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Education, Poverty & Socio-Economic Status and Education, Poverty in NZ, Standardised Tests

Education and Poverty: the Monopoly Analogy

I think this analogy to capitalism pretty much applies to education, too.


Student A is given a healthy home, good food, adequate medical care, a computer, internet access, books galore from birth, educational games, trips, plenty of discussion and questioning with adults, educational TV programmes, museum visits, art gallery visits, pencils, paper, felts, toys that encourage creativity and experimentation, and more.

Student B has poor housing, inadequate health care, few if any books, few if any educational toys, few if any educational visits, little if any discussion and questioning with adults, non-educational TV programmes, few if any visits to museums or galleries, and little chance to explore, create and experiment.

Student B usually loses the testing and exam race compared with Student A.

At which point student B and his teachers are deemed to have been lazy. Or useless. Or both.

At this point, those in Student A’s world push for more tests. Tests that their companies will benefit from but which do nothing to help the student B.

And the cycle continues.

Rigged game, much?

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8 thoughts on “Education and Poverty: the Monopoly Analogy

  1. Seems like a pretty oversimplified breakdown that leaves out a lot of thinking, essentially placing the blame for poorly performing students on to the parents, teachers and families of students who do well.
    – Where is the parental responsibility for student B’s parents to provide the educational visits, the books and other things? I would maintain that it is not a question of poverty in many cases, but a question of money poorly spent, or poorly prioritised spending or buying.
    – How do companies benefit from testing – other than to ensure their employees meet minimum standards for performing the job?

    Blaming the successful for the problems besetting the less successful is counter intuitive and counter productive. I argue you need to address parental responsibility, how welfare is provided and how children in vulnerable situations are protected, and guided through the education process. Bad parenting is a common cause of poorly performing students.


    Posted by yourbesteffingfriend | April 19, 2015, 5:10 pm
    • And you accuse me of oversimplification? Lawks.


      Posted by Save Our Schools NZ | April 19, 2015, 5:14 pm
      • Ahhh…. no. I quite clearly didn’t. But I now understand you are one of those people who don’t really understand education and probably have no formal education in the field, but are more than happy to share their ill-informed and ill-considered opinion.

        Any one who can’t respond appropriately to the simplest of criticisms is someone who can’t be reasoned with.


        Posted by yourbesteffingfriend | April 19, 2015, 6:07 pm
    • The idea that parental responsibility can simply overcome systemic issues is dangerously naive and and constructed from a world view that is not just ignorant of privilege but is also unable to comprehend the nature of poverty. And this is a serious problem when it comes to this discussion – there is this assumption that everyone is on an equal playing field and that poverty is simply a problem that can be described in black and white choices. This is not the case.

      If we are looking at ‘Student B’ for example, there are so many variables, and so many reasons why these various issues can occur, that simply tarring this with the brush of ‘irresponsible parenting’ helps nobody. A real life case for example – what if the poor parents are immigrants trying to pursue a better life for their family, but budget cuts have forced the community education programmes that helped teach them English and helped with their overall literacy (so that their job prospects and community contributions were richer) are shut down? This is something that does happen in real life, and it’s particularly cruel because the same people who chastise these people for not being employed and/or struggling with the language, then vote for interests that will look to slash access to these programmes. That is a massive barrier in a foreign country and it is just one of thousands of different variables and roadblocks that get in the way.

      Then there is the issue of access to educational facilities. What are these facilities that you think everyone has access to? Because if the parent(s) are unemployed or under employed (which is equally dangerous) then how are they supposed to pay for a car and its upkeep? Not to mention insurance if they don’t want to risk having to repair a BMW with the money they don’t have because of an accident that might occur? Or what about internet? How do they pay for the modem, the line rental, and the costs? How do they pay for a computer? Do they go on HP? Then how do they pay off HP? How do they pay for the additional power? How do they pay for insurance in the event something gets stolen? And if it does get stolen, how do they pay the excess?

      Can they go to the library? Sure. But how? Again if they can’t afford a car or public transport then how? And what if they don’t have identification to join? What if they aren’t there first to get to the resources and thus they have no other avenue to get these resources? How do they then get home? Or on the flipside what if they do have jobs, but they are low paying jobs and they have to work two? When are they able to help the children on their journey? When are they able to provide safe transport and safe avenues for exploring these options? What if they are on a zero hours contract and they just have to pack up and go to work when they are told that they have work? What happens if they can’t get their books back on time because they have to go to work and forget about it and then are lumped with fines they can’t pay?

      Again these are but a few of literally THOUSANDS of different issues that occur that can’t be fixed by simply ‘budgeting’. And we haven’t even mentioned health, nutrition, and housing issues which are again crushing concerns, that can be literally fatal for those that don’t have secure incomes, or incomes at all – not coincidentally the same people that are constantly demonised by those who live in middle class bubbles and can’t accept that they have been beneficiaries of the state their entire life, but are not willing to lend the same support they received in their life (and are still receiving today) to those that need them.

      But the even more important question regarding this perspective is how on earth does blaming parents help children regardless? Even if this stereotype of the hypothetical wasteful parent existed to any substantial degree, how is punishing the children twice going to help anything? If there were a bunch of parents that didn’t care about their children and were being needlessly irresponsible (which is a horrifyingly and offensively oversimplified perspective with no real statistical basis or empirical evidence to back it up) how in any way, mean, shape, or form is that the fault of the children concerned? They should not be punished for the mistakes and the crimes of their parents. That is counter productive, grossly inhumane, and is like blaming a victim of sexual assault themselves for being assaulted.

      On what planet would making things tougher work? Answer – it wouldn’t. And we know because on earth it hasn’t. If there was financial irresponsibility then making the financial situation tougher would only increase that irresponsibility. Placing the blame for poor student performance squarely at the feet of parents is as narrow minded as assuming that a schematic to assess something as diverse as teaching would be helpful. We know it’s not – there is the evidence from overseas to back this up. For once it’d be nice not to embrace ideological nonsense from capitalist fundamentalists, and look at the hard data that we have. Because that might actually help everyone, rather than just punishing those that need help for the cathartic kick that comes from feeling better than those that have less than you.

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by Bevan Morgan | April 19, 2015, 7:33 pm
    • So only poor parents are bad parents hmmmm. Oversimplified I think


      Posted by ton | April 19, 2015, 10:35 pm
      • Actually I agree with a lot of what you are talking about. But your initial article didn’t really make your thinking clear, basically saying it was a rigged game. Yes that is probably true in many respects, however as you mentioned, it is a heck of a lot more complicated than simply the game being rigged, there are elements of personal responsibility as well. I never said poor parents were bad parents, and never insinuated that. Those words are all yours, not mine. As for evidence… yes I agree with you in many ways, however there is substantial social research clearly demonstrating poor nutrition tied to relative wealth, a higher proportion of expenditure spent on entertainment or goods like cigarettes for instance that serve no economic purpose. Am I saying poor people are all terrible at these types of decisions: Not at all. Nonetheless, these patterns are identifiable and real.

        You give a whole host of “what ifs” and many of these are likely. However, I contend that many of these are middle class problems too – insurance, transport, expenses like internet, cost of computers and internet (that use minimal power by the way, far less than a TV for instance, that is a want, not a need), theft – for example.

        As for my personal perspective: Well, I am an immigrant myself, that arrived with my family in a country around the opposite side of the world to where i was born. I had one suitcase and no friends. Prior to emigrating I had a job – actually before I started grade 1, I had a job, like everyone else I knew, basically cheap labour during potato and berry seasons. That money kept us alive and it was used to buy our clothing and wool and so forth. So I am well acquainted with poverty, having been born into it, and having grown up in it and having gotten out of it.

        Where am I now? Well, I have a PhD, I work to develop education programs around the world, get paid very well for it and get to live in a new country every few years or so. Was I gifted this? Accusing me, in a round about way, of being in a middle class bubble is a little misguided. Do I like the lifestyle I have now – absolutely. Am I in some way special, different from millions of other migrants? Not at all. One factor that may separate me though are the sacrifices my parents made, and the decisions they made about my upbringing that have ensured I could rise above my childhood poverty. Many of these lessons I still maintain: I have never in 5 decades owned a television, never smoked even once in my life, we grew a small amount of vegetables in a tiny garden. We didn’t have holidays. During school holidays I stayed at home. I made a bike from old bike parts I scavenged. There was a frugal nature to my parents that meant despite arriving in a foreign country with three children and zero assets things were able to be done for our benefit.

        So whilst I completely agree with you on many of the things you have said, there are tangible dimensions of human responsibility that must be considered when seeking to point fingers of blame. Should the government spend more on education? Unquestionably.

        I’ve written education policy and I can tell you from the inside that getting all emotional and making “what ifs” and banging a drum really loudly does little to influence what is written and enacted upon. What really matters is solid research, not conjecture or emotional aggression.


        Posted by yourbesteffingfriend | April 20, 2015, 2:49 am
        • The problem is that in NZ there is very little solid research taking place. The type of research that does happen tends to be really small scale and more about ways of teaching not about policy. That’s because “solid research” for policy is mega expensive if done properly – randomised treatments in a hierachial structures with highly clustered students types means needing to capture lots and lots of students.

          So if we can’t afford “solid research” than what is left – stuff like TIMMS and PIRLS but also experienced voices of those in the ground, in the classrooms, experiencing the policy.

          Now if you want to write those people off because they are “banging a drum” or “getting all emotional” than you are missing out on a lot of valuable information.


          Posted by mpledger | April 20, 2015, 8:48 am
          • Yes research is expensive and no one wants to fund longer term qualitative work. Hence the reason why most truly interesting qualitative work is done by PhD candidates – they are the only ones who can allow the time and don’t necessarily need to be paid for their field work. I agree that experienced voices are an important asset. Something I am wary of is people only pedalling one line, or doggedly ignoring the other side of the argument. Education is an emotive subject, particularly when it comes to funding or assessing benchmarks, or providing a safety net for those less able, whatever the reason. It is difficult to have an in depth discussion with emotional and angry people so in this case, policy makers won’t, and the cycle continues. It sounds a bit cold, but you really have to be objective when dealing with administrators and policy makers. They are going to poke holes in your argument and question you sources and be really tough on you, so you need to be prepared and somewhat detached, read the fine print and not make assumptions about the personal circumstances of the policy makers, administrators or academics you are arguing with. I do this for a living, and come up against this all the time.

            The fundamental driver of public education policy is essentially a cost benefit analysis. There are many ways of approaching this, but public education is primarily concerned with the government making an investment in the next generation of tax payers. If the perceived pay offs in the longer term will outweigh the initial investment, then funding is seen as an investment, if not, funding doesn’t go ahead. Hence you don’t find many government schools with olympic sized pools, climbing walls, remote campuses, recording studios, elite sports programs and so forth. However, you find all these things at many private schools, because the roles of public and private schools differ greatly.

            Is it right that policy is enacted in this way? That’s not for me to say, that’s just how it is.


            Posted by yourbesteffingfriend | April 20, 2015, 1:05 pm

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