What Answers?

I feel like opening a can of worms, so I’m going to talk politics. Well sort of. You see, I’m sick of politics and the rhetoric that’s spewed from both sides of the aisle bloated by promises that are seemingly never even meant to be fulfilled. The problem I (and others) face, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be enough information about how things are actually knotted up to be able to weave through the muck and start working on solutions. Perhaps an example is in order.

I follow Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog and the other day he posted this bit of a CNN article for comment. It was a powerful article about a mom who was trying to provide for her kids and was found guilty of fraud. Regardless of what you think of her decisions or the decisions of the school district the story highlights the reality that access to a quality education is not uniformly available across the United States. As these types of conversations unfolds, however, I inevitably hear answers that trickle into predictable categories.

“The disctrict with resources should be willing to give to the district that is lacking.”

“The mom should have gone through other channels to provide legally for her family.”

“Move districts or provide more choice!”

“Funding for schools needs to be handled on the Federal level to guarantee equity.”

And what happens next is that everyone picks a side, and if you’re answers even SNIFF like my opposition then I have immediately categorized your entire outlook on everything, and nothing gets done. This might now be a huge problem sitting around talking with friends about the world (although I think that might be where it’s even more detrimental), but when the people who are in charge of working on these problems and shaping policy do the same thing then nothing gets done.

So how do we work our way out of this mess? I don’t know exactly, but I think that there are two things that must be a part of working toward the solution.

1. We must begin by seeing the end. In the largest of problems, it seems prudent to imagine what it would look like if we could start from scratch. How would things be different and how would they look when they are fully functioning and running smoothly? Such imagination breaks us out of the standard answers and moves us toward new, although riskier, solutions.

2. Context. Too often our solutions to these answers live in the clouds of theory and forget to consider the context of the situation. What works in location (a) might be a huge failure in location (b).

So I’d love to experiment with this, taking the CNN article above and the question of the education system in the United States,

“What would our education system look like if you could start the whole thing over, and how might the context of the situation influence your decisions?”


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