Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

July 28, 2011

Paint Mixing Machine and The US Congress


                If you’ve ever painted a room, you know the drill.  You pick your color from a paint chip, the store clerk takes a gallon of base, adds the proper drops of tint and puts it in a machine that vigorously and violent shakes it up.  As a result, a few powerful drops of color changes a gallon of paint, which then transforms a room.  As we all watch the stagnation in Congress as they struggle with issues, real and petty, aren’t we all wishing for a bit of a shake-up?

                I am not a political expert, and recognize the issues and practices that got us to this point are complex and layered.  As someone who works with parents, educators, and children, however, I can’t help but think about how adults would respond if the children in our care exhibited the stall tactics, tit for tat attitude, and general immaturity and irresponsibility we are witnessing in our leaders.  Parents of siblings who are engaging in petty bickering over who gets the ball, doll or tv remote are very likely to say words like “the two of you can’t leave this room until you work it out” or “if you can’t stop arguing over it, I guess I’ll have to take it”.  Educators dealing with procrastinating students set deadlines and demand progress.  Adults utilize with great skill the paradigm known in behavior technology as “grandma’s rule” – the basic precept that you can only have cookies after you finish your broccoli.

                Where are Washington’s grown-ups?  I have heard commentators describe Congress as lazy frat boys.  Discussions of beltway time management have centered around the fact that nothing gets done without there being a deadline looming.  I know it is simplistic, but I wish, like in the paint store, we could add a few drops of color to this blah Congress, put it into a machine and shake it up.    I wish for an extreme House makeover – and leadership that can say move that bus . . .  and we will find ourselves in a new place, beyond this stalemate.  Mostly, I think about the impact on American children.  Instead of watching a country draped in exquisite reds, whites and blues, they are witnessing adults behaving so badly they dirty democracy.  

                Next week, when I’ll be in DC for the American Psychological Association convention, I plan on taking a tour of the Capitol.  If I thought it would make a difference, I’d gladly bring a paintbrush.


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