About 100 years ago, when I had just finished college and moved to Seattle, I answered a job ad titled “Management Training.”  Since I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up (yeah, that’s what a liberal arts education will do for you), being Trained as a Manager seemed like a swell idea.


It worked like this.  I was to spend two days traveling around with a dude named Ralph (that wasn’t really his name.  I don’t remember his name, it was 100 years ago!) while he went from store to store trying to convince the store managers to carry our product, which was cheap knock-offs of designer perfumes.  (If you are now thinking, hm, that doesn’t sound like the right job for TR, all I can say is, Kid With Liberal Arts Degree Who Didn’t Know Better.)  While we were traveling around, Ralph was supposed to impart much wisdom to me, including the facts about the product (EXACTLY the same as the designer perfumes, HONESTLY!), and an assortment of company-approved motivational snippets designed to make me want to sell, sell, sell. 


At the end of Day 2 I would be returned to the Home Office and given a test on all I’d learned.  If I passed, I myself would have the opportunity to roam the city, bringing the gift of inexpensive scent to many.  And if I sold, sold, sold, I would be promoted to Management! 


So off I went with Ralph, and I learned much about the counterfeit perfume business.  I also learned some fine motivational snippets.  This was my favorite:


Q: What’s the difference between poor people and rich people?

A:  Rich people take advantage of their opportunities!


On the morning of Day 2, I went out traveling with Ralph and another dude I’ll call Ralph 2.  Since Ralph and I hadn’t sold anything on Day 1, and I’d already memorized all the facts and snippets, I convinced Ralph and Ralph 2 to blow off sales and go to the movies.  It was so easy to persuade them that I had to suspect that they were not all that motivated themselves.  So we saw some moronic late-80’s comedy and then we got some lunch and then we went back to the Home Office for my test.


When I got to: What’s the difference between rich people and poor people?

I wrote:  Rich people take advantage of their opportunities and the evil, scum-sucking poor do not.


I thought that showed not just my aptitude but my superior dedication to the cause.  Apparently the Manager agreed, because I got 100% on my test, and the Ralphs started arguing about which one of them got to have me on their “team.” 


For all I know, they may be arguing about it still, because I never went back.


I was reminded of this when I saw this article, which finally points up a difference between rich people and poor people aside from how much money they have.  Turns out poor people have brain damaged children.


No joke.  The researchers looked at rich nine-year-olds and poor nine-year-olds with a simple test in which they had to watch images of triangles on a screen and press a button when tilted triangles appeared.  They were all hooked up to EEG’s so the researchers could see what their brains were doing.


The brains of the poor kids responded much more slowly.  So slow that the researchers likened the brains of the poor kids to the brain of an adult who has had a stroke.


Shocking, yet not surprising at all.  Impoverished environment, poor nutrition, lack of stimulation, etc = poor brain development. 


The scientists hastened to point out that the kids’ brains can be remediated with “intensive training,” whatever that might entail.  And perhaps the well-intentioned Head Start program is too little, too late.  Do we need Baby School?


This unpleasant bit of data poses a potential for abuse in the form of race/class discrimination.  One might have to hide one’s modest background to avoid being thought of as, well, a person who doesn’t take advantage of their opportunities.


I did not suffer from poverty as a child, so I have no excuse for spending two days of my life driving around Seattle with Ralph, but perhaps it was my well-nourished and stimulated brain that sent me packing.








13 thoughts on “ARE POOR PEOPLE STUPID?

  1. The title jolted me lol but on an honest note, its quite sad. When I was in elementary school, we shared the school with handicapped and special children (deaf kids) and it was a really enriching experience for me. Not only did I learn sign language, I learned alot about compassion and empathy for others. We also had alot of rather poor kids, who could only afford 2ps to school or none at all. The school would provide them with occassional free lunches or cheaper lunches but it was terrible – even as a children, not understanding the awfulness of poverty – to watch them line up for their miniscule meals. When I think back of those days in school, my heart still aches for those kids (and I still see them as children). I once walked into the village a fellow mate stayed in, and I saw just how delapidated some of the houses were and recognised that some of the kids who schooled with us lived in those conditions. Thanks for the post, it reminds me just how lucky I am! x

  2. Well that study has scary implications.  More research needs to be done, obviously.  Why poverty, specifically? What about children of middle class mothers with clinical depression who are unable to provide them with stimulation?  What about all the examples of children who grew up poor and turned out to be brilliant?  The example I’m thinking of is Frank McCourt.  If you read Angela’s Ashes, you know his mother almost certainly got no prenatal care or good nutrition, and the children in the family were always cold and starving, and yet McCourt is a gifted writer, and I’m pretty sure some of his siblings became successful too.  

  3. Ha! Too funny. I think I met Ralph and Ralph2. It was during my undergraduate years, when I was desperately trying to find a better part time job than server at [ubercrappy nationwide chain restaurant]. After meeting RalphGuy and hearing his spiel, I nodded and smiled and then got in my car and went back to [ubercrappy nationwide chain restaurant]. I’m actually sad that I missed the poor people speech cause that would have been so enlightening and perhaps I wouldn’t still be struggling, even with a master’s, at some stupid national non-profit that tries to help people, huh? We obviously should have listened.

  4. USA Today is getting some good articles out these days!  I did some door knocking for Obama in poor neighborhoods.  The solvents from the factory combined with the irritating dust from the grain elevator gave me a terrible headache.  A friend who grew up in the neighborhood said that all night long he would be awakened by the noise from the elevator and factory. Needless to say, he did not do that well in school. 

  5. @Daylily02 - If you do any reading about poverty and epigenetics you find that some people have genes that get turned on or off by things like pollution and physical abuse and others do not.  He was a lucky one. 

  6. The study really needs to be replicated to ACTUALLY SHOW causation. Right now, just correlation, which is still telling, but not as much as finding the real root cause behind this.I grew up starving, in what could only be called an “impoverished home”. And yet I made a conscious effort not to be disadvantaged by my past. It helped that genetically, I was very prone to independence and I’m a very quick learner.

  7. My sister says we were born with three strikes against us – blonde, Norwegian, girls – but once we discovered we weren’t as dumb as we were led to believe as children we’ve mostly recovered and accomplished good things in our lives! 

  8. When my son began experiencing developmental delays serious enough to attract the attention of the pediatrician, he suggested our government-funded, “free” Early Childhood Intervention program.  The woman who came to our home was sincere and seemingly knowledgeable, but not particularly impressed by my son’s clear delays.  Her exact words were, “you live in a nice home.  You and your husband seem committed to your child, so he is not at risk.  I’m sure you will do everything that needs to be done to help him get past his delays.”  Then she suggested we get out of the program and find a private intervention program.  The only thing she didn’t actually say, but definitely implied, was, “you are not poor.”  I’ve often wondered what might have become of my son in much different economic circumstances.

  9. At the time that they did the research on the brains of poor children, they should have done the same on the brains of the poor parents. That would show some of the causation responses. Great post.

  10. Causation?  Victims of circumstance?  Hardly.  To suggest that this is not happenstance but is all by design smacks of conspiracy theory, yet I encourage you to read “Death in the Air: Globalism, Terrorism and Toxic Warfare” by Dr. Leonard G Horowitz who fully documents his claims that not only these children of the poor, but all of us, are being dumbed down and targeted for world population control.  There are some startling revelations in this book regarding AIDS and cancers.  Think it can’t happen in this country?  Think again.Drink the ‘koolaid’ (take the drugs, take the vaccines, spray the fields and the skies) it’s good for you.xoxoxo

  11. There was a movie, Gataca that had a scary slant on that. Geography has a lot to do with it also. If you are poor but lucky enough to live in a state with a decent average income, the schools and teachers are better and the chances of your overcoming your poverty are improved. Each year they do a listing of the best High Schools in the nation. If you were to correlate that list by income you’d see that the rich propagate the rich and the poor propagate the poor. That is how five per cent of this nation controls 90-95 per cent of its wealth.Remember TR a controled populace is a happy populaceelliott

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