The Jefferson Memorial. (Astrid Riecken/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

You and 500,000 students on their spring break school group trips to Washington are sitting somewhere on the Tidal Basin under the wilting cherry trees. You are beginning to wilt yourself. You know that you are leading the right school group because you are all wearing neon orange shirts that give you the general appearance of a prison convoy. You feel like a prison convoy. If government has no other purpose, you think, it is to keep you from losing all sanity and faith in mankind during the annual visit to the nation’s capital by distracting the kids with dinosaurs and spaceships. You are almost ready to pay $20 apiece for them to go to the Spy Museum, but you worry that this would be admitting defeat and might be difficult to relate to the curriculum later.

“Can we go swimming in the Potomac?” Susie yells.

“Is there a compelling reason that all these cops are on Segways?” you respond, but then several students start toward the water and you have to drag them back.

“Why can’t we go to the museum?” someone asks again.

You worried this would happen. You tried to prepare. But you secretly hoped that somehow, before you arrived, the impending government shutdown might be averted. Have no fear — I’m here to help!

As in cases of divorce, your school group secretly worries that the shutdown was their fault. Do not immediately reassure them that it wasn’t. The vague guilt might inspire them to be more dedicated to civics!

Try to use simple, logical language to point out why this happened. This will quickly prove impossible, so instead say things like, “When two groups of people don’t love each other very much, they sometimes shut down the government to make a point” and “You know when you and Kevin are assigned a group project but Kevin wants to make a volcano and you want to cut at least 40 billion dollars worth of government spending, and so you don’t turn in the project in time and everyone gets a bad grade? This is like that.”

“But why no museums?” Kevin will repeat.

You will sigh heavily. “What are your favorite parts of the government?”

“I like the parks!” someone will shout.

“The IRS!” weird Susie who wears the green visor will yell.

“What are your least favorite parts of the government?” you will ask.

“Congress,” someone will yell. “Statistically speaking, it is the most unpopular and least trusted portion of government!”

“The TSA!” Billy will add. “They confiscated my collection of liquids!”

“Well, those are the ones that will stay open.”

A flurry of indignation will ensue. “Why is the government only shutting down the cool things?” everyone will ask. “How does that make sense?”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder?” you’ll say, nervously. The Out of Many textbook you used did not go up to the 1996 shutdown, so you are frantically trying to remember something about the Whiskey Rebellion that you think could be relevant in case anyone asks a follow-up question. You are drawing a blank.

“But why would they do that when it will make everyone mad at them?” Billy will ask.

“Well, there’s a movement called the Tea Party — ” you begin. Billy looks confused.

“Why don’t we try the Spy Museum?” you say.