The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

August 3, 2013

Congress, kindergarten, what’s the difference?

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Washington is less popular than ...

You fill in the blank.

Congress’ public approval ratings recently plunged to a record low of less than 10 percent. A poll taken in January found Congress was less popular than everything from colonoscopies to cockroaches, from Donald Trump to head lice.

The 113th Congress is on track to become the least productive in history.

As of Thursday, Congress had passed just 23 laws this year, including one that named a bridge and another promoting fishing in Tennessee’s Cumberland River.

In contrast, the House has voted 40 times since 2011 to repeal or at least emasculate the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.”

Mind you this is a measure that has no chance of passing the Senate, effectively rendering it moot, a fact of which the House is well aware. But they keep tilting at that particular windmill nonetheless, while the sequester spending cuts continue and the farm bill and immigration legislation go begging.

Now Congress is on break, taking five weeks off to return to their home districts and avoid the sultry Washington late summer.

Washington is a mess.

Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was heard to say, “Have senators sit down and shut up, OK?” while lawmakers were noisily conversing while one of their colleagues was attempting to speak.

Things have gotten so bad in Washington that Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma’s junior senator, on Thursday compared the nation’s capital to a “kindergarten.”

“We are a mess,” Coburn said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, “I call it the kindergarten in Washington.”

Kindergartners across the nation should be offended by that remark.

Kindergarten is an important time in a child’s life, the first foray into “real” school, breaking away from mom or day care and joining the big kids.

I remember kindergarten for two things — milk and cookies, and naps. I guess that is three things, which I really should have learned in kindergarten.

It was kind of an introduction to school. We learned to share, to follow orders, to get along with others and to listen to the teacher.

There were a lot of rules to remember. Don’t hit, don’t bite, don’t cry, raise your hand if you have to go to the bathroom, be nice to everybody whether you like them or not, and, during nap time, even if you are not sleepy, lie still and be quiet.

These days, that’s not enough. Kindergarten also teaches students some of the basic skills needed to read, write and do math.

The website Family Education lists several things today’s kindergartner is expected to do.

Recognize and form upper and lower case letters and match sounds to each letter.

Recognize and use rhyming words. Identify, draw, cut and name squares, circles, triangles, ovals, diamonds and rectangles. Use their five senses to make simple scientific observations. Count, recognize and write the numbers up to 20. Understand how people in communities work together.

That last one is one lesson Congress obviously has not learned.

If kindergartners were as recalcitrant, bull-headed, obstinate and uncooperative as Congress, they would be made to stand in the corner, without their milk and cookies.

If Congress was, indeed, a kindergarten, the entire class would be receiving a failing grade, and each report card would contain the words I used to dread “is not working up to his/her potential.”

If Congress was, indeed, a kindergarten, the only subjects they could master would be milk and cookies and nap time, which aren’t even part of most modern kindergarten classes.

Please, Sen. Coburn, don’t denigrate kindergarten by comparing it to Congress. Children in kindergarten will eventually grow up and accomplish something. We can’t say the same about Congress.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at