Remember the ads in which actors…er, people…would enthusiastically do demeaning things for Klondike Bars? You know, ads like this one, in which Shakespeare stoops to writing a TV sitcom in exchange for one of those chocolate-encrusted ice cream blocks?
The message, of course, was that the Bard and all the other Klondike-cravers took the deals for the dessert, not, obviously, for the love of what they were being bribed to do. They just wanted the reward – even the biggest idiot understood that.
Sadly, it seems that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan might be hoping that the public is dumber than the biggest idiot. In a recent interview, he talked as if there might actually be states suddenly making education changes needed to get part of his $5-billion “Race to the Top” fund not because they want the money, but because the reforms are the right thing to do.
“It’s really not about the money - it’s about pushing a strong reform agenda that’s going to improve student achievement,” he said. “We’re going to invest in those states that aren’t just talking the talk but that are walking the walk….If folks are doing this to chase money, it’s for the wrong reasons.”
Only in politics would you bribe people to act, then declare that they’d better not be acting just to get the bribe. But you wouldn’t want the public realizing that politicians and bureaucrats are just as selfish as corporate titans or swindlers, would you?
The problem Duncan is trying to deal with, of course, is convincing the public that reforms coerced with Race-to-the-Top dollars will stay in place after the one-shot-deal bucks are gone. But as even the biggest couch potato knows, Shakespeare simply won’t write for Gary Coleman if there’s no ice cream at the end.