Poverty and Ecology: "The Lesson of the Lemmings"


Well, one day into our new blog project, I found an article at Education Week that uses an ecological perspective to evaluate the 2010 documentary, Waiting for Superman. The article, “The Lesson of the Lemmings,” by Anthony Cody, uses this ecological perspective to make a number of excellent points. Most interestingly, Cody uses this ecological framework as an argument for recognizing the crucial impact that poverty has on student performance:

“In the case of our schools, similar to the Arctic circle, there is a nutrient cycle that is driving student performance. There are clear and consistent scientific data that indicates that poverty is the critical factor affecting student performance…This is more pertinent than ever, as we see the number of children living in poverty steadily climbing, at the same time attacks on teachers as the source of the problems in schools reach a fever pitch.”

One of the benefits of an ecological perspective is that it emphasizes interconnectedness. You can’t understand an ecosystem– or a school– by examining its component parts in isolation from one another. To understand these complex, fluid communities, you have to understand the way these parts interact with each other, as well as the forces that shape and interact with them.. Though it originates outside the school walls, poverty permeates all aspects of a student’s life. Labeling this “critical factor” an excuse and excluding it from proposals around educational reform, as many prominent education reformers do, only gets us further away from solving the biggest problem facing our children and our schools.

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