and encourage each other. This system of microloans is spreading across developing as well as industrial nations and societies! The Dallas Fed published a report on microcredit in Texas.

Recent books and articles explore ways people's creative and entrepreneur feelings and principles of economics are used. One example: "mobile money" in African nations uses cell phones as ATMs (The Economist, Sept. 26, 2009, pg 13).

Thoughts for discussion:

  • Two Biblical views: did Jesus really mean we will always have the poor with us? Alternate view from Deuteronomy and Prophets and Jesus' parable of workers in the field.
  • Denial or blame on devil and laziness, as the English poor laws. For over a century America told its poor to go West to avoid facing poverty
  • Charles Dickens showed those in poverty sympathetically, coping, and sometimes as heroes.






Texas had a program for a few years, that I consulted with, in which welfare recipients received orientation by their case manager about the program, then were tested for education level. Most had dropped out in late junior high or early high school, so they received tutoring so they could earn their GED. They received a several week training in social and job work that included assertiveness training, why they must be on time and be responsible, skills for the work world, budgeting, and other skills. Their case manager tested them for skills and talked with them about their interests. Many received training in skills such as nursing. They were then placed in work appropriate to their skills and training. Case managers sought jobs with promotion and training opportunities. Many people in this program were fired from their first job, and case managers in their ongoing work helped them learn why, and how to succeed in their next job. Most remained in their second job for at least several months. Each recipient received child care and Medicaid throughout the program. After a few years Texas and the Feds cancelled the program, because it cost too much, without recognizing the benefits we gain from people working in jobs that have a future as a result of education and training.






Copyright © 2004, 2006 John F. Yeaman