Political Compromise Makes the World Go 'Round

By Everett, Diana | Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, July-August 2007 | Go to article overview

Political Compromise Makes the World Go 'Round


Everett, Diana, Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators


"All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter."--Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

"People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable. Actually, all human problems, excepting morals, come into the gray areas. Things are not all black and white. There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters."--Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)

"I'm a compromiser and a maneuverer. I try to get 'something.' That's the way our system works."--Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973)

Compromise in any context is often hard to accept. It feels like you are giving up on your ideals. This is especially true in dealing with politics. Legislative and congressional bills can be written with the highest of ideals in mind. By the time the bill progresses through committees and the floor debate process, it can look like a political platypus.

I learned this lesson in 2001 when the Texas legislature passed a law requiring a specific amount of minutes of physical activity for children in elementary grades. In the summer of 2000, I received a phone call from a staff person for one of our state senators. She said the Senator was chairing the Senate Health Committee and had been reading about the childhood obesity problem. The Senator wanted to know if there was anything she could do in her position to address this issue for Texas children. I felt like it was Christmas and I had just received a huge package with a big red bow. I immediately replied, "Yes! We want every student in every grade physically active every day."

TAHPERD members worked with the Senator's staff through the summer of 2000 preparing the text for a bill that was introduced in the 2001 legislative session (Texas' legislature meets every other year). The bill was originally written with the words "physical education" not "physical activity." It required at least 30 minutes per day or 150 minutes per week of physical education for each student in elementary grades.

By the time the bill was passed by the Senate and the House, "physical education" was changed to "physical activity." One legislator stated he could not vote for "physical education" because it would force school districts in his voting area to hire certified physical education teachers. He wanted the words changed to "physical activity."

A caveat was added to allow the State Board of Education to determine if specific minutes would be required and how many. With these compromises, the bill passed the legislature.

It was then put on the agenda for the State Board of Education. They were to decide on specific minutes if any. When the discussion of the bill turned to time, one Board member said the schools in his voting area had physical education every other day for 45 minutes.

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