By Larry Miller Special to Published Dec 18, 2011 at 7:33 PM

In recent statements Newt Gingrich argued that "Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of work and have nobody around them who works ... So they have no habit of showing up on Monday."

Alluding to "43% of black teenage unemployment," he said, "What if they cleaned the bathrooms? What if they mopped the floors? (What) if they had money of their own and didn't have to become a pimp, prostitute or drug dealer?"

Gingrich's implication that poor and black children are lazy and undisciplined is the same racist and revisionist historical argument that was used in defense of slavery, Jim Crow segregation and job discrimination. He adds to this insult that black teenagers should become cheap labor to replace janitorial services.

I wonder how many homes of the "really poor" and working poor Mr. Gingrich has visited.

As an MPS teacher, I served the children and families Gingrich is stereotyping. Since the introduction of W-2 in Wisconsin, I know very few households where no one is working. In fact, in most households more than one person is working, including teenagers, in order to have spending money and often to help support their families. The problem is they are working at low-wage jobs.

I often helped students get jobs. I would help them fill out applications, provide references and accompany them when they went to make first contact with prospective employers. Because of the need to work, many of my students were not able to have a typical high school experience, having no time for sports and extracurricular activities.

Mr. Gingrich, no one wants to be poor. Money does matter.

Yes, Mr. Gingrich, the working poor are poor, but they are working hard to survive with the hope of achieving the American dream.

Larry Miller Special to
Larry Miller was elected to the MPS school board in April 2009 after teaching high school social
studies and serving as an administrator in MPS for nearly two decades. His two sons are both MPS
graduates. Larry is an editor of Rethinking Schools and an adjunct at Marquette's College of Education.
He and his wife, Ellen Bravo, live on Milwaukee's East Side.