Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This Is How Congress Annoys the Rest of Us

That tweet came over at 4:30, after a long day of Congressional wrangling over the new ESEA. It's a perfectly harmless sort of thing to say after a bunch of work, and it's a perfect example of how government types see things differently than those of us who work for a living.

Let's look at that for a second, and then think about other peoples' work.

I mean, teaching is pretty tough, and the work that goes with it is a challenge to deal with. But I don't remember any of my colleagues ever looking at a new batch of students and saying, "Damn, this looks like a tough bunch to deal with. Let's put it off for seven or eight years."

In fact, you know what has made my job extra tough? All the fallout from a law that set unattainable standards that not a single human being thought could actually be met but, because Congress couldn't do its job, stayed in place and created leverage for even more terrible education pseudo-law.

And it's not just teachers.

Surgeons don't walk into an operating room, look at an injury or illness and say, "Damn, this is going to be hard to deal with. Let's just set it aside for seven or eight years."

Pastors don't look at parishioners who are dealing with extremely tough issues and say, "Wow, this will be hard to deal with. I'll just put it off for seven or eight years."

In fact, pretty much nobody gets up in the morning and says, "My job is going to be really hard to do today. I think I'll just put it off for seven or eight years."

No, for most folks, the rule is , when you have a job to do, you do it, and you do it when it needs to be done. People do hard things every day in this country. Every. Day. Do not give yourselves a ribbon for this.

Look, Congressing is hard. Senatoring is extremely difficult. I couldn't do it (regular readers can confirm that my diplomatic skills are lacking). But you folks signed up for it. You paid good money to be elected. Senators Alexander and Murray should be proud that their committee came closer to accomplishing something that eight years worth of previous Congressy folks.

And I do appreciate-- hugely appreciate-- the attempt to turn ESEA into something less trainwrecky and destructive than NCLB. It's important work, valuable work, work that I'm glad the Senate is doing (even if I disagree with plenty of the substance, I believe they're by and large trying to help).

But the correct thing to say at 4:30 today was, "Thank you for doing the job that we've been failing to do for seven years. On behalf of the several Congresses, we'd like to apologize for failing so long to do this necessary work. We are pleased that we are moving forward, but we are also ashamed that it took us so long to get the job done, while the old bad law continued to wreak havoc on the entire American education system. We are pleased to announce progress, and ashamed that we failed for so long to do so while teachers and students showed up every day to make the best of a bad law that we failed to address. You have done your jobs; now we are going to finally try to do ours."

He might even have added, "Boy, we can be so oblivious to what goes on out in the rest of the country, sometimes!"

That's what Senator Alexander should have had to say at 4:30 today.

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