Tea Party Thinks Minority Students Are ‘Ethnically Challenged’


It seems that the Michigan branch of the Tea Party has finally realized that their past efforts at gaining support was a failure with anyone besides white males. Instead of learning from mistakes, one Tea Partier  thought that he would try to garner support by being politically correct. The result – epic fail.

On January 15th the general public was invited to an event called Citizens Watchdog Training. For a mere $10 participants could hear so-called experts espouse their knowledge on how to expose wrong doings by elected officials. The sponsors of the event was none other than Americans For Prosperty, the Koch brothers super PAC.  Here’s a run down of some of the day’s sessions:

  • Voter fraud? What voter fraud? Updates on Voter Integrity in Michigan
  • Opposition Research: Fun ways to uncover the truth!
  • Saving Education: School choice issues.

While the first two sessions sound more intriguing, the last of the speakers on school choice tried something that is in the least, insensitive, and at the worst, racist. The last speaker for that session, Norm Hughes, thought he was politically correct when speaking on the makeup of students in charter schools. Here’s the transcript of that portion of his talk, recorded by Progress Michigan:

Kids aren’t going to charter schools if they’re “A” students. They go to charter schools because they’re failing students and, by and large, the charter schools have a higher percentage of poor families, ethnically challenged families…

To the casual listener this might seem like he actually cares about these students. However, that’s not the case. First, calling minority students “ethnically challenged” is like saying since they aren’t ethnically European, their ethnic background makes them inferior. Where would he come up with such an idea? More than likely he did his own take on something conservative economist Milton Friedman said decades ago.

Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically restructured. Such a reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system–i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools. The most feasible way to bring about such a transfer from government to private enterprise is to enact in each state a voucher system that enables parents to choose freely the schools their children attend.

The fact is, Norm Hughes doesn’t care about the ethnic makeup of those students. Norm Hughes only wants to further erode public education in Michigan by pumping more public money into private for-profit charter schools. It’s also part of a larger goal to separate teachers from their unions. The following graphic by the conservative Mackinac Center Public Policy demonstrates this.


Norm Hughes is no expert on education. In fact, he’s an architect by trade. And his experience in politics goes back quite far. He was Michigan’s executive director for Ronald Reagan’s unsuccessful 1976 presidential campaign. His work with the campaign gave him several high level positions in Reagan’s administration, including Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, and as the Senior Policy Advisor and Associate Director designate for Emergency Operations at FEMA. More recently, he’s been active with the North Oakland Tea Party Patriots.

This is once more a demonstration of right wing activists being featured as expert speakers on topics they do not really understand. They are put in those positions not because of their expertise on the topic, but instead their ability to indoctrinate the listener. In the case of this speaker, his attempt at sounding smart only resulted in him showing his true agenda – using poor, minority inner city students to push forward right wing propaganda. In this case, the agenda is to squeeze as much money out of public education monies, away from public schools and teachers unions, and into the pockets of charter school profiteers. Sorry, Mr. Hughes. You not only failed this course, but it was an epic fail.