April 27, 2012

Last week, Outlook published its fourth annual spring cleaning feature, in which 10 writers suggested things the world would be better off without: the all-volunteer military, premium gas, home equity loans, the 3 p.m. school day, chick flicks, the Cabinet, software patents, the social kiss, brainstorming and grades. In an online poll with more than 2,000 votes, readers said that, of those items, the all-volunteer military most deserved to be thrown out. In his essay, Thomas E. Ricks argued that reestablishing the draft would make the country more hesitant to go to war.

We also asked readers for their responses and ideas for what else we should get rid of. Susan Altman of Washington suggested that instead of a draft, we should institute a 5 percent tax increase “that would automatically take effect should Congress formally declare war, or if more than 2,000 U.S. troops are deployed to a combat zone for more than 18 months.” She writes that this would “force our political leaders and the public at large to face the possibility of having to pay a real political and financial price should visions of a quick, easy victory not pan out.”

We also got some creative responses, including a plea to terminate employee evaluations. One reader, who asked that his comments remain anonymous so as not to affect his next performance review, wrote: “The worst problem with employee evaluations is that the evaluator (the boss) usually cannot do the job of the employee he’s evaluating, and so can’t really offer an accurate critique.”

Doreen Stapleton of Wintergreen, Va., said inspiration sprang forward after reading Peter Orszag’s item arguing that the 3 p.m. school day is an antique from our farm-centric past: She thinks we should end daylight saving time. “The change twice a year to fiddle with the waning hours of daylight is yet another adaptation made for an agrarian lifestyle,” she writes.

One reader wanted to know how Orszag suggests that strapped school districts find the money to extend the school day to 5 or 6 p.m.: “Of course our students would benefit from ‘more time on task,’ but unless he is willing to identify a new revenue source to support the change, Orszag’s suggestion sounds well, naive.”

Scot Stone, a federal worker from Washington, wants to abolish the government’s workplace charity drive, the Combined Federal Campaign. “We now have metal detectors and armed guards at the entrance to federal buildings, so we no longer need to worry about charitable solicitors roaming the halls interrupting people who are trying to do their jobs,” Stone writes. “Federal workers do, however, have to worry about being barraged with internal e-mails encouraging them to make a donation or attend time-wasting CFC-related events.”

Serena Wilson of Great Falls isn’t clowning around: She thinks parents and children should focus on fun at birthday parties, not favors. “Let’s all agree to ban the ‘goody bag’ concept,” she writes, “and bring our children back to the day when they went to a party simply to celebrate another child’s birthday, not to get a payoff at the end of the day.”

Without goody bags, after all, there’ll be fewer things to toss out the next time you do your spring cleaning.

Outlook editors

outlook@washpost.com

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