Guest Column

No Child Wet Behind

by Kenneth Greenbaum

Once upon a time in the land of the Misguided, a crisis arose over the disposal of waste materials. It seems that the legislature of Misguided had concluded that the nation’s disposal systems were failing due to an overabundance of disposable diapers. Legislators decided that higher standards for toilet training had to be established.

The legislators received testimony that the average age of successful toilet training was 27 months and were astounded to discover about 50 percent of the nation’s children weren’t achieving this average. They reasoned the nation’s parents were failing because all children in Misguided should be at least average and insisted parents be held accountable to higher standards of toilet training.

The president of Misguided said the nation was at risk and urged the legislature to pass a law to remedy the situation. The result was the No Child Wet Behind Act, which decreed that within 10 years all children must be toilet trained by the age of 24 months. Even though the current average was 27 months, legislators believed that, with proper attention to training, parents could perform at a higher level, enabling Misguided to attain world-class toilet training status.

Families in Need
To hold parents accountable, the legislation required children would be tested every three months beginning at 90 days after birth. These tests would be standardized and the results would be made public by Misguided’s news media.

Parents failing to make adequate three-month progress would be designated a family in need of improvement. For the first few times parents appeared on the improvement list, they would receive technical assistance in toilet training. A government official would come to their houses and show them research-based techniques for using potty seats. Some children were on the potty seat for the entire day and were even served meals while on the toilet. These children did appear to be toilet trained as most of their eliminations were done on the toilet.

If this approach did not work, government officials were to suggest parents use an invention for toilet training that combined a bed with a toilet so that children could be on the potty day and night. Use of this invention caused children to show positive testing results. Government officials saw this as proof that the toilet training standard could be reached by all children.

If after technical assistance, test results showed that parents were failing to get their children to show appropriate improvement, then children would be placed in the homes of parents who were meeting the standards. Communities that had failing children would no longer receive toilet-training assistance money. Their leaders would be paraded in front of the media and asked to explain why their communities were on the list of communities needing improvement.

A Waste Solution
At first there was some enthusiasm for the No Child Wet Behind Act. Parents of precocious children, who were easily toilet trained early, thought the act was not a problem. Many advantaged communities seemed to be able to avoid the “needs improvement” list.

However, some communities had children who seemed to grow more slowly or who had physical problems. They complained it was not realistic for their children to attain the 24-month standard. The legislators responded that parents in these communities were just making excuses and that all children could be toilet trained.

Most parents agreed all children could be toilet trained, but many were becoming skeptical this could be accomplished by the same age for all children. Over time an increasing number of communities were failing to make adequate three-month progress. By the fifth year of the program almost half the communities had failed.

While an increasing number of citizens were having doubts about the No Child Wet Behind Act, proponents were not deterred. In fact, these proponents were proposing legislation that also would enforce a standard on the expected time when all children should take their first step, say their first word and get their first tooth. Fortunately most citizens of Misguided were not so misguided about human development as to support these new proposals. By the seventh year of the No Child Wet Behind Act, virtually all communities had failed to meet the standard.

Proponents were disappointed and continued to believe that parents were just making excuses. Because there were no successful communities to which failing children could be sent, the No Child Wet Behind Act was eventually repealed. A new president and legislature successfully solved the waste disposal problem by simply applying principles of human growth and development that recognized that individuals develop at widely varying rates.

Ken Greenbaum recently retired as a dual superintendent in Hanover, N.H., and Norwich, Vt. He can be reached at HC 62 Box WT-10, Center Harbor, NH 03226. E-mail: He previously published this commentary in several New Hampshire newspapers.