“Giving back” is a tiresome cliche, but you’d be surprised how many people have made it a personal obligation. I’ve met Icahn just casually and yet I know a bit about him. We both attended an unheralded genius factory named Far Rockaway High School. (Three Nobel Prize winners!) He’s just a product of the middle class who was fortunate enough to get a great public education and wants to re-create the conditions that made him a success. This is hardly a moral failing.
As always with the rich, they want things done their way. When it comes to schools, they want either no teachers union or a pleasantly pliable one. I understand. Charter schools are very tough on teachers — a schoolroom version of survival of the fittest. The union is out to protect the weakest teachers, even miserable ones. Like the NRA, the union fears the slippery slope: Ban assault weapons and next it will be handguns. Fire a teacher for poor performance and next comes dismissal for something trivial.
When the rich insist that lower taxes would do wonders for the poor, the orphaned and the grievously widowed, I detect the faint aroma of self-interest. But when they plump for charter schools, the only ulterior motive you can find is that down the road, years from now, society will benefit and so, as night follows day, will they. I can live with that.
America has always had a love-hate relationship with its rich. But lately, there’s been more hate than love.