What Our Kids Could Teach Washington

April 29, 2013

Jen Anesi UpdatedMy 7-year-old attends the afterschool program at his elementary school, and he loves it. When I arrive to pick him up after work, he’s often out of breath from running his tush off on the playground. Or, if the weather is bad, he’ll instead greet me with a mountain of freshly folded paper airplanes that I am absolutely not allowed to throw away. Ever.

He usually spends an hour and a half there at the end of the school day, so when I arrived early to pick him up last week, he begged me to let him stay long enough to play a few minutes of whatever game they were organizing next. I said sure, patted his sweaty head, and took a seat cross-legged in the corner of the gym to watch.

What happened next stunned me. Within seconds, two dozen kids had assembled themselves in a circle in the center of the gym. An older child, who was serving as the elected gym monitor for the day, easily quieted the group and then asked for suggestions for the next game. He took note, picked the top three choices from their suggestions, and called for a vote. By a show of hands, the grade-school children, some of whom were as young as 5, voted for kickball.

Nobody whined and stomped their feet because they didn’t get their way, and nobody gloated. They knew the game had been chosen fairly, and even the kids who didn’t really want to play kickball played anyway, because they knew it would have been poor sportsmanship not to. They knew their voices had been heard, and that was good enough for them.

So I sat there, staring wide-eyed at this group of schoolchildren who had just demonstrated how a republic is supposed to work. And then I got mad, because if these kids can figure it out and execute it so flawlessly, why can’t our leaders and elected officials in Washington?

Fed Up With Feds

I don’t know many folks who aren’t disenchanted with politics in Washington right now. Contrary to the kickball-playing group of kids, it seems like Congress can’t agree on much these days — at least not in any timely fashion. And definitely not without a lot of whining, name calling, finger pointing, and foot stomping.

I could cite a plethora of examples of Washington’s ineptitude lately, but I’ll start with this one: sequestration. Now, whether you think the spending cuts were necessary or not, I think most would agree that sequestration was probably not the smartest way to curb spending and reduce our debt, and it all came about because Congress simply refused to work together.

There is a lot of fat to be trimmed from the federal budget, for sure, but across-the-board slicing cuts away the good with the bad. This includes spending cuts to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that could directly affect the HVACR industry, though only time will tell what — and how severe — those effects will be.

Of course, the inability to work with others to get things done does not apply only to our elected officials, as the ongoing regional standards debacle has proven. As this issue goes to print, the settlement agreement between the DOE and the American Public Gas Association (APGA) has yet to be accepted by the court, several months after the two entities reached the agreement, and the May 1 implementation deadline for nonweatherized furnaces still stands. But don’t fret — the DOE recently declared they simply won’t enforce the standards until the court issues a ruling. Poof. Just like that. I really can’t be the only one smacking herself in the forehead with every new development in this ongoing saga.

So, what’s the solution? How do we make the people running our country work together more efficiently? I have no idea. What I do know is that it seems the art of compromising and working together has long since been forgotten in Washington, and that’s scary, to say the least. Maybe what Washington really needs is a day on the playground with a group of elementary schoolchildren. Those kids could definitely teach our country’s leaders a thing or two about compromise, teamwork, and how to gracefully accept a loss.

Publication date: 4/29/2013 

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