Getting out of placein lineImproper ClothingLitteringBurglaryArson, BombingsSource:
, 2-1-88Chart 2The contrast between the two lists is startling. How can we account for the difference in both the numberand severity of school problems over forty years?Four explanations come readily to mind:a. Degeneracy: Kids are worse than they've ever been.b. Selection: There was a 50% dropout rate during the 40's compared to a 10%dropout rate in 1986. Perhaps "troublemakers" are being kept in school.b. Exposure: Problems which were covered up in the forties are made public today.c. Expansion of Responsibility : Schools have been asked to deal with situationsthey formerly gave over to other agencies. This is what makes them "schoolproblems."
Of these four explanations, only the last avoids jumping to conclusions. To talk of "degeneracy," or"troublemakers," or "problems," even, is to rush to judgment. Besides, there is no evidence that youngpeople are more "degenerate" nowadays than they have ever been. We have to avoid getting caught up toosoon in judgmental language and transforming a real, but specific concern into a slogan.In the next section we will develop a method for applying the analysis questions given above. One purposeof these analysis questions is to reduce the sloganistic quality of problem statements. This helps us get at theconcerns people have about situations without forcing us to share their concerns until we decide it is wise todo so.
When people see that a situation conflicts with their interests, they often declare, "There is a problem here".This impersonal, "objective" manner of statement obscures their own involvement in the situation. Butlacking their specific interests, and their perception that a certain conflict faced them, they would not talk of a "problem." "Problem" is a sloganistic term. People talk of problems in order to enlist our sympathies andparticularly our resources. Wisdom requires we examine their claims before committing ourselves.The intelligent use of limited resources requires us to carefully assess expectations before undertakingaction. Recall the questions we will use to examine possible problems. These are given again in Chart 1: