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Newt-speak and education

Even though I usually enjoy politics, I haven’t followed the 2012 Republican presidential race very closely. I just can’t muster up much interest in it. Thus, when I read that Newt Gingrich had become a serious contender, I was quite surprised, not only because his political reversal of fortune happened so quickly, but also because, well, it’s Newt Gingrich. Sleazy, ethically bankrupt, thuggish, pompous, painfully unlikeable Newt Gingrich, who, like a whiny pesky phoenix, somehow manages to, again and again, rise from the ashes of his numerous political failures.

I must admit that I (quite begrudgingly) admire one thing about Gingrich: he doesn’t deny that he’s intelligent and highly educated, despite the fact that a large part of the Republican base doesn’t exactly value those traits (to say the least). However, my admiration ends there. One look at his positions on educational issues makes it clear that Gingrich values education only when it benefits him in some way.

Last week, Gingrich illustrated this narcissism once again. At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, he said that, as president, he’d like to teach a free online course about his views and political policies modeled after the online course format used at various for-profit colleges.

Oh, Newt, no. Just no.

In theory, this could be a good idea. For example, teaching a free online course on modern European history (the focus of his PhD) in an attempt to promote learning and disseminate knowledge would be admirable and potentially worthwhile (although I can’t imagine that many Americans are chomping at the bit to hear Gingrich lecture about anything). Teaching (and I use that word very loosely here) an online course about his own political agenda, however, is neither admirable nor worthwhile.

As both his educational policies and his history of ethically questionable educational activities illustrate, Gingrich is far more interested in profiting from education and in furthering his own political ambitions than he is in improving America’s educational system or democratizing educational opportunities, despite his assertions to the contrary. Gingrich is tricky that way: he chooses his words very carefully and uses rhetoric that borders on doublethink to manipulate his audience into thinking that he’s making one claim (in this case, that he values the dissemination of knowledge and the democratization of educational opportunities) while he’s actually asserting the opposite.

I realize that the concerns I’ve discussed in this post will become relevant only if Gingrich wins the presidential race. Before last week, I would have laughed off that possibility. But, now that he has somehow become a serious contender, it’s worth taking a serious look at these issues. And, although Gingrich’s views on education are certainly not the most worrisome part of his platform, they are reactionary, self-serving, and dangerous, and well worth dissecting and discussing.

When it comes to Newt-speak, you have to read between the lines. And what you’ll find there isn’t pretty, to say the least.

  1. Cyrano Jones #

    He’s become a serious contender *again*, twice in the same year. The party is cycling through flavour-of-the-week candidates faster than the candidates can gin up the money they need to afford that kind of attention. I feel fairly confident that he’ll fall out of favour again at least once before next November.

    November 27, 2011
  2. Jason #

    The Republican field is less than exciting. It almost seems like the best candidates will gear up for 2016 because it is tough to win against an incumbent. It almost seems inevitable that the Republicans will lose the bid for the White house in 2012 unless there is something catastrophic.

    November 27, 2011
  3. Ed Dietrich #

    “Newt Gingrich is a stupid man’s idea of what a smart man sounds like.”

    -Paul Krugman

    November 27, 2011
    • keith #

      Yeah, Krugman nails it here.

      November 29, 2011
    • So True, But, Sadly, Newt is the most intelligent-seeming of the lot. The Tea-Populist mind set of this year’s Republicans will lead to the defeat, and eventual demise of All those associated with The Party of No!.
      Just the No Taxes “Pledge” has damaged the Republican’s appeal to the moderate independents, who are disillusioned with Obama, but prefer his Progressive policies over those who want to take us back to the era before The New Deal.
      Paul Krugman Quote appreciated Ed Dietrich !

      December 1, 2011
      • Ed Dietrich #

        You are welcome. I find Mr. Gingrich to be the worst kind of politician imaginable: opportunistic, self-centered, smarmy and concerned only with his bank account. I have great revulsion towards this man whose ideas would easily find a home in the 9th century. A vile human being.

        December 2, 2011
  4. mike #

    One must read between the lines any time a politician talks. Newt and Obama are both intelligent and know it. Just as the current political spectrum of 1 party continues, they just assume work together tit for tat. “How can we screw the people while making them think their best interest is at heart?” Individuals need to take the reins and stop relying on the government to solve problems.

    November 27, 2011
  5. Did you say that his language BORDERS of double-speak?

    Methinks you praise with faint damn!

    November 27, 2011
  6. James Highfill #

    Newt is an all purpose ass. He peddles his online courses to take advantage of a felt need and to further the transformation of learning into ideological junk food. Newt flows with the fashion established by such boobs as Glen Beck and Mike Huckabee who have established online courses and cartoons respectively for their constituencies. He even flowed with fashion back when he strained his few nuerons to vomit forth his 1971 dissertation entitled “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945 -1960” in which he managed to excuse Beligian colonial atrocities because their education policies moved the Congo (which in 1971 was called Zaire) toward modernization – the same kind of thinking that allowed the US to supplant French Colonialism with US sponsored modernization during the Vietnam war. Newt is not intelligent; he is a reptile, but that is an insult to reptiles; he is a psychopathic poseur.

    November 27, 2011
    • Ed Dietrich #

      Bravo! I second this comment.

      December 2, 2011
  7. Mrinalini Sen #

    Miranda, lately, I am not able to read your blog as everything is blurred ..what happened?

    November 27, 2011
  8. It’s said that GOP is aka the ‘Bimbo Party’. They are the sort of party that rolls out a different flavour of candidate every so often to suit voters’ tastes. For a time, it was McCain, a man of integrity. (If you forget the whole ‘Keating Five’ thing.) Then, when voters got bored with McCain, it was McCain and sexy MILF Sarah Palin. Right now, the attention has gone ADD, between Bachmann (Another MILF) Romney (Forget he’s a Mormon.) Perry (Whoo-hoo another one from Texas) and Cain (At least he’s black.) Gingrich just proves that the GOP cannot make up their minds on who their favoured candidate will be. Once people remember Gingrich’s death-bed divorce of his first wife, and the mistress he had while double-talking Clinton’s fidelity issues, we may go back to Bachmann, the current sexy MILF. It’s beginning to look like Obama will be able to campaign under the slogan, “At Least I’m Not Nuts!” in 2012.

    November 27, 2011
  9. I challenge anyone to find a picture of Newt Gingrich in which he doesn’t look evil. I swear, his default expression is ‘just ate a baby’.

    November 27, 2011
  10. Lord, what a come-down for a party that once could field a Lincoln, a Seward, a Teddy Roosevelt, several Tafts (even if I didn’t agree with them I could admire their intellect), and provide moderate and conservative Senators and legislators of brilliant insight and ability to compromise for the national good while offering sensible conservative ideas to temper quick-hearted overenthusiasms for the new. Well, as ye sow…

    November 27, 2011
  11. It’s instructive to remember that Newt is appealling to the troglodytes in our society; the toothless ninnys down at the town square who want to be free. He’s probably not as banal as he let’s on. But as president his political positions would prove bankrupt and great fun for late night comedians, and we all like a good laugh, even at the expense of our prosperity.

    November 27, 2011
  12. Dale #

    I find it difficult to read your writings at times, but I have promised myself to not run away. Even though I wouldn’t vote for Newt on a bet, the underlying attacks on my core values as a person, and the generalizations of my preferred ignorance still hurts. So I am here…on my knees, but still here.

    November 28, 2011
  13. Functional Atheist #

    Count me among those who expect the recent Newt-surge to be a temporary phenomenon; similar to the brief puppy-love that Bachmann, Perry and Cain have all experienced. For a broad range of reasons, the nomination is Romney’s to lose, and, barring an unexpected surge in the economy, I expect he’ll give Obama a tough battle in the general election.

    Miranda is correct to acknowledge that Newt is no dummy, but he has too many character flaws and organizational deficiencies to prevail. Republicans desperately want to beat Obama and most of them know that Newt does not represent their best chance of accomplishing that goal..

    November 28, 2011
    • pete #

      I agree. I have something I call the clowncar theory. That each of them pops out of the clowncar of television and the crowd boos or awws. But it’s aww like there’s a puppy, not at all the awe that would make a good leader. That their party is running on the fumes of the clowncar, settling for what’s not a boo, is just terribly sad. That it vacillates is to be expected, they’re settling for the middle-ground of aww. They want the cute puppy Reagan or the adorably nimrod appearance of a Dubya. The problem though, is they’ve run out of dumbassness that looks shiny and new, but appropriately backward. Perry and Bachmann are just disproportionally backward clowns. Cain is the circus leader whose coat-tails have been set on fire without his noticing, much to the audience’s amusement, and the awkward laughter gets in the way of the, “Aww.” Gingrich is on the tightrope of intellectual and fiscal superiority. Romney is a bit of the guy who can only repeat dictionaries in excruciatingly fine and articulate detail but can’t remember his phone number or position on stage. I agree it’s his field, he’s coming across as the bright one, and that alone sets him apart enough to be viable. Just as long as he can dumb it down enough in time w/out tripping over himself, or the others, he’ll probably end the show. I hope he bows with a flourish.
      Me? I’m the guy selling peanuts. Want some? They’re a buck fifty and my helper monkey brings ’em out to ya’ in a tiny fez and vest. Cutest damn thing if you’re not the one who has to pick up after ‘im…

      November 28, 2011
  14. Why would Newt have to get elected *before* he put up a free online class? It sounds like bribery.

    The doublethink doesn’t surprise me, though. I’m pretty sure that’s what defines him as a politician. Aren’t they all “issue chameleons”?

    November 30, 2011

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