Tuesday, May 12, 2015

We Have To Do Something

You are walking down the street with a loved one when suddenly, a stranger in a white lab coat runs up hollering. "Oh my God!! You've got it!!" and shaking your loved one by the shoulders.

"What? What!??" you reply, slightly panic stricken.

"The disease!! The disease!!!" White lab coat replies. The hands now grab your loved one roughly and fling your loved on to the street. "We have to treat this right away," screams WLC. "Also, look at the terrible concussion," pointing to the spot where your loved one's head has smacked into the pavement and blood is now visible. Your loved one is now unconscious.

WLC kneels and starts pulling things out of a satchel. "Here! Quick! Shove these in there!" WLC is instructing you to shove bananas in your loved one's ears. "I"ll get started over here," says WLC, who then pulls out a hacksaw and starts to saw on your loved one's elbow.

"Wait at minute," you yell. "How is any of this going to help? Isn't it dangerous and stupid? Are you even a doctor?"

"Look," says WLC earnestly. "No, I'm not a doctor, and this probably isn't the best course of treatment, and I'm sure we can improve upon it later, but we have to do something!"

Or try this...

You and your family sit down to dinner, and the wait-staff brings out large bows filled with dirt.

"This looks like dirt," you say. "And it seems kind of sparkly. Who made this? Can I speak to the cook?"

One of the waitpersons speaks up. "Actually, I made that. I'm not actually a cook, but I've eaten a lot of food before. And the sparkles are the ground glass I put in it."

"What??!!" You exclaim. "But my family is hungry!"

"Look," says the waitperson earnestly. "I am sure that we will be making better food later and will totally improve on this. But for right now, we have to do something. So go ahead and eat your ground glass and later I'm sure we'll have figured out how to make you a juicy steak."


Adrift in a lifeboat, you notice that water is starting to leak in. You point this out to fellow traveler who immediately starts poking holes in the bottom of the boat. "What the hell are you doing?" you ask.

"Look," your fellow traveler says. "We have to do something!"


The whole "Yeah, the Big Standardized Test still has some problems but I'm sure it will get better and in the meantime it's what we have and we have to do something" argument is a stupid argument.

Even if we accept "We have to do something" as a Real Thing (which it isn't, because the "crisis" is manufactured, but even if), it does not follow that an urgent Need To Do Something means that we must urgently Do Something Stupid.

If the treatment is damaging, don't use it. If the food is harmful, don't eat it. And if the test is a bad test that wastes time and money, makes the students miserable, damages the credibility of the school, and returns no useful data-- then don't give it!!


  1. Look.

    Here in NJ, we get this. Which is why the Terrine of Select Fine Soils with Chiffonade of Glass being served our teachers will only comprise 10% of their RDA.

    Because more would be wrong.

    Like, if you take your car for a fill-up, and the gas station attendant adds more than 10% maple syrup.

    Or the SCUBA shop that uses more than 10% carbon monoxide in the air that they use to fill your tanks.

    NJ gets it. NJ is listening.

  2. Peter, don't know how to contact you oterwise but thought you would enjoy this:


  3. Very illustrative analogies. And exactly, why urgently Do Something Stupid.

  4. Also useful here is Kevin McCaffrey's poem, "No Problem."
    Here's a link: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2014/06/06

  5. Tell this to Mikey Mildew of the UFT.