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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Role Models in Poor Neighborhoods

During the fall of 2011, Newt Gingrich said in Des Moines:
Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. 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.
Gingrich's remarks, along with his suggestion that poor children have the opportunity to earn money by helping clean schools, drew a great deal of criticism.  Charles Blow of The New York Times called them "cruel" and "mind-numbingly tone-deaf."

Yesterday, in Chicago, President Obama touched on a similar topic:
There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding. And for a lot of young boys and young men, in particular, they don’t see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected.
One difference is between "working" and "succeeding." The president would probably say that many people in poor neighborhoods are working -- but in low-wage, dead-end jobs. At the same time, however, he also emphasized role models and the work ethic itself:  
If a child grows up with parents who have work, and have some education, and can be role models, and can teach integrity and responsibility, and discipline and delayed gratification -- all those things give a child the kind of foundation that allows them to say, my future, I can make it what I want.