"The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place." Friedrich Nietzsche
Few recent controversies have sparked such passion as all-day kindergarten. Problem is, we're working on the wrong problem and, therefore, will arrive at the wrong solution.
Some politicians and academicians say some American children do not do as well on tests as they used to or as well as some foreign children. Thus, because the school system is the cause, we need all-day kindergarten. This reasoning is what Aristotle called a "material fallacy." It is the fallacy of founding one conclusion on another, each of which need as much proving as the other. In this case, the two conclusions are "the school system is the cause" and "We need all-day kindergarten."
The graduation rate at Carson high is around 86 percent. If we can agree that high school graduation is a rough measure of academic success, children would fail at a rate of 14 percent. Assuming that the absence of all-day kindergarten is the cause of adverse test scores, then all-day kindergarten should decrease or eliminate the academic gap between previous test results and foreign and American children.
However, there are studies that report whatever one wants to believe about all-day kindergarten. Choose the one that fits your belief system because they may report any one of three conclusions by affirming, negating or casting doubt on the effects of all-day kindergarten. To my knowledge, few if any, show a direct cause-and-effect relationship between all-day kindergarten and high school graduation. Generally, they show no lasting connection, while others merely suggest or infer such a connection.
Indeed, if all-day kindergarten would improve the graduation rate, wouldn't it be foolish to spend money for all-day kindergarten on 86 percent of students who are not part of the problem and will graduate anyway and, thus, do not need it? Wouldn't it be more sensible to spend our money on only that 14 percent of children who are not expected to graduate?
I have a hunch that the thinking of many people is headed in that direction.
The difference between test scores may define a possible problem. Yet simply because there is a difference does not make it a problem worth solving. Differences must be proven to be of such adverse consequence as to commit resources to find cause.
We seem to be caught in a "Nevada is always the worst" mind-set. We try to "quick solve" our problems and "jump to cause" even though the cause has not been proven. Perhaps our dysfunctional method of problem solving is why Nevada resides at the bottom of the academic heap as well as other heaps.
So, what is the real problem? Politicians should start with a reasoned approach using problem analysis to define the difference between children who graduate and those who do not and then work toward finding the real cause of why children drop out of high school.
Thoughts on the
Back in the 70s, when the old Ormsby House was in full swing, I and a bunch of friends had been drinking for several hours in the local hangout, the Old Corner Bar. It was a weekend. I had removed the front seat from an old Plymouth I was restoring and put a folding chair on the driver's side so I could drive without reinstalling the seats. That was my first judgmental error. Each time I would step on the gas or turn a corner, the folding chair would rear backward or tip sideward so that I had to hold onto the steering wheel to keep from losing control.
The next error in judgement was sometime around two o'clock in the morning, leaving the Old Corner Bar after having imbibed a large number of beers, getting into that antique death trap and attempting to drive home at about 5 mph without headlights. I was stopped directly in front of the capital building, given a field sobriety test, found "intoxicated" and told to get that piece of junk off the street within the next 10 minutes. I did.
Back then, many drove while drinking. Cultural standards allowed it.
Times have changed. Standards have changed. We don't do it anymore. The same behavior done in the 70s, while not any more justifiable, is not acceptable today and for a very good reason. Now, when we make judgements about what to do, we compare our intent with the prevailing standards of the day, not those of yesterday.
Even though we may be outstanding citizens and may be doing well in one part of our lives, this does not justify whatever abuse we do in another part of our lives, even though it may be a simple laps in judgement. Yet should one bad deed destroy our opportunity to continue the good we do? Of course not.
Still, we cannot sweep serious lapses in judgement under the table, especially those that could cause serious harm to innocent others. Aside from legal issues, there are natural and logical consequences that should apply now just as they should have back then.
As we have heard many times, public figures carry higher responsibility because of increased visibility and power to influence community behavior and, thus, a greater risk that their misdeeds may be modeled and used by others to justifying like behavior. While this heightened level of responsibility may carry a higher degree of self control and related stress, it goes with the territory.
Our community is fighting a great battle with both child and adult methamphetamine addiction. In this context, it's important that we not deal with the meth problem while ignoring the alcohol problem.
Yet that's exactly what we are doing if we sweep under the table the natural consequences of driving under the influence of a drug, any mind or response altering drug, simply because of an apology and because great good is being done otherwise.
Accountability and responsibility are bedfellows.
• Dan Mooney is a frequent contributor to the Appeal Opinion page