Diversity Journal – Contrasting Beliefs About Poverty

Journal Prompt

Read the two opposing points of view below. After reading, address the following questions:

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How do you feel about each of these beliefs? Why do you feel about them the way you do?
Do you think you feel the same way your parents do? Grandparents? Other relatives?
What do you think the majority of your friends believe?
Do you know people who are poor? Are they on welfare? Does what you know about them reinforce or contradict your beliefs about poverty?
In what ways have you experienced poverty yourself?
Two Contrasting Beliefs
In the United States, many people seem to endorse one or the other of the following beliefs:

“Where there’s a will there’s a way” (or some variation of that expression). Therefore, if anyone is poor, it’s his or her fault. They haven’t tried hard enough; they might even be lazy and irresponsible. There are jobs out there for anyone who really wants to work. Further, if a poor person needs and asks for help, it is NOT my obligation to help them. Let them help themselves by pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps just like I did. No one helped me or gave me any handouts and I wouldn’t take them even if they were offered to me because I’ve got too much pride to take charity. So, I do NOT want my tax dollars used to help poor people, and I deeply resent it when the government takes my hard-earned money and spends it on these people.

“Nobody talks more about the best man winning than the man who inherited his father’s store or farm.” If anyone is poor it’s probably because they were born into a low-income family, did not have the same advantages as those with more money, did not develop high expectations, and may even have dropped out of school. Since they will end up in the least desirable jobs, they are most likely to be unemployed during tough economic times. If a poor person needs and asks for help, we should give them a helping hand until they get back on their feet again, especially if it involves training or retraining for a new job or making sure children are getting food and shelter. I’m willing to have my tax dollars used to help poor people because I’d want to be helped if I ever found myself in such a situation.

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