Higher Education

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Film Clips, Chapter 10


Part I

Paul Pholeros: How to Reduce Poverty? Fix Homes

TED talks, 17:39

So often our governments study and speak about poverty, but do not do much to change it. “Housing for health,” a project of “Healthhabitat” in Australia, addresses poverty among aboriginal communities in Australia. It is being adopted in less-developed countries like Nepal. Poor living environments that accompany poverty are damaging to health. Pholeros reviews the immediate and very serious long-term health effects of lack of cleaning facilities, lack of electricity, lack of working toilets, and poor housing conditions overall (Kerr and Michalski, pp. 198–203).

“Housing for health” devotes time, energy, and small amounts of money to improving living conditions house by house. Much of the work needed is due to lack of routine maintenance or faulty construction and less is because of damage or misuse. Those living in the houses are not the problem, but they are a big part of the solution, working on improving houses in their communities.

To counter the critique that this is a small change that will not eliminate poverty, Pholeros discusses how it can create a “butterfly effect” that will have resonance in both the short and long-term.


Critical Thinking Questions

  1. How do the conditions of poor housing described by Pholeros in Australian aboriginal communities compare with housing conditions among the poor and Aboriginals here in Canada (Kerr and Michalski, 197, Chapter 12)? How do the health conditions associated with poor housing contribute to poverty?
  2. Pholeros is describing a non-governmental organizational approach to attacking poverty. How can this idea be used in social policy by the Canadian government? What social policies on housing already exist (or not)?
  3. Habitat for Humanity is a similar organization that addresses housing issues among the poor in Canada. If you know this organization, explain how its approach differs. What can we learn from Pholeros’s idea?

Part II

It’s Just Better

NFB, Beverly Shaffer (director), 15:23

This 30-year-old classic NFB film illustrates the daily life of a boy on a rural homestead in Cape Breton in 1982. After Shawn’s father leaves, his mother is trying to keep her 10 children together and provision the household by “making do” as a lone parent (Kerr and Michalski, pp. 190–194). Material possessions are in short supply but Shawn doesn’t see himself as poor. There are chores for all of the kids and all pitch in. There’s also time for play. This short film provides a child’s eye view of living with little money in a single-parent household, but certainly not in “poverty.” Warning: there is a birthing scene where two of the children help Myrtle, the sheep, lamb.


Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Consider what you have read about children growing up in poverty (pp. 196–197, 203–204). Are the Dwyer children facing the same outcomes? Why or why not?
  2. This film shows poverty from the child’s vantage: how might the mother describe it differently? What kinds of state policies help this family? Which might harm them?
  3. Shawn’s mother is a single parent raising her 10 children. What sources of support does she have in this film (pp. 199–204)? What other sources of support might provide assistance?

Part III

Four Feet Up

Youtube, civmarbabe, 4:10

This four-minute YouTube includes clips from the NFB documentary Four Feet Up (2009), available through subscription. It also includes advice to teachers on how to help poor children in their classrooms.

Both the clip and the film include updated statistics on children in poverty and a report on the Canadian government’s (slow) progress on eliminating child poverty since 1989 (pp. 196–197). The daily grind of poverty is illustrated here, along with using food banks and applying to social services (pp. 199–204). Isaiah’s mother does what she can to keep her family together, with occasional help from his Dad.


Critical Thinking Questions

  1. If you’ve watched It’s Just Better, compare the views and attitudes of the two boys narrating their lives of poverty. How are they similar or different, despite being separated by 30 years? What has changed for poor kids in Canada during those 30 years?
  2. Poverty has both visible and hidden effects for children (pp. 203–204). Using supportive details from the video Four Feet Up, describe each type of effect for Isaiah and his siblings.
  3. If you watched the full version of Four Feet Up, what is a key problem that results from the “individual model of family responsibility (Chapter 15) for child poverty? Describe at least one situation in the video that illustrates your point.