Kids say the darnedest things.
Once when I was substitute-teaching a third-grade class in east Denver, I went around the room and asked every student, one by one, what they wanted to be when they grew up. It's a hackneyed gimmick, I know, but you wouldn't believe some of the answers that simple query yielded. One kid told me he wanted to find dinosaurs.
"Oh, so you want to be an archaeologist?" I asked.
Bill Owens/Dick Lamm
"No, I want to find dinosaurs that are alive," he said.
"But you know that dinosaurs are extinct, right?"
"No they're not," he responded calmly. "They just haven't found them yet."
This, needless to say, brought the house down. The whole classroom was overcome by a violent surge of laughter. Some children laughed so hard they expelled great globules of snot from their runny little noses, while others appeared to explode into a thin, Cheetos-like vapor. I chuckled a little bit, too. Dinosaurs that are alive? What an idiot.
In that same classroom, there was this other young fella who coolly asserted that when he grew up, he wanted to be a pimp. This brought the house down once again, because when you're in third grade, "pimp" is still sort of a naughty word, but one that you can get away with saying because it's so prevalent on the MTV -- what with the way the kids love the hip-hop and the 50 Cent and everything.
When the ruckus subsided, I excused the boy for the day. Everyone knows that you don't need an education to be a pimp, and I've never been one to stand in the way of a dream.
Then there was this other student who said that when he grows up and has kids, he hopes that his children will "have more aspects of Jewish and Asian culture." He went on to say, "I wish they'd get up earlier in the morning; I wish they would work harder...that's what we do see out of many of the Asian and the Jewish culture."
Oh, I'm sorry, that wasn't a third-grade child. That was the governor!
Bill Owens says the darnedest things.
Imagine this: You're the governor of a state that people already think is pretty crazy (see: Columbine, Kobe, Granby, CU, Focus on the Family), and someone with whom you have some sort of political relationship -- let's say it was a former governor...oh, what the hell, let's say it was Dick Lamm -- decides to sound off at the Vail Symposium by pronouncing: "I think there are cultural factors in the success rate of Asians and a cultural factor in the dropout rate of Hispanics.... I believe Asian and Jewish culture sends signals that do lead to success, and Hispanic culture doesn't put the same emphasis on a whole list of things like frugality, risk, entrepreneurship, innovation." How would you respond?
If you said "Keep your mouth shut and let Dick Lamm deal with the firestorm solo," you were absolutely right! Expect your congratulatory 8 x 10 signed glossy of What's So Funny in the mail shortly. Owens, however, did no such thing. Instead, he went on the radio and decided to gnaw on his own foot for a while. (Somebody make sure to give his spokesman a raise.)
"My kids are all Anglo -- they're Irish, English -- and they're wonderful kids, and I wish they'd work a little harder sometimes," Owens said on Mike Rosen's show last Thursday. "Sometimes I wish I had some more of those traits. So I don't think Dick Lamm was being in any way racist, and I think some of the response to him has been knee-jerk. I think that we need to have a debate on what it is about certain backgrounds that leads to more success."
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I don't know if that's such a good idea, Mr. Owens. During the Jim Crow era, the Ku Klux Klan used to have midnight "debates" like that all the time, but they never really seemed to get anywhere. And the flaming crosses kept people up all sorts of wacky hours.
Speaking as a reluctant half-Jew, Mr. Owens, your comments offend me to my very Eastern European core. I come from this same background that you seem to think encourages success, but nobody in their right mind would consider me anything even close to that. You know what I had for breakfast today? Leaves. That was all I could afford. Does that seem like success to you?
Maybe I'm misreading you, Bill. (May I call you Bill?) Because it sounds like your lazy-ass children are the issue here. Well, I have a solution: Send your kids What's So Funny's way, and I'll put them to work. I will work your offspring like they were producing cheap toys for Wal-Mart in the sweatiest of Asian sweatshops, an environment that, as you well know, encourages nothing but success. And after a little time working for me, I'm quite confident that they'll shape up just fine. Problem solved!
Now, what are we going to do about all these lazy Hispanics, Bill?