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The rumours of the recent death of "Common Sense" have been greatly overstated

05/07/08 | by Adam | Categories: Whining

Generic email forwards invariably annoy me. This recent one about the "death of Common Sense" was particularly nauseating. I had a bit of a problem with this reactionary screed and needed a new blog post, so hello there, fodder.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense,
who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was
since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

Oooh. Strawman alert! When you start a rant with an ad hominem, you can tell it's only going to get better.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn't
always fair , and maybe it was my fault.

You mean to say that whining about stuff is new? I would never have known. I guess that this means no one has any sense of personal responsibility any more and that before the, ahem, passing of "Common Sense" everything was hunkydory.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend
more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not
children are in charge).

Fair enough so far.

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but
overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old
boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens
suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired
for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

At this point a few cites would be helpful, although not exactly expected in the case of an emailed rant.

The issue of the six year old is covered in this NYT article. Now imagine that the school had done nothing and the parents of the girl involved has complained; reckon that would have ended well for the school? There is no black and white in these cases; there is no "common sense" as it's different in each case. The school had a rule and stuck with it. It may seem daft in retrospect but while the schools are acting in loco parentis, they have to follow rules to protect themselves. Isn't that common sense?

As regards mouthwash, well, it has ethanol content and there are cases of people drinking it specifically for that; seems fair to me that if you're going to ban school children from drinking that you enforce it. Besides, how many people do you know who used mouthwash at school to freshen their breath instead of chewing gum or toothpaste? There is a reason you tend to find bottles of mouthwash scattered around homeless drunks and it's nothing to do with a need for minty-fresh breath.

In the other "case", how did the teacher reprimand the student? What was the student doing? Were there any other issues surrounding the case?

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing
the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

Again, what were the teachers doing? Parents can be morons but they're not the only ones in this list.

It declined even further when schools were required to get
parental consent to administer Aspirin, sun lotion or a Band-Aid to a
student, but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant
and wanted to have an abortion.

Oh, now we're beginning to get to the meat of it. What happens when two conflicting rules come in to play: personal privacy versus actionable behaviour? Schools run a difficult line here as they don't have the full medical history of their students and they have legal requirements. Does the kid have allergies that need to be accounted for before anything is administered? The school in the example above is the one giving the medication but it's not the one performing the abortion. Counselling versus dispensing are two very different items and typically applied to two very different age groups. Yeah, they're still school children but comparing a six year old to an seventeen year old is just daft. Common sense, eh?

Given that this entire section seems to be about the relationship of schools and parents, did you notice that the author is happily flipping around incompetent teachers and incompetent parents without realising the judgements are in direct conflict with each other? Mmm. I like a cake I can both have and eat.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contra band;

So, remind me why the Ten Commandments are part of Common Sense? In fact, aren't they a specific set of precepts to tell people how to behave; doesn't that take away from common sense once they're formulated? They're not the "Ten Recommendations" or the "Ten Suggestions That You Could Pay Lip Service To"; if you're going to cite them as an essential part of your life, then they have to be observed.

Those rules serve two purposes simultaneously: they guide; and they give a defence in the form of the CYA rules (aka "well intentioned but overbearing".) But this is all ancilliary to the common sense theme of the email so we'll get back to that.

churches became businesses; and criminals received
better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you
couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar
can sue you for assault.

Churches becoming businesses is nothing to do with Common Sense. It's an awful lot to do with what their practitioners wanted.

Criminals get better treatment than their victims because we as a society aren't criminals. That's not so hard to understand, right? Defending yourself is legitimate in the eyes of the law; there are some exceptions -- for example home owners who shoot fleeing burgulars; it may be satisfying revenge, but society should not work on a revenge principle.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed
to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little
in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Oh, this hoary old chestnut.


180 degree fluid. Third degree burns. There'd been many prior complaints to McDonalds from people burnt earlier that the company ignored in terms of process but settled out of court. She was given $160,000 in compensatory damages which is not out of line given what McDonalds had settled for in the prior non-trial cases. The punitive damages, while initially high, were significantly reduced, first by appeals and then by an agreement between the two parties.

In short, the company was negligent and she had a perfect right to sue. The ultimate damages were within what one would consider "Common Sense".

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust;
his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He
is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know my Rights, Someone Else is to
Blame, and I'm a Victim.

Eeesh. So, there's no longer any such thing as truth, trust, discretion, responsibility or reason? And when I was younger I walked to and from school up-hill both ways.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

I guess I'm just terrible at going to symbolic funerals that no one posted in the obits section of the local paper.

If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do

Poorly researched, self-satisfied, smug and spam-generating. Gah.


1 comment

Comment from: Adam [Member]  

In a way.

05/07/08 @ 14:36
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