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Good Riddance to the House Page Program

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This week, the U.S. House of Representatives decided to end its nearly 200-year-old page program, citing budget constraints and advancements in technology that made pages unnecessary.

Closing the House Page Program will save about $5 million dollars a year, a pittance given our astronomical debt of more than $14.5 trillion. But it wouldn’t matter if the program cost nothing to maintain. The last several weeks of partisan bickering in Washington have made one thing abundantly clear.

Congress, in its current form, is no place for teens to learn job skills.

For the past two centuries, our nation has sent its brightest saplings to Washington, D.C., for an education in policy-making and the delicate art of reaching across the aisle. Maybe the page program worked wonders in 1832 or 1957, but in 2011 its mission has been completely tarnished through the debt ceiling debate and its dangerous brinkmanship.

Politicians from both parties seemed willing to let our nation default on its debts for the first time ever rather than sit across from each other and find consensus. House pages were no doubt within earshot as Boehner, Cantor, Pelosi, and all the rest fired salvos at each other, one side set against raising taxes, the other determined not to cut entitlements. Even the final deal fell short of everyone’s expectations.

And what does such intransigence teach impressionable high school pages? They certainly didn’t learn to think independently or engage in the tough talk that’s necessary to produce compromise. Sadly, they watched politicians refuse to budge even as the fate of the world economy hung in the balance.

The American people roundly condemned this inaction with descriptors like “disgusting,” “ridiculous,” and “stupid.’”  If a high school received the same marks from a state agency, parents would clamor to pull their children from the building forever.

The same should go for Congress. All teens in the market for a quality internship should look in places where adults conduct themselves like adults, setting positive examples. Students should consider interning at a fire department, rescue squad, non-profit or even local government, where good people can have a lasting effect on young people. That would help us flood the job market with right-minded citizens who understand the value of compromise and how to achieve it.

Congress isn’t just saving money by ending the House Page Program. It’s also saving our sharpest teens from a wasted semester in real-life courses like AP Obstinacy and Advanced Ridiculous Behavior.

So $5 million off the books? That’s a drop in the bucket. Our biggest gain here is never again sticking an ambitious teen in a room with a bunch of politicians who act like children.

Danny Rubin is a member of the Brazen Contributor Network.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Gells

    Amen. Well, said Danny. Though – I do believe that these teens could have learned how to talk out of both sides of their mouth very well from these representatives… Today’s politicians have disgraced the American government.

  • Anonymous

    Ditto to what Gells said — Amen!! I’m still waiting for some kind of apology. Speaking of, did you seek this: “Mo. Mom decries downgrade with plane protest” http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/08/10/national/a072035D57.DTL

  • Someone

    Students should consider interning at a fire department, rescue squad, non-profit or even local government, where good people can have a lasting effect on young people.

    I work with the above as well as being a Page. Both are beneficial in their own ways.

  • Someone

    It is obvious that you are misinformed on what the page program is and you are just using the cancellation of this program as a gateway to express your opinion about congress.

  • http://twitter.com/mattblock Matthew P. Block

    The students who participate in the page program obviously have an interest in government policy and a desire to influence decisions in the future. What better way to learn how to overcome obstinancy and advanced ridiculous behavior than to see the process and action up-close and in-person.
    Seeing a lack of leadership and compromise up close can influence even more to work hard to overcome those barriers in their own careers. It’s the same way with Gen-X parents who coddle their kids as a reaction to the lack of time their parents spent with them, or with Millenials entering the workforce who have no intentions of spending their whole life at the office the way their boss does.
    It’s easy to say no one should be learning from this Congress, but perhaps they can’t teach a very important lesson: how not to be like them.

    • Anonymous

      Matthew, I used the word ‘impressionable’ for a reason. These teens come to DC and idolize the representatives they work under. It would take a pretty savvy 16-year-old to recognize poor behavior while starstruck at the opportunity to work with John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, et al.

      And are you suggesting it’s a good thing that Gen-X parents coddle their kids? I just want teens to learn from balanced, responsible adults. I can’t promise they would find those people at a non-profit or rescue squad, but right now there is an indisputable lack of civility and leadership in Washington. It’s no place for ‘impressionable’ teens.