We like common sense. That folksy, personal anecdotal understanding of the world that just, you know, sort of…makes sense. That common sense that encourages parents to tell their three year-old to stop playing with a ball –and is horrified when they throw it one more time. We throw our arms up in frustration and wonder “what happened?”
Didn’t I just tell you not to play with that!
The real problem? We’re ignoring the most important detail: the child is three years-old. Or, more accurately, we are expecting of our child what is not developmentally appropriate.
We are ignoring the most important ingredient.
Common sense is great, but what we really need is wisdom. We need to know what we want and what is going on.
As I wrote about the spoon, our big problem is that we are eager to resolve our problems with only half of our brain. We throw up blinders to specifically ignore the details.
An easy example of this is how our common sense approach to teen sex actually produces more of it, and more complications of it. Abstinence-only education, which makes a kind of sense (if you don’t want kids to have sex, tell them not to) is intellectually consistent, but statistically foolish, producing the opposite results of what we actually want. Unfortunately, we double-down on the common sense: which is worse than making the initial mistake. Our desire to intellectually defend that common sense over the wiser approach is what I am condemning. We shouldn’t encourage sex, but ignoring the lessons learned in implementing such priorities is deeply foolish.
The more insidious problem is the common sense idea that regulations are shackles to our success. We know that we hate rules and our country was founded on breaking them. And worse, we confuse our desire for breaking the rules with a belief that the rules are actually bad for us. We also know that children thrive in environments that are predictable, orderly, and highly structured. Rules aren’t our problem.
Instead of recognizing the obvious psychological connection between success and systems that are geared toward our success, we argue for the breaking of those systems, simply because we don’t like them. This is especially true with our view of economics. Many of us have swallowed the argument that regulations on business drives business out of our state or country. Or that rules will impede our growth, or worse, directly harm our economy. The data just doesn’t back this up.
In her excellent report, Stacy Mitchell puts the two important pieces together: the “friendliness” of the state toward the expressed interests of businesses (meaning actually doing the things that the businesses ask for) and the current level and growth or decline of small businesses. The data is directly opposite the common sense approach that regulations harm businesses. In fact, the data demonstrates that small businesses thrive in the most regulated environments. Despite what the common sense wants us to believe, these practices may benefit really big businesses, but they actually harm small business growth.
Like an unregulated environment hinders a child’s development.
This is the reason we need to rediscover wisdom: because we are unhealthy without it.
What spoons can you find?
What is your experience with common sense without wisdom?