Naked City

Perot shares sage wisdom with Public Ed Committee

When the Public Education Committee reconvened Tuesday, March 15, it was for the first time since the passage of HB 2, the bill from chair Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, that funds property tax breaks on the back of public ed, and paves the way for school privatization. The caterpillar-mustachioed chair often spoke vaguely of the importance of technology, and to that end, drafted HB 4, "relating to the use of technology by public schools." Much like the committee, all hat and no cattle, that day saw perennial presidential spoiler and diminutive billionaire Ross Perot before the board, reeling off quasi-racist homespun homilies as only a Texas senior could.

While top graduates in technical fields like engineering are "primarily from China and India, and … going back to China and India," he said, we face competitive cultural differences: "An educated Chinaman knows 2,000 symbols and can draw them." (This number was later revised to 6,000.) Meanwhile, "the Indian's secret" was learning "up to 12 different dialects … that's a tremendous neuron connector." In a macabre meditation on childrearing that made B.F. Skinner sound like Dr. Spock, Perot said, "If you blindfold a baby at six months, it's blind for life." Apparently some friends have asked for Perot's help in procuring babies from overseas, but the Texarkana native was having none of it. "I've seen these babies coming out of Romania … [at 18 months] they've already missed the wiring period."

But back to technology, where Perot made his bones as an early adopter, he was equally uninformative and entertaining. "You're gonna be amazed at all the technology … Things I thought would never work – a call center in India, talking to Texans?" He did hasten to clarify that "they speak English English, not Texas English."

And just as Grusendorf embraced speakers in support of HB 2 – such as Texas Association of Business president Bill Hammond – while dismissing detractors – namely, every major education entity in the state – the committee bent over backward to congratulate Perot and his support of HB 4. Rookie Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, needed the Tiger Balm worst, saying the state has "no greater friend," no one more "quietly generous." But Perot was not quiet that day. Just as his prescriptions for an intelligent, adjusted childhood – including attention, and little to no TV time – seem at odds with the panacea of technology under the bill, Perot, much like Branch and Grusendorf, sees a mythical Texas of silicon grit and bootstrap gumption, oblivious to the lives left in their wake.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Public Education Committee, HB 2, Kent Grusendorf, HB 4, Ross Perot, Dan Branch

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