Now that Newt Gingrich has regained the national stage, he is reverting to his favorite pose: challenging the welfare state and talking about What To Do About The Poor. It's the sort of thing he knows will draw outraged headlines in the objective press.
"This is something that no liberal wants to deal with," Gingrich said. "Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.
"You say to somebody, you shouldn't go to work before you're what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You're totally poor. You're in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I've tried for years to have a very simple model," he said. "Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."
He added, "You go out and talk to people, as I do, you go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation. They all started their first job between nine and 14 years of age. They all were either selling newspapers, going door to door, they were doing something, they were washing cars."
"They all learned how to make money at a very early age," he said. "What do we say to poor kids in poor neighborhoods? Don't do it. Remember all that stuff about don't get a hamburger flipping job? The worst possible advice you could give to poor children. Get any job that teaches you to show up on Monday. Get any job that teaches you to stay all day even if you are in a fight with your girlfriend. The whole process of making work worthwhile is central."
Gingrich is making a not-so-profound point here, namely that the rhetoric of the left has not only increased welfare dependency, but also denigrated work, so of course the Politico headline is "Newt: Fire The Janitors, Hire Kids To Clean Schools," as if an off-hand comment ("most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors...") is going to be a bedrock of a Gingrich administration's education policy.
Every Republican in creation should be able to make some variation of Gingrich's basic point: that we are spending untowards amounts of money to little effect, and stunting lives and opportunities by the million. But most of them won't make that argument because police society has declared that the throw-billions-of -dollars-teachers-and-administrators is the One True Path to education nirvana. And, polite society will defend that arrangement through, among other things, outraged headlines misconstruing the good faith arguments of the GOP.
By the way, whiny liberals, Japanese schools often have a single janitor with the kids handling a lot of the clean-up. As I discussed a couple years ago:
Hah! Can you imagine the high school drop out rate if American students had to start cleaning the school? And, even if they did, can you imagine some parents letting their Precious Little Dears do that? I can't. Not only that, I would imagine most US school systems have a janitors union that might have some unkind words for this arrangement.
So it's not so untoward as Politico and the outraged class would have you believe.