What If You Sent Your Kid to Congress?

Richard Olivastro

9/8/2009 3:15:42 PM - Richard Olivastro

Recess is over. As the dog days of summer begin to recede in our nation, children are returning to school, and federal legislators will soon leave their local districts and return to Washington.

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You might want to pause for a moment, and ponder this thought: What if American citizens decided it might actually be better for the country to send our kids to Washington and many incumbent legislators back to school?

After all, one thing just about everyone has learned during this year’s summer recess is that too many incumbent politicos have behaved like, well, spoiled children. Most have repeatedly demonstrated blatant disinterest in listening to and learning from, constituents, interacting only with party chieftains and cronies inside Washington’s beltway.

Experienced educators and concerned parents know that summer recess is not the time to shut down learning and listening. Politicians should know and practice that year round.

In fact, the best practice for everyone is to utilize recess from anything to accomplish more than just play or get away.

Everyone needs opportunities to recharge their mental and physical batteries because that is what fuels our natural curiosity and wonderment, as well as our ability to pursue our quest to gain information and input about our interests and responsibilities. For elected officials, that includes the fundamental responsibility to know and represent constituent preferences or step aside.

For all of us, learning and awareness started when we were young. For example, vacation travel and day trips to national treasures, museums, monuments and landmarks provided our children and ourselves with the opportunity to learn more about America’s founding and subsequent U.S. history we well as experience the natural beauty of our country. We could also learn more about how American farmers fed, initially, our fellow citizens then most of the world; how U.S. industry improved the American way of life; how technology accelerated it all; and much more.

Learning typically starts with either listening or reading, is reinforced with the other, plus study and review, and is further strengthened with interactive, fact-based discussion. In addition to pre-school children’s books and television programs, subsequent phases include:

Inside the classroom, paying attention to the teacher’s presentation is basic and fundamental to the learning process.

Inside the home, paying attention to parents reinforces and provides additional perspective on every topic.

Getting outside the classroom and home to see things and places firsthand helps further personal awareness and learning for all of us.

And, interactively discussing any topic increases insight and understanding on the part of every individual.

Now, apply the above to the following hypothetical scenario:

Suppose you learned that teachers were presenting topics to our children based on material the teachers had never read?

Suppose further, you learned that certain specific principals had asked superintendents, boards of education, PTA’s, etc. to vote to approve changes in curriculum content that none of them had read and reviewed?

And, suppose you realized that all the incumbent teachers, principals, superintendents, board of education members, etc. were pressing to vote approval in a rush-rush-the-sky-is-falling manner?

Yes, I know, you’re thinking, “No way!”

There is simply “no way” you would permit such behaviors to continue.

Unfortunately, that has been the general modus operandi emanating from Washington. The behavior exhibited by elected officials regarding health care reform is just the latest example. That’s why the idea of sending your kid to Washington and sending incumbent legislators back to elementary school just may make more sense than when you first started reading.

Whatever you conclude, here are three certainties:

When children do not listen, it can be a serious problem that affects their learning and personal development.

When adults, who are supposed to represent constituents, do not listen, it is a serious problem that encumbers everyone’s freedom and affects the development of every citizen.

Sending our kids to Washington and many current officials back to school might not be the panacea suggested here. But, in the end, more might learn to listen, and all would have had the opportunity to finally grow up.