Thu, Nov 17 at 7:30 p.m. | 90 minutes
Recent studies have shown what many of us have known for a while: that poverty impairs cognition. The stresses and realities of being poor make it hard to think straight. We revert to a fight or flight mode that diminishes the value of long term planning or strategizing. We become focused on survival.
Consider even times when you weren’t sure you were going to make rent or you lost a shift at work. Now consider a life where that is an issue every day. If you’re worried because you know your dad lost his job algebra becomes an absurd priority. If you’re distracted by trying to figure out how to keep your home giving “110%” at work becomes an impossibility and the American Dream must be deferred.
For example, as a college professor, I am part of a proud group of educators who are willing to live below the poverty line in order to do work we find personally fulfilling and believe is important. Some consider me a pretty good teacher, imagine how good I’d be if I were paid a living wage and could focus fully on my job. Imagine how much better we’d all be at living our lives together if none of us were forced to live in constant survival mode.
Poverty is not a failure of will on the part of the poor but in this context may been seen as an assault on the intelligence of the populace. People are poor not because they don’t try hard enough but because the American Dream is just that, a dream that comes true for the lucky ones and a daily nightmare for most.
In this Olio we will explore the cognitive burden of poverty and its repercussions for us as individuals and as a society.
FORMAT: We will listen together to a compelling exploration of poverty on the radio show On The Media (which inspired this Olio) and we will gather as a group for a lively discussion around an outdoor fire pit!
On The Media Podcast: http://www.wnyc.org/story/on-the-media-2016-10-07
Poverty and Cognition: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/341/6149/976
The Marshmallow Study revisited: http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=4622
Michael D. Haltenberger has been teaching Comparative Religion at Hunter College for over a decade. His primary interest is the relationship between religion and science and how both affect the way we experience and behave in the world.