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Over the years, I have become a bit dismayed by what I feel to be a rising tide of impropriety among those representing us in Congress. As such, I was not at all surprised to learn about the activities of lobbyist extraordinaire, the now infamous... Jack Abramoff. As a result of the ongoing scandal, I began wondering what our schools might be like if they were to be run like that of congress, that is, if students, with cash-in-hand, were allowed to run rampant through campus corridors conducting themselves like their counterparts on Capitol Hill, students lobbying their teachers for better grades.
It has always been my opinion that there is something inherently wrong with the practice of giving lobbyists the right to buy congressmen's votes, allowing them to bribe congressmen by giving them money if they promise to vote the way they want them to, while threatening to punish them (by not giving them money) if congressmen do not do as they have been told. Really now, what an insane way to govern a country, something akin to opening the doors of a whorehouse to a wild rage of dangerous sexual predators! As a result, various legislators have attempted to pass laws that might regulate the way congress is run, laws that would make it a bit more difficult for the more unscrupulous to govern via cash handouts rather than following the lead of those who voted for them in the first place. However, not to ignore the fact that lobbyists do serve a legitimate function, congressmen, no doubt, need the specialized knowledge and expert guidance of the professional lobbyist. Such an arrangement enables congressmen to better understand the rather complicated nature of the various issues set before them. But to allow congressmen to be "paid off" by lobbyists makes no sense at all. The power to persuade should depend upon the legitimacy, the substance, the essential wisdom of the lobbyists' ideas, not how much cash can be crammed into the secret compartments of a lobbyist's briefcase!
However, I seriously doubt if congress will ever get to the point of passing a law that prohibits the transfer of cash from lobbyists to congressmen, since such legislation would make it rather difficult for congressmen to pay the expenses for their occasional sabbaticals to St. Andrews as well as other places around the world.... much less the opportunity to obtain a rather cushy job once they've been booted out of office? Alas, perhaps such a law will never see the light of day.
Now, with your permission, allow me a rather minor flight of fancy. For just a moment, pretend that a Superintendent of Schools, an admirer of congress' way of getting things done, believes that it would be prudent to run the district's schools like that of congress. The speech to the school board would likely proceed as follows:
"Given the fact that our students are our best customers, and that their parents spend a great deal of their own, rather hard-earned, money for the purpose of assuring that their children will obtain a first-rate education, tonight, I am proposing a brand new program, one that will allow our students, the sons and daughters of our district's parents, to play a more significant role in what they learn, and how their grades will be determined. I am proposing that students be granted the opportunity to donate money to their teachers, a practice that will ensure that students receive the grade they actually deserve. However, in order to guarantee that such a program will not be abused, I am proposing an upper limit as to how much money students will be allowed to donate to their teachers; one thousand dollars per student per class. But not to worry, I am quite certain that we can rest assured that our teachers, like those of our congressmen, are just brimming with integrity, and would, under no circumstances, allow their judgment to be clouded by the amount of money they end up receiving from their students."
"Such a plan would be good for our schools, since it would tend to resolve the problem of how out of step our educational program has become in regard to the realities of everyday life. You see, allowing students the right to give money to their teachers would be a wonderful lesson for our students, one that would enable them to learn, in a first-hand manner, how the real world really does, in fact, work."
"For example, our poorer students would be taught that they do not need to donate money to their teachers, since their parents, no doubt, lack the available funds. And then for students, whose parents have plenty of money, perhaps even enough to burn, well, they would be taught what a blessing it is to be able to share what they have with others, and that such donations are a really wonderful way for them to express their appreciation for a job well done. And then, of course, for those students who are rather crafty, have a natural gift for gab, are impressive, and have the ability to get along well with others; well, they would be afforded the opportunity to go about the school as lobbyists, assisting other students in their efforts to obtain better grades. No doubt such activities would enable students to achieve an improved understanding of how their parents go about using each other in everyday life in order to do what they have to do in order to get things done. Such practical application of knowledge would be especially appropriate for those considering a career in the field of law!"
"Overall then, I do believe that you would have to agree with me that such a plan makes a great deal of sense, and would no doubt be of great benefit to everyone in our school district. Teachers would benefit by being paid what they are, in fact, worth, as well as being paid by those who, no doubt, have the wherewithal, the 'wealth of knowledge' to determine the real worth of teachers. Parents would benefit, since they would no longer be required to pay a local school tax. Instead, parents would be allowed to pay on a kind of 'come as you go' basis, sort of like a 'user tax' the more a teacher is used, the more the parents will be expected to pay. But most important, such a program will enable our young people, our most precious resource, the future leaders of a fine nation, to understand that, There is no free lunch, and that, as adults, you will be expected to pay for everything you get out of life!"
Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D. [send him email] is a Psychologist based in Wharton, TX. Doug writes a column at www.populistamerica.com