Alright, it’s been way too long. I haven’t posted since June. And I’ve missed it. The process of putting together or trying to put together a coherent blog post on some thought-provoking philosophical subject is one I find very rewarding.
When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar.
Top story popularity wise in the NY Times today - “Shouting Is The New Spanking” - appears in the “Fashion and Style” section but seems not to be recommending shouting as a fashionable nor stylish alternative to spanking. Shouting, we learn, is the recourse of those parents who wouldn’t let themselves spank or don’t want to spank or have no inclination to spank, but nevertheless get so frustrated with their plight as parents from time to time that they boil over and yell.
I’m one of those parents. I fall into the category of “no inclination to spank.” So, I read the piece, hoping to find out that it was perfectly OK to shout at your child from time to time (not so) or that there was an easy remedy to the shouting impulse (not so either).
I was struck by this quote from Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions: “As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior.”
(Ah, hem. Does spanking work to change behavior? Many of its advocates believe it does. And the sad truth is it quite likely affects behavior. Even a young child has enough impulse control or cunning to want to strive to avoid a physical injury. But, of course, at what cost.)
I learned that shouting is a problem I should be concerned about.
Next I found out that parents can be a problem that we might want to do something about. In the Mind section of the Times “When Parents Are Too Toxic To Tolerate” puts forth the argument that our relationship with our parents, those people who brought us into being and raised us in some form or another, might not be worth trying to salvage or put up with.
These two stories are, of course, connected. As a parent we cannot take for granted that we have a right to expect our child’s trust and love. And as a child we needn’t feel obligated to give our parents respect and love. The definition of parent and child imply these things but don’t require them.
Even a couple of generations ago, the preceding paragraph would have been familial heresy. Parents demanded and expected respect. Children believed it was their duty to respect.
And so to the economy. Op Ed columnist Thomas Friedman points to the educational system as a root cause of the current economic crisis (/ crises). Here’s the premise: American workers, in general, aren’t competitive enough because they haven’t been schooled to be creative and innovative. A quote: those who succeed in a tough economy are “actively engaged in developing new ideas or recombining existing technologies or thinking about what new customers want.”
So, the educational system has a problem. It’s not teaching some core skills. And recent national educational policy (no child left behind) seems bent on a different tack - ensuring that children pass basic competency tests.
Here we have three conceptually-related problems: These three issues that haven’t been sufficiently brought to light. In each, old thinking presents an obstacle to a solution.
Which brings me back to the subject line - When Is A Door Not A Door. I like this question because it forces us to reexamine our preconceptions. To challenge notions we hold onto to see whether they’ve been too easily come by. It encourages us to make uncertainty a daily habit.