PORTLAND, ORE. — School is back in session. And while the information packet I got in the mail contained a few grammatical errors and punctuation problems, I'm not going to play class clown. I won't be making corrections with a red pen and sending the faulty documents back. The fact that all those forms get printed, sorted, stuffed into envelopes, and mailed to the proper addresses (most of the time) is a minor miracle.
High school is different - big surprise - from what I experienced. The official handbook, however, does cover several familiar topics: hall passes, lockers, and dress codes. But then there's this heading: "Latex Policy." If I were an anchor on Comedy Central, this would be my cue to unleash lowbrow one-liners. In fact, the latex policy is about potential allergic reactions. It means the school doesn't allow certain items on campus, such as balloons. I guess that presents another comedy option, but why bother? Making fun of school rules is so yesterday.
None of this means I am opposed to high standards and lofty goals for education. I'm all in favor of maximum return on every tax dollar, but let's not restrict our demands for accountability to academia alone. Another group of public employees called the US Congress is back from summer break, and it occurred to me that these people might operate more efficiently if we forced them to adopt some of the standard operating procedures that schools have used successfully for decades. My list is short and simple.
1. An attendance office should be established immediately, headed by a stern, no-nonsense woman. Let's call her Gail. All senators and representatives will check in with Gail every morning, and she will post the daily roll on a special website so that constituents around the country will know if their legislators are absent or not. After three unexcused absences, Gail will send a warning note to the offending individual, to his or her parents, and to Bill O' Reilly.
2. Field trips will be allowed on a permission-only basis. Details of the proposed trip will be submitted to Gail, who will then work with the Gallup organization to poll a random sample of voters from relevant precincts. If the approval rating for the field trip exceeds 50 percent, permission will be granted.
3. Enact an inspiring overall goal for good measure. My daughter's high school handbook lists five, and the one that jumped out at me states, "Each year, levels of student academic performance will improve." I suggest replacing "student academic performance" with "responsible legislative activity" and tacking it on as a rider to the next appropriations bill.
As promised, it's a brief list. There won't be a test. I'm just trying to help our lawmakers strive for success. Oh, and one more thing in that regard: Be sure to dress nice on picture day.