STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Whiteboard: Thought provoking stories about the "War on Poverty"

John Millais

Every so often we post something in the "whiteboard" category. Named after the modern incarnation of the chalkboard, they're usually meant to help educators work through some of the themes we deal with here at State of Opportunity with their students. 

But the recent coverage of the  50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's declaration of the War on Poverty is a whiteboard moment for all. There's been lots oftalk from politicians spanning the spectrumfrom Florida's Republican Senator Marco Rubio to President Obama, about whether or not the war has been successful.

One important aspect of this debate is the view that policy makers and their constituents have about "poor people."

For example, there's this recent andfascinating piece in Slateabout the woman President Ronald Reagan spoke about when he coined the phrase "welfare queen". She was, in fact, a psychopath and an incredibly adept criminal, not just an average but lazy woman gaming the system. These facts about her, along with her possible involvement in a murder and kidnapping, were lost in the discussion. The reason they got lost was because both sides of the political debate were busy battling over the image of the welfare queen. The real woman was left to commit future crimes. 

As you're chewing on these ideas,  also take a look back at a piece Gabrielle Emanuel put together for State of Opportunity last summer. It's an examination of the images used to depict people in poverty, from centuries old paintings to photojournalism today

What kinds of words and images do you associate with adults and children living in poverty? What are the ideas associated with them? Where do these ideas come from?

Related Content