Gaze scornfully? Understand deficit ideology?

Paul Gorski’s site is certainly interesting. Have you explored it? Do you have a grasp of deficit ideology?

Park Sleeper #2 part 2: deficit ideologyCreative Commons License Bob Farrell via Compfight

I’ve heard of the “scornful gaze”, and am familiar with the concept of “blaming the victim”, but watching that tiny video screen with Gorski (2012) himself gesticulating away drove it home. I think I sort of gave it lip service before, without really thinking.


It got me thinking about some subconscious beliefs I may have held. It’s funny how turning on the light can make them shrink! Have I subconsciously blamed poor people for their plight? This really is a society that believes it’s a meritocracy, but I can see how it isn’t, and how so many societal factors can keep someone tied down. I remember Gladwell’s genius example in his book Outliers (2008). He described a man with perhaps one of the highest IQs ever seen, and he’s on a ranch with a desk full of books, developing some synthesis theory of how the universe works. But without a degree or university affiliation, will this ever see the light of day?


I have this image of Gulliver in Lilliput, a giant tied down with thousands of tiny ropes, in essence threads to him, but completely immobilizing by their sheer number.


Gorski gives an example of a proposal for martial arts training for all grade 8 girls (which I wouldn’t myself disagree with), which truly shocked me. I can see it as an example of his deficit ideology now. “The glass ceiling.” “The problem is within the low income families.” “If the children would only clean their hands, and stop coughing without covering their mouths, we wouldn’t all get sick.” In essence, we often  operate with a, “how do we fix the disenfranchised” mindset.


Have you looked at Elliot’s work, the blue-eye/ brown-eye experience (Elliott, 2006)? This is all really the same thing.  It all speaks to belief systems, and how real they appear to be, despite actual distortions. There is reality, and then there is our perception of it, and it’s not the same. For anybody.


One of my life goals is clear perception. That’s one reason I learned how to draw, and one of my favourite jibes is that if you can’t draw accurately, you’re not perceiving accurately. Well, I can draw accurately, but clearly I have held some of these subconscious distortions as well or I wouldn’t have done so disasterously on Gorski’s diversity awareness quiz. Take them yourself!


Gorski (2012) has a little blurb on, “Four critical paradigm shifts for equity in health care”, which, for a physician practicing in a socialized medical program, still has pertinence. Perhaps it’s even more illustrative in my setting. People simply do not have the same access, or at least the same amount of service, from the health system. Wealthy people loudly demand prompt access, and they get it. They sit in ER and scream, and they get it. They travel to Buffalo and pay for that MRI next week. No, it’s not fair.




Elliott, J. (2006) An exercise with Jane Elliott. Jane Elliott’s Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise.

Retrieved 2013, Feb 9 from


Gladwell, M. (2008) Outliers: the story of success. New York: Little, Brown and Co.


Gorski, P. (2012) Deficit Ideology. Critical Multicultural Pavilion. Retrieved 2013, Feb 9 from


Gorski, P. (2012) Four critical paradigm shifts for equity in health care. Critical Multicultural

    Pavilion. Retrieved 2103, Feb 9 from



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