by Burt Prelutsky | Los Angeles

For some time now, people have been forwarding me an email that lists the ten most poverty-stricken cities in America.  By this time, I imagine you’ve all committed the names to memory, along with the fact that these cities have been electing one Democratic mayor after another for at least the past quarter century.  In one case — Miami, I believe — they’ve never elected anything else.  The civic blights, in alphabetical order, are Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, El Paso, Miami, Milwaukee, Newark, Philadelphia and St. Louis.

But, unlike those people who keep forwarding this message around, I don’t blame all those rotten, corrupt mayors, I blame the lazy louts who keep electing them.

In this country, after all, the only people who keep living generation after generation below the poverty line are the indolent and the ignorant.  These are the folks who persist in relying on welfare and feeding on a diet of bitterness and entitlement.  As for those who insist that nobody chooses to be ill-educated and unskilled, and that if only more money were spent on schools, we’d be churning out an endless supply of young Einsteins, Hawkings and Jeffersons, I say, phooey!

During the 1980s, more money was shoveled into the St. Louis school system than any other system in America, more than any other system in history.  At the end of the decade, standardized school test scores had gone down.  But that carries no weight with those liberals who believe the solution to every problem is to throw money, other people’s money, at it.  They actually regard it as a good thing that America’s students, who inevitably score the lowest among kids in the industrialized nations when it comes to math, science and language skills, score highest when it comes to self-esteem.  “Maybe we’re as dumb as a box of doorknobs,” they seem to be saying, “but we sure are cool.  Just listen to our cool music and look at our cool tattoos.”

Those who shower the most praise on our public education system are those least likely to ever expose their own kids to it.  I refer to the pinheads who hold public office.  In fact, the only time a president or first lady ever wanders into a public school in Washington, D.C., is for an election year photo op, after having made certain that their Secret Service detail is operating at full strength that day.  It’s not a school system, it’s a penal colony with report cards.

Whenever I come across a statistic that suggests it costs about $11,000 to keep a child in school for a year, I find myself thinking that, aside from the 535 members of the House and Senate, the biggest thieves in America are all members of the education swindle — school teachers, administrators and union officials.  They should all be kept after school and made to write on the blackboard a thousand times:  I will never again say it’s all for the kids.

Believe me, I’m not bragging when I say I could teach the young sprouts geography, math and English, just as badly as the professionals do it, and I could do it for a lot less than $11,000-a-head.

What’s more, this problem could have very dire consequences.  As absurd as it sounds, if we don’t improve our education system, I can foresee some time in the future when we could wind up with members of Congress who confuse the Declaration of Independence with the U.S. Constitution and who actually believe that if you put 8,000 Marines and their families on Guam, you’d run the risk of capsizing the island.


copyright 2010 Burt Prelutsky

Television scriptwriter, former humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine.

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