What Sort of Work Opportunities for Students Might Work In School?

We all have heard about Newt Gingrich’s typically lunatic idea of firing all school custodians and replacing them with students.

I mean, can you even imagine 5-year-old kindergarteners pulling all the trash from the cafeteria and putting it into the dumpster? And then cleaning off the puke and urine stains from the bathrooms, or mopping up all the smashed food and dripped milk from the cafeteria?  All in a school where they can barely reach the adult-sized desks and sinks?

In what over-privileged universe did Gingrich go to school that he thinks that this is even remotely POSSIBLE — let alone desirable? Let’s enter the real world and, keeping an open mind, try to imagine how the headlines and news clips might read if this sort of thing became law:

Another First Grader Drowns in Cleaning Drum She Was Trying To ‘Kid-Handle’

The article might continue:

“Melysia Henderson, aged 6 and a half, was found late last night at XYZ charter school with only her feet sticking out of a huge open drum filled with toxic floor cleaner – a drum that she had been assigned to open and begin distributing to all of the floors in the building.

“Police said they suspect that the little girl might have been overwhelmed by the fumes, fainted, and just fallen head-first into the vat of chemicals…

“Her frantic parents helped police to break down the door around 10:30 PM to the school she was both enrolled at and employed by. But it was too late: the little custodian/scholar had taken her last swim. Police only let the parents see their daughter’s body long enough to identify the remains. Her mother was seen being comforted by the stepfather.

“A friend of the family explained to this reporter that ironically, the child was doing the exact same job that her stepfather Melvyn Xavier used to have, at another failing, poverty-ridden charter school — until he fell afoul of the No Union Janitors Act. He, like Mely, did the four-to-eight PM custodial shift on the 3rd floor hallway of a charter school clear across town from her home. Xavier had lost his job because of the provisions of the Scrooge-Gingrich-Robb-Enn-Steele act, also known as the No Union Janitors Act.

“As you readers recall, any school with more than 1/3 (that is, 10%*) of their students belonging to families who used to be eligible for free or REduced Price Socialistic LUnch for Deadbeats (or REPSLUDE) was required to fire all their current janitorial staff and to make the assistant principal the head custodian. All the little REPSLUDE students would be required to work a certain number of hours per week at their school, or else their families would have to start paying school tuition.

“As President Gingrich’s faithful Vice President Cain said, “If you’re poor, it’s your own fault! It’s time for the poor to pay us rich folks the fines we should have assessed on them a long time ago – for the crime of being poor and improvident!” Calculating the number of hours per week to be worked by the REPSLUDErs was easy, Education Secretary Rick Perry had explained: it’s simply the age, times two. Thus, Melysia was required to work 12 hours per week, at a rate of $2.59 per hour, just about one-tenth of the outlandish salary that her deadbeat stepdad used to earn….”

A subsequent article might supply more details:

“…when her mother hadn’t received any phone calls, Nosebook images, twexts, or Zweets from their daughter after about half-way through her shift, they figured her ear-cell phone had fallen into a mop bucket she was hauling around, or into a toilet or garbage grinder she was cleaning – once again. (Her mother said it happened about once a month, and the repairs to the ear-cell phone were using up nearly all the earnings that her daughter made on her work-study job…

“ … her mother and brother really got worried after HE had gotten home from his own REPSLUDE job at his own charter school (a different one, in yet another part of town) and nobody had heard or seen anything from his sister. When they activated the emergency waterproof GPS in Mely’s ear-cell phon, it didn’t seem to be moving at all. Even with the flash on, the camera in Melysia’s ear-cell phone was only displaying a very murky, unclear image.

” ‘It didn’t look good. But I just figured that Mely had dropped the ear-cell into a bucket.’

” ‘I just couldn’t believe my daughter had blacked out and fell into the bucket of cleaning solution. It isn’t fair. Her step-dad should have been doing that job.”

“And the irony of it all is that her step-father used to do that job, until President Gingrich, enthusiastically supported by ex-presidents Clinton and Obama, won the passage of the No Union Janitors Act, also known as REPSLUDE…

” … apparently all the other 6-year-old and 7-year old student custodians working the evening shift at Mely’s school had gotten tired and had gone home early. None of them had remembered to look to see if little Melysia had blacked out again in the janitor’s closet on the third floor…

“… This is the third REPSLUDE fatality in this city so far this year, and the twentieth in the nation…”


*another little joke


Published in: on December 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi, GF. I do appreciate your extended metaphor. However, learning to respect one’s space – especially free and (often) beautiful spaces, like schools, should certainly be part of one’s education. I see nothing wrong with having students leave the lunch yard clean after lunch instead of leaving litter around, or having a project of planting gardens, weeding, and even painting with adult supervision. All of this could be “education” that is not strictly academic and testable. In other words, it could be part of character education. I am no supporter of Gingrich, but maybe that’s what he was getting at.


    • I do think that having students do some appropriate tasks around the school can be very helpful.
      Kids actually do enjoy doing work when they think it’s useful and they get recognition for their efforts.
      I was thinking about proposing formalizing this, and thinking about a way for kids who could use some pocket money (and a safe place to be, supervised, after school) to earn some money. I thought about my time as a teacher, when i never had time to keep my room as clean or as organized as it should be. Filing, stapling, correcting and sorting papers; taking down old bulletin boards; straightening and organizing rows of books; cleaning blackboards or whatever; — all of these are reasonable for kids to do.
      Then I thought about the many studies on motivation.
      Kids will willingly and cheerfully do these things, on occasion, if they are given some reasonable praise and recognition.
      However, as soon as they are paid to do it, it becomes a boring JOB and they lose interest.
      It’s been shown over and over again.
      I don’t know how to get around that.


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