Wednesday, March 27, 2013

'Throwing money at it'

I actually put on a tie and went on English Language Al Jazeera last night with Jitu Brown and a smarmy wing-nut from the Heritage Foundation, Jason Richwine. They didn't tell me up front that there would be three of us sharing about 20 minutes of air time. My intention was to plug the CReATE Research Brief on School Closings. But I didn't get much of a chance to do that. I had to shout out the address, as the show was winding down, and probably got it wrong. I'll have to watch the Inside Story video once they put it up.

I wasn't sure who Richwine was at first. I vaguely remembered him from an anti-union screed a while back, about the "ongoing whine from teachers unions and their fellow travelers that public school teachers don’t earn enough money."

Last night he had all the well-scripted stock cliches about Chicago public schools not being "cost effective." Jitu came loaded with good research and lots of  stories from his work with schools and neighborhoods on the south side, which Richwine dismissed as "anecdotal." He claimed he had the real data, right from some economists, showing that schools needed to be closed and that the resulting 40 students in a class would be no problem for "good teachers."

But what really pushed my button was when he came out with that old canard, "throwing money at schools doesn't work." I found myself, squeezed for time as usual on these shows, shouting out, "why are the people with all the money always the ones telling us not to throw money at it?"

I actually borrowed that line from Jonathan Kozol via Brother Fred. Thanks JK.

After I got home, I realized that Richwine was only parroting Arne Duncan on the 40-students-in-a-class crap. It was Duncan, speaking a year ago at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, who claimed that, "Class size has been a sacred cow and I think we need to take it on." I'd hand over my pension check for a chance to watch either Duncan or Richwine in a classroom, trying to manage a class of 40 first-graders.

So now, here was this know-nothing right-winger, drawing on Obama's Ed Secretary Duncan's wit and wisdom about class size and using it to defend the school closing policies of a Democratic Party mayor.

Yes, Chicago politics do make for some not-so-strange bed fellows.


  1. I had never heard of Jason Richwine before...

  2. Stay classy, Mike. Is rudely interrupting and calling names your idea of intellectual give and take? I’d appreciate you correcting this blog entry so it no longer implies that I ever said anything about how teachers “whine.” I did not write the sentence you quoted, nor did I write the “screed” that you linked to. Unlike you, I don’t call my opponents names or question their integrity.

    If readers want to see some of my actual writing, they can do so here:

  3. Hi Mike,

    Really enjoyed you and Jitu Brown's contribution to the show on Al-Jazeera. That smarmy toad Richwine represents everything wrong with the world. I loved this line above:

    "I'd hand over my pension check for a chance to watch either Duncan or Richwine in a classroom, trying to manage a class of 40 first-graders." a teacher myself, I was thinking the exact same thing. This fool wouldn't last 5 mins. Would probably get lynched.

  4. Jason,

    Thanks for following my blog and contributing to the comment section. Your point is well taken. I mean, about being "classy" and all. I should never have called you a smarmy wing-nut on my blog. My wife even tells me, I'm better than that.

    It's just that when I heard your dishonest attacks on public education and teachers, I had trouble controlling my anger and my long-term hostility towards the Heritage Foundation. Do you have any suggestions re. anger management? Anyone I could see? Because the more I dwell on your "classy" remark, that old feeling begins to take hold again.

    I should stop now.

  5. I think that both you & Jitu did a great job, Mike.
    Richwhine? (Ooops...Freudian slip.) Not so much.

  6. You were great Mike.

  7. Dr. Klonsky,

    Please don't take anything that pissant Richwine says about being "classy" very seriously (I know by your tone, that you haven't). The guy is a total fraud and has no business speaking about the complex issues of education reform.

    I admired your patience the other night, and the fact that you only called that right-wing ne'er-do-well a few mild expletives. Like you, I have been overwhelmed at times by powerful feelings of rage, at the very mention of the Heritage Foundation. Recently, when I heard that the former senator from South Carolina, Jim Demint, was named foundation president, I nearly jumped through the TV screen trying to get at the racist bastard. But then I took a few breaths, had a stiff drink, and turned my thoughts to more pleasant things. Try it some time.

    You are to be saluted for the restraint you showed the other night. Thank you.


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