Newt Was Right About Being a Janitor

Newt Gingrich made some media waves with his comments about how poor kids should be taught how to work, including taking jobs at the schools they attend to perform janitorial work. As usual, Poverty-Pimp Al Sharpton took offense. In case you haven’t heard Newt’s remarks, here are a few of them:

“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits for working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday,” Gingrich told more than 500 employees inside the Nationwide Insurance lunchroom, NBC News reported. “So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”

Adding that he thought child labor laws to be “truly stupid,” he continued: “And let me get into the janitor thing. What if they became assistant janitors, and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?”

Of course, Newt was generalizing as you have to do when you’re talking on any subject. Some poor kids do work, and most of them aren’t involved in illegal activity. But there is no doubt that the welfare state makes it easier for young people not to work and the rhetoric of people like Sharpton gives them reasons why they shouldn’t have to work because rich people have all the money and they’re not willing to “share” it with poor people.

If you read what Sharpton said about Newt’s proposals, one would get the impression that he is advocating that poor children should give up aspirations to be doctors, lawyers, and educators and resign themselves to being janitors. Any sane person knows that Gingrich said and meant no such thing. All jobs, janitorial jobs included, are stepping stones, a series of learning experiences, to other jobs.

When I was in high school, I worked in a gas station, washed pots and pans at a restaurant, delivered newspapers, and worked in a grocery store. When I was in college, I again worked in a gas station and a hardware store. The hardware store was the best job I ever had. I learned how to cut glass, make concrete slabs, drive a full-size dump truck, thread pipe, fix plumbing fixtures, and one hundred and one other things. When I graduated from college, I again worked in a grocery store in a right-to-work state where I worked 60 hours per week. When a new store opened, they offered me the job of assistant manager. I then moved up to custodian in a very large church as I saved money for seminary where I worked as a bookstore manager (another great learning experience job) and a custodian cleaning a church.

Today, I run four businesses.

Al Sharpton should watch a few episodes of Malcolm in the Middle. It doesn’t take long to get the gist of this very dysfunctional, working class, but loving family. A few episodes from each season will do. Then watch the last episode. Malcolm is shown attending Harvard, earning his way as a janitor.

“Rev.” Al might also want to take a look at the true story of Vivien Thomas. A gifted and talented carpenter and woodworker who lost his job during the Depression and ended up cleaning out dog cages at Vanderbilt University. His hard work and studied determination in the face of pre-civil rights era racism and discrimination led to him teaching medicine at Johns Hopkins University. The Journal of Surgical Case Reports (JSCR) announced in January 2010 that their annual prizes for the best case report written by a doctor and best case report written by a medical student would be named after Thomas. Something the Lord Made, the film about Thomas’ life, is a must see.

It’s Sharpton and his race cronies and the policies they push and support that are hurting poor people.