Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Fairly Uncivil Civics Lesson

hightowerBy Toby Hightower 

I never was quite willing to give up all teaching after I went into administration at VHS. I always had the idea that it might be a good idea to keep school administrators under lock and key if they got to meddling too much with what teachers were doing. Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Chester, Mrs. Kahn and other teachers always got a little nervous when I started to offer advice on how and what to teach. With them no longer around to keep me under control, I may be a little reckless in offering some comments on civics but I feel a strong need to clarify some ideas on the subject.

Textbooks tell us that we have a two houses type of legislature consisting of a lower House of Reprehensibles and an Upper House called the Sinatures, but if you have ever been to Washington, you know that the whole business looks more like a condominium than a couple of houses. Not exactly houses of ill repute, they are still house of low repute in many quarters.

They are supposed to have something over one hundred and twenty standing committees and that would be a lot of people standing around but they all seemed to be sitting on their fundaments when I was up in Washington for a visit. I think they call them standing committees because they are trying to trick us into believing they are saving money by not buying chairs.

They talk a lot about in-house committees, but you seldom hear them mention an out-house committee. Out houses have sort of gone out of style or maybe been moved inside where they are now called in houses. An in house outhouse is about as modern as you can get without violating EPA rules. People in the congress often talk to chairs and the chairs often talk back to them. This may lead a casual visitor to Washington into believing he has wound up in an insane asylum by mistake. The Chair is now open for questions is a common expression in legislative halls. Chairs often table a discussion when things get hot but I do not know the particulars of how this is done. I am told that it all seems very reasonable once you fully understand it.

Contrary to what you might think from sensible word usage, the vice president is not in charge of vice. Vice is a general responsibility for every member of both houses and everybody seems willing to do his share.

Log rolling is a common activity in both houses, but this has absolutely nothing to do with tree trunks or written records of meetings. Sine die has nothing whatever to do with trigonometry but a good deal to do with lets get out of here and go have a beer when a meeting gets boring or someone mentions fiscal responsibility.

Contrary to what you might think, a steering committee has very little to do with raising cattle or driving a car. Lobbying , on the other hand, is fairly close to the mark.

Congressional protocol is a specified way of behaving that has very little to do with sexual behavior which is generally left up to the individual unless it occurs on the floor of the house or senate. In the House of Representatives, everyone wants to talk at once even though they always elect a Speaker of the House in a futile effort to curb this tendency.

Bills and coups originate in the House of Representatives but the Senate is confined to coups and passing bills originated by the House.

The seating arrangements in the House are a little confusing as the people who are right are on the speakers left and the people who are left are on the right side. Actually the whole group looks better and more sensible when viewed from their rears. Arear with one more r is an unpaid debt but congressmen try hard to conceal their arrears from visitors to the capitol. I can see why because a good look at their arrears is surely a dismal thing.

We have some fine fellows up there in Washington but we like to make a little fun of them now and then to keep them in their places and see to it that they do not get to big for their britches.

We like to follow the lead of Yoga Berra who , when introduced to the King of England, reportedly asked “How ya feeling King?”

I hope all the old VHS teachers would approve of my effort to keep learning alive and well amongst old grads. At the end of the school year at VHS, I offered to hold books and sell them to new students at the start of the next year but one of my students told me he would never sell his chemistry book, When I asked why, he told me he intended to burn it. That is why I am writing about civics instead of chemistry, I suppose.

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