Transparency in government might be overrated. That’s the interesting argument David Frum makes. He says that in the name of reform, Americans over the past half century have weakened political authority. “Instead of yielding more accountability, however, these reforms have yielded more lobbying, more expense, more delay, and more indecision.”
Here’s a real-world example from the executive branch. Throughout most of American history, presidents and their staffs have been able to hold confidential meetings in the White House complex. The independent counsels who investigated the Clinton White House jolted this traditional understanding by demanding—and getting—access to White House visitor logs.
Frum explains that the George W. Bush administration attempted to restore the traditional confidentiality of White House visitor lists, then people sued to gain access to the logs.
Reformers keep trying to eliminate backroom wheeling and dealing from American governance. What they end up doing instead is eliminating governance itself, not just in the White House but in Congress, too.
This may be true even at the level of school boards. I think it is wonderful that the Fairfax County School Board voted 10-1 to eliminate the weekly Monday early dismissal policy in the elementary schools. I will be writing more about this vote and the debate in the future, since it was very significant.
However, it was so clearly the right decision–and the only logical decision–that the most interesting question might be–what took so long? Could it be that the Fairfax County School Board could use more flexible working arrangements?
Is state law too strict on open meetings? Could backroom wheeling and dealing have gotten this situation fixed years ago?
Clearly most parents did not support the Monday early dismissal policy. Those who complain the decision was made too quickly justify their opposition in the name of “process.”
Perhaps the school board should do a little soul searching about how such a terribly unpopular policy was allowed to drag on year after year. Whatever “process” was in place that served to prop up such a dysfunctional schedule needs to be reevaluated.