Anyone who has spent any time in government – especially in a role that offers a chance to develop policy – has acquired a loathing for the person who looks at a brief news report of your effort and says, “Well, that’s a stupid idea!”
And, if pressed to offer his own solution to immigration or nuclear proliferation or Iran, he’ll start by saying, “All you gotta do is …”
Well, you can take it to the bank: there are no simple solutions to complex problems.
Recently, Amtrak has taken a lot of heat for its new policy covering unaccompanied minors.
Old policy: the kids traveling alone couldn’t be under eight years old.
New Policy: Any kid under age 13, must be accompanied by someone at least 18 years old.
This has seemingly brought the Wrath of God down upon Amtrak and much of the criticism has started and ended with: “Well, that’s a stupid idea!”
But there is no simple answer to this issue. Some eight year olds are perfectly capable of traveling alone on a train; others are not. Not even close. Is it right or fair to put the responsibility for looking after an immature eight-year-old on some Amtrak employee … someone who also has to board passengers, help others detrain, and deal with a myriad other distractions throughout a journey of several hundred miles and perhaps a dozen stops?
And, regardless of age, a great deal depends on how well the parents prepare the kids for their solo journey. Pick any Amtrak conductor or car attendant at random and ask them about this problem and they will roll their eyeballs at some of the criminally careless and, yes, stupid parents who have sent their kids off alone on a train trip. And guess who would be the first to scream for a lawyer in the event something did go wrong!
Still, people are mad at Amtrak over the change. Here’s an idea: instead of referring to this as the “Unaccompanied Minor” rule, maybe Amtrak should give it a more accurate title: the “In Case of Stupid Parent” rule.