Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No Congress Left Behind

We test our students to see if they are knowledgeable enough to become citizens.  We should test the members of our Congress to see if they are fit for duty.  A basic understanding of law, economics, military arts, and science should be required in order to govern.  Those that can not pass such a basic skills and knowledge test should either be given remedial instruction, or be denied office.

A broken institution?
We Think They Stink

In the House of Representatives, our 112th Congress read the U.S. Constitution aloud.  It was a symbolic way to show the people that Congress was aware of the rules they governed under.  It was a statement that we are a nation of laws, not men.

In the reading, they claimed they would not fall short.  They claimed they would not kick the can down the road.  They claimed they would end business as usual and carry out the people's instructions.  Most of us think they failed. Miserably.

Congress has an abysmal rating among citizens.  82% of us think they are doing a rotten job.  Maybe if we had more knowledgeable people in Congress, we could get their approval rating to a stellar high of 50%?  You need about a 65% rating to graduate from high school.  Our standards for Congress have sunk so low.

Congress's behind is the butt of jokes.
No Child Left Behind

In 2001 Geo. Bush the junior signed his proposed bill into law called “No Child Left Behind Act”.  This law required states to test children in order to receive federal funding for schools.  Each state was to create and administer an annual test to its students. Each year the students must do better than the year before on their tests.

The goal of “No Child Left Behind” was to increase accountability of schools.  Since most of us do not think our government is being held accountable, perhaps a dose of their own medicine would help Congress be better?

What To Test?

How many of today's Congress people
could measure up to these standards?
The issues that confront us today require leaders who know the details.  Not all of Senators and Representatives need to be experts in every subject.  There should be some minimal baseline of knowledge that each and every member has.

Knowledge of the Constitution is a starting point.  Being able to identify the various governmental departments, their budgets and mission would be another.  An understanding of the law would not hurt.  I'm not as worried about this part of the test as about a 40% of them are lawyers.

A basic understanding of the scientific method is crucial in this modern age.  Some questions on basic biology, chemistry and physics wouldn't be bad either.  How can we have leaders able to cope with our high tech world if they don't understand the fundamentals that make it up?  Among the 435 members of the House there is one physicist, one chemist, one microbiologist, six engineers and nearly two dozen representatives with medical training.

Economics is another area that seems lacking in today's Congress.  An understanding of basic accounting, micro and macro economics seems essential to having good government.  We may not need Nobel laureates, but the basic understanding that budgets have to balance would be nice.  Each and every member should know that the government has to pay its bills on time or we all lose our credit rating.

How many leaders have even been
on an aircraft carrier?
In high school, I was required to know all 50 states and capitals by heart.  Perhaps our Congress people should know all 200+ countries, their leaders, location, capitals, and basic political structures?  As the leaders of the world, our Congress should be very knowledgeable about it.

Few who join the armed services want to let loose the dogs of war.  Veterans tend to be more cautious with use of military force.  Perhaps we should require all Congress people to go through basic training?   Baring that step, they should at least have a good understanding of military doctrine, weapon systems, and the weaknesses our military has.

There are more things we could test for, but these might make a good start.

Time out for ignorance.
Expect More

There are of course details to work out.  Who would write the test?  Who would administer it?  Should we test before they can declare candidacy?  What if they fail the test after they are in office?  These kinds of questions did not stop us from expecting more from our schools.  They should not stop us from expecting more from Congress.

Perhaps the Supreme Court can create the test?  Perhaps the President can administer it?  Perhaps states that keep electing people who fail the test should be put on probation like college athletic programs when they have scandals?

I will acknowledge my intent is a bit satirical.  There may, however, be some grain of wisdom in the idea that we need to objectively measure Congress's performance.  Starting off with measuring individual members might not be a bad way to begin.

1 comment:

  1. I think that this is a good idea but it should be extended to all state Legislators as well.