Hey Congress: Pull Up Your Big Boy Breeches

Hey Congress: Pull Up Your Big Boy Breeches February 28, 2011

Having children from New York public schools sing was a nice finishing touch at the Oscars. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a favorite of many people, particularly those who remember when Judy Garland sang it. But make no mistake about it – there was a message embedded in that number: If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh why can’t I?

The answer, dear children, is because the grown-ups are fussing over money, again. This time it’s a big school-yard brawl with bullies on all sides, including the press, as some third-graders in Arlington, Texas have learned.

The school district in Arlington is facing a $48 million shortfall. Just imagine trying to save up that much money in your lifetime. Bill Gates and Oprah might be able to do that, but all the rest of us might as well try pushing a dead elephant uphill all by our lonesome. It’s plumb near impossible.

But that didn’t stop two third-graders from trying. Silly kids, always trying to change the world. They haven’t yet learned to give up on their dreams. These girls, good friends, got together and held a bake sale. They stayed up all night long on Friday night cooking and held the bake sale on Saturday morning. They called it “Cookies for Cuts.” Their goal was to raise $400 but as kids are prone to do, they blew that to smithereens. They raised a whopping $1296! (Makes a person wonder if perhaps we ought to put third-graders in charge of Congress and the budget. We should send all those politicians back to school where they could study up on what it really means to be a good citizen).

When the local TV station heard about what these girls were doing, they sent their reporters out to interview them. The girls made the evening news, which sort of make them mini-celebrities in their neighborhood, which doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans. It won’t help a kid pass the state assessment test or ensure that her favorite teacher won’t be out a job next year. But it’s always nice to recognized for doing good things, and beats the heckabus out of having your third-grade mug displayed for doing something bad.

But then one of those Big City TV shows heard about the good deed and they wanted to tell the rest of world about it on one of their Sunday morning news shows. They called the girls’ moms for a pre-interview. In the news business that means they were trying to figure out the “hook” for the story. How could they tie in what was happening in Arlington, Texas, to the bigger story of what’s happening in the rest of the nation?

The reporter asked one of the moms if she had turned the money over the school district yet.

“No. Not yet,” the mom said, explaining that they had requested a meeting with the district folks to do that.

“So you’re saying the school board is ignoring you?” the reporter asked.

Well, for pity’s sake, nobody ever said any such thing. That reporter was making stuff up, the way writers do sometimes for the sake of a good story. But kids understand things grown-ups rarely do – there’s a difference between a writer who writes for fun and a reporter who is supposed to tell what’s happening for real and not make it up.

Thankfully, this mama knew full-well the difference. She tried to set the reporter straight: “No, they aren’t ignoring us. They’re in the middle of working on their budget crises and I fully support the school boards and want to work with them on this.”

But the reporter, she didn’t like that answer. She had it set in her mind how she wanted the story to go and she was intent on making it happen. You know how it is when two of your friends get in a tift with each other and one of them comes to you and says “You have to choose between her or me?”

That’s what the reporter was trying to get these moms to do – choose between the school board or the teachers unions. She was bullying these moms. Now it’s bad enough when kids who don’t know better, or even ones who do, act the bully. But when grown-ups do it, well, gosh, that’s just pitiful.

It makes a person want to drop to their knees and pray, which is exactly what these good mamas did. They prayed and decided that Big City TV show could just stay the heck out of Texas. They didn’t want their daughters’ good deeds exploited for the sake of a headline.

It’s ugly enough the way politicians are pushing the teachers around, threatening to take their jobs unless they do what they tell them to do. You kids understand how hard your teachers work, how much they care about you, and how school often becomes your home away from home.

Given all that’s going on behind the schoolhouse doors, it’s pretty wonderful that these third-graders pulled on their big-girl panties and did what the politicians are all failing to do – they found a creative way to raise some money.

Congress needs to take a lesson from these girls. It’s time they pulled up their big-boy breeches and got to work doing something constructive, instead of picking fights all the time.

Didn’t your mamas teach you anything?


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