JIM CREES: More verbal diarrhea from Lansing

Back in the day, the late Pioneer editor and my dear friend Jim Bruskotter asked me why I was always so angry in my Opinion Page offerings.

Even more recently, folks around the office have asked why I don’t write about nicer things - what some of us call “fluffy bunny columns.”

Despite what some may think, I’d love to do so ... to write about the sweeter things in life.

But then ...

Somebody says something in Lansing or Washington and more often than not nobody responds - at least not around this area.

So I do.

Such as when GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of the country’s borders to Muslims.

Trump’s suggested ban would include ALL Muslims - “everybody” - including Muslims seeking legal and legitimate immigration visas and tourists planning to visit the country. Then, to make sure the ban was completely understood, a Trump campaign staffer pointed out the ban would also apply to American Muslims - American citizens! - who were currently overseas ... including members of the military.

I could write a lot about this man, (this liar, this womanizer, this megalomaniac), but ... I won’t.

There’s plenty of material closer to home that needs to be addressed.

Such as ...

During a recent meeting of a Michigan State Senate Education Committee, State Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, listened to a presentation on the problems facing low-performing school districts around the state, and a review of research as to the some of the reasons some students and schools have such trouble meeting state standards.

Sen. Knollenberg is vice-chairman of the Education Committee.

A representative of the State School Reform Office and an education advisor with Gov. Rick Snyder’s office presented data analyzing academic performance by different demographic groups including urban and rural students and students from differing ethnic backgrounds. The data demonstrated many students who struggle to meet state standards were students of color.

Knollenberg apparently felt a need to show his sensitivity to the issue and pointed out to the assembled researchers and educators, “We can’t make an African American white. We can’t fix that. It is what it is.”


Actually (so readers don’t think I’ve taken things out of context) Knollenberg’s comment was: “You mention why these schools districts fail, and you mention economically disadvantaged and non-white population are contributors to that. And we can’t fix that. We can’t make an African-American white. That’s just ...it is what it is.”

Why Knollenberg felt it necessary to spout this silliness is beyond me. One thing is for sure, his view of public education in this state is scary - and he is second-in-command of the Education Committee.

Knollenberg is not a big fan of public education and finding a way to ‘blame the victims’ simply and obviously is part of his toolbelt.

In 2011 he was an enthusiastic supporter of a bill that would have prevented teachers from receiving pay increases while they negotiated their contracts.

He was the leading sponsor of House Bill 4054, the controversial right-to-work law that despite what anyone says was mainly aimed at breaking the Michigan Education Association.

OK. Fine.

But then, openly and in public, Knollenberg basically says we don’t need to invest in urban, poverty-stricken area schools ‘cause they are packed with children of color and the data shows they can’t learn. We can’t change color, so why invest in color.

The Detroit News later reports Knollenberg apologized for his stupidity calling his comments during the Education Committee hearing a “clunky choice of words.”

“Clunky choice of words”??!!??

How about verbal diarrhea?

He hears a review of research and survey data that suggests children of color in deprived economic areas, sometimes with a lack of a stable support structure in the home and community and generally with less than sufficient educational resources, have a specific problem meeting the same standards as do young people attending Cranbrook Academy, Detroit Country Day, or East Grand Rapids High School, and his only observation is, “Well, you can’t change black.”

Why, Gentle Reader, why would I not be angry?

“As everyone knows, a child’s ability to learn has nothing to do with their race but everything to do with support in and outside of the school,” responded House Democratic leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills). “It is unfortunate he made that statement and I’m hopeful this can be a teaching moment so Senator Knollenberg can get a better grasp of what challenges school districts face by a diverse array of students across the state.”

A “teaching moment?”

Maybe it could be, but in response to waves of criticism from many corners regarding his moronic comment, Knollenberg defended himself in an interview with WXYZ in Detroit noting he had an African-American employee.

He also did offer “to apologize to people who felt offended.”

Kids have learning difficulties brought on by the environment in which they live and learn, and from Lansing the response is “We can’t make an African American white. We can’t fix that. It is what it is.”

What a jerk.