Poverty represents a society’s moral and civic failure.
Mike Rose has devoted much of his distinguished career to the educational and intellectual challenges of those living in straitened circumstances. Growing up poor himself, he was for a time mistakenly assigned to the vocational education track at his school, an experience that left him with a keen understanding of society’s evaluative gaze, of how its measurements, categories, and labels shape both the ways we are seen and the ways we see and think about ourselves. Many of his eleven books, including The Mind at Work (tenth anniversary edition, 2014), Back to School (2012), and Lives on the Boundary (2005), aim at disrupting this gaze by questioning the assumptions and structures that foreclose opportunities for the very people most in need of a fair chance. A research professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, Rose spoke to us about the difficulties in seeing the poor for who they variously are and for what they routinely face.