If I want to get my husband MathMan, the high school teacher, bent out of shape about something, all I have to do is talk about some big, blanket education policy. For example, the mere mention of No Child Left Behind is enough to make him apoplectic.
During the State of the Union address, President Obama proposed that all states pass a law requiring students to stay in school until they graduate or until the age of eighteen, I immediately tweeted that to @MathMan6293. I couldn't see his face because he and Nate were driving home from work and I was at home, cozy, nibbling on a clementine the same shade as Speaker Boehner, but I bet MathMan made that face he makes when I say things like "Chloe called. She needs money." or "When are we going to clean out the garage?" or "How about we watch another Republican debate!"
That, of course, was not the end of the conversation. This is MathMan's take on not just that proposal (which he does not support unless we provide a wider array of options for students within the public school system), but as he puts it, is the primary problem with how we Americans process our policy information.
Oversimplification is the problem. Paraphrasing now:
When our media and elected officials speak in broad terms, they oversimplify the problems and the solutions. They reduce the issues to generalizations. All students. All poor people. All rich people. All business. All old people, all soccer moms, all veterans, all working class, all all all....
What happens is the individual is removed the conversation making it easier to think in terms of the nameless, faceless other. We talk in the abstract about education instead of understanding that we're really talking about the education of millions of children ranging in age from preschool to college, from all sorts of backgrounds, socio-economic situations and with as many needs as there are students.
One-size-fits-all solutions are rarely the answer. They are politically expedient and, I suppose, necessary at times if only to get the conversation started, but if we don't delve deeper, don't put a human face on it, if we don't bring the conversation to the level where the individual is addressed, then we get nowhere. Or worse, we get policies full of unintended consequences like No Child Left Behind.
All of which is to say that I suppose MathMan doesn't want us to reduce our important conversations to the lowest common denominator because once we do, we find that the transitive properties multiply exponentially. Or something.
What oversimplifications work your nerves? For example, I get annoyed by the generalization that the foreclosure crisis was caused by people who wanted big fancy houses they couldn't afford. That is only one segment of the problem and hardly the most influential factor, but when that oversimplification is repeated by the media, the pundits and politicians, it becomes accepted knowledge, facts be damned.