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Gingrich's janitor idea conceals a serious point

November 22, 2011 | 11:22 am

Newt Gingrich
It's easy to make fun of Newt Gingrich's proposal that young teenagers be paid to work as janitors in their schools. Aside from the concerns about child labor, poor kids would be better using their free time to hit the books.

But Gingrich's larger point -- that poor kids should learn a work ethic -- is not so silly. Indeed, it is a common theme in conservative prescriptions for dealing with what used to be called the underclass. Gingrich said he was proposing "extraordinarily radical proposals to fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America,”  In connection with the kids-as-janitors program, that's hyperbole. But...

You don't have to be Newt Gingrich -- or Charles Murray -- to believe that there is a culture of poverty that can't be remedied simply by the infusion of money.  That doesn't mean kids should work as janitors, but it does mean that schools should address the culture of poverty. Newt, in other words, has a point.

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New Newt, old Newt, same Newt? [Most commented]

--Michael McGough

Photo: Republican presidential hopeful and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington on Oct. 7. Credit: Nicholas Kamm /AFP/Getty Images

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