Eighth graders from St. Mary Magdalen School in Everett, WA are scheduled to board a plane to Washington DC early tomorrow morning, to experience that once in a lifetime civics lesson that only comes from touring our nation's capital.
They planned this trip for about a year, raising thousands of dollars through bake sales, garage sales, and spaghetti feeds, so that all their classmates could benefit from this experience, regardless of their family's financial status. They have been studying US history, our Constitution and our democratic form of government, and even took the US citizenship test to measure how much they had learned. They had planned to visit national museums and monuments. They had arranged to meet with government officials—US Senator Maria Cantwell had planned to give them a personal tour of the Capitol! My nephew Joe had been thrilled to be picked as one of the students who would lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
But of course, thanks to the government shutdown, apart from an expensive plane ride, little of this will now happen. That's $100,000 and a year's worth of hard work and planning down the drain. That's about $2,000 per student and chaperone—a little under half a year's tuition at St. Mary Magdalen—in order to wander aimlessly around our nation's shuttered capital.
I know there are Tea Partiers who are absolutely thrilled by what they have accomplished—I mean, it's only a bunch of lazy government workers who are out on their ass, so no loss, amirite? Well, tell that to the thousands of kids from schools around the US who are descending on our nation's capital this week to learn how the world's oldest democratic republic works... only to discover that, thanks to you and your vindictive anti-Obama obsession, it doesn't.
And that is a bitter lesson in US civics that will politically inform these students for decades to come.