Newt Gingrich’s notion about “kid janitors” has been widely ridiculed my the media, but I’ve long defended his motives (which some have wrongly called racist), as well as the general premise of his argument. Sadly, this premise — that poor kids might benefit from having positive role models and gaining work experience — was largely overshadowed by the silly “kid janitor” imagery.
Newt’s main point, however, deserves consideration. As Gingrich said, “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So literally, they have no habit of showing up on Monday. “
While some have also called this point racist or elitist or just plain wrong (who says poor kids don’t have hard working parents!?!) — it seems at least one other person is confirming Gingrich’s point.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” this morning, Baltimore Ravens’ star Michael Oher — the inspiration for the film “The Blind Side” — had this to say when asked how he overcame a tough background:
It goes back to Michael Jordan. I was a big fan of Michael Jordan growing up. You know…I never had anybody to tell me to go to school or — I didn’t see anybody going to school or going to work every day…
Oher derived inspiration from watching professional athletes from afar. He didn’t find mentors in his own neighborhood, so he was able to copy the work ethic of sports stars on TV. Not every kid, of course, has the talent to become a professional athlete like Oher. Still, in my book, if a kid can derive inspiration from watching a professional athlete, that’s a good thing.
I’m all for finding ways to introduce poor kids to developing a work ethic and and develop work habits which will serve them later in life. We should be open to brainstorming ideas for how to make that happen. And we shouldn’t be so quick to demonize someone who has a creative idea that might or might not work in practice.