Curiosity, a one ton roving robotic laboratory landed today on Mars. We continue to make amazing advances through technology. What if we applied this amount of intellectual capital, resources and time to improve the way we raise our children?
This article was first written about ten years ago. In celebration of Curiosity and our unbridled capacity for creativity and technical ingenuity, I’m releasing it again. Perhaps it can nudge policy-makers to consider our children as a frontier worthy of exploring and devoting resources and time to helping them grow up better. How are our children doing?
It’s Harder Than Rocket Science and Brain Surgery1
Growing up is difficult. Why shouldn’t it be? After all, isn’t it a preparation for and reflection of life? If life is difficult, as M. Scott Peck noted in the beginning of his widely read book The Road Less Traveled, then why should growing up be anything less? This makes the business of helping children to grow up well one of the most challenging and difficult enterprises on the planet.
I was listening to “Marketplace “ on National Public Radio several years ago. It must have been a slow day for business news because they had this story about the most difficult job in the world. They started the story by saying that the news crew was confronted with this really, really difficult problem. They said to each other “We ought to be able to figure this out because after all it’s not brain surgery.” So then they started talking and they began to wonder what the brain surgeons say when they run into a really difficult problem.
The idea for a news story was born.
They called up John Hopkins Hospital, Department of neurosurgery and got a brain surgeon on the line. They said to him, “Now when you’re in the operating room and you’re inside someone’s brain operating and you run into a really difficult problem, “what do you say to each other as you look around, thinking – we should be able to do this it’s not as hard as...” And, the brain surgeon replied; “we would most probably say ‘We should be able to do this it’s not as hard as rocket science.’”
Like any good journalists tracking a story they followed up on the brain surgeon’s tip and called the Houston Jet Propulsion Laboratory and asked to speak to a rocket scientist. They get this nuclear engineer, the scientific name for a rocket scientist, on the line and they said to him “When you’re designing one of these rockets, and when you hit a really difficult technical problem, what do you say to each other? What are you thankful that you don’t have to deal with at that moment? What do you say to your colleagues? ‘We should be able to do this it’s not are hard as...’ He thought for a minute and responded, “We would most probably say, ‘We should be able to do this, it’s not as hard as trying to solve the major problems confronting human services, especially the problem of helping children grow up well in this country’.
Rarely do we hear policy makers talk substantively and with sustained vigor about the extraordinary difficulty of human services and education in ways commensurate with its reality. There has been little public understanding and acceptance that the business of education and human services are one of the most difficult enterprises before us. If one doubts the reality of this fact, consider the advances we have made in brain surgery. And as this is being written, the United States has successfully landed two vehicles on Mars that are sending pictures back to Earth that are out of this world. Can we say we have made the same level of advances helping our children grow up well?
Copyright D.G. Blumenkrantz
1 Excerpt from Blumenkrantz, D. Rites of Passage – Back to the Future – A prospectus for a new discipline of youth and community development. In Press.
It’t time for a Paradigm Shift – a fundamental change in beliefs, theory and approach – in developing community-centered responses to the challenges faced by today’s Youth & Community. More here>>