What Am I Missing?

Today’s Wall Street Journal featured a profile of Heather Mac Donald, an American political commentator, essayist, attorney, and journalist. She is currently a Thomas W. Smith Fellow of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. Over the years, Mac Donald has been more than willing to share her opinion on a variety of issues, including victimization, philanthropy, immigration reform, crime prevention, racism, racial profiling, rape, politics, affirmative action, diversity, pre-marital sex, welfare, matters pertaining to cities, and academia. She has a strong academic background, starting with honer graduation from Phillips Academy in 1974. In 1978 she graduated from Yale (where she was in Berkeley College). She then attended Cambridge and graduated from Stanford University Law School in 1985. Quite impressive to say the least.

But my question is while she obviously has lots of intelligence, does she have much compassion?

The reason for asking is the following quote from the Journal article:

To escape poverty, you just need to graduate from high school, hold a job—any job, minimum-wage job, full-time—and wait until you get married to have children. Nearly three-fourths of all people who follow those simple rules are not poor.

There’s so much wrong with those two sentences.

First, saying “you just need to graduate high school” – that’s easy for someone like her to say who went to one of the most prestigious high schools in the country. And it was easy for me too, and virtually everyone I know. But that’s because I won the Ovarian Lottery, as did most of the people I have gotten to know over the years. But the reality is that graduating high school is not so easy for many people, for a variety of reasons. If it was, then I think everyone would do so.

Winning the Ovarian Lottery does not guarantee success, and not winning it does not guarantee failure. But not winning it makes it a lot harder to succeed.

Research has shown that children who suffer nutritional deficiencies at a young age can develop significant learning disabilities – through no fault of their own. Having no role models, having no home, not feeling safe – all of these make completing high school a monumental task.

Mac Donald seems to ignore all of these problems with her casual statement, “you just need to graduate high school.” I certainly agree with Mac Donald that education is a key part of finding success and happiness in life, but getting that education is not as easy as she makes it sound.

Since that is the first part of her solution to getting people out of poverty, if that breaks down, the rest of her comments are irrelevant.

However, I still want to address her last comments, Nearly three-fourths of all people who follow those simple rules are not poor.

That may very well be true, but that would still likely leave a lot of people in poverty, and for that, she offers no solution.

First, as noted above, not everybody living in poverty is going to graduate from high school – so what about those people? Do we just continue to ignore them, and blame them for living in poverty?

And even for those who do everything she suggests, 25% of them still end up living in poverty! Again, what is her solution for this not insignificant number of people? Would she blame them for not being able to get out of poverty, despite doing all the right things (at least according to Mac Donald)?

I found her solution for how to get out of poverty to be outrageous, insulting, and just plain wrong.

I am sure she is not alone in her beliefs; she is an influential voice. I just find it sad that someone could have such opinions that seem to show so little compassion for those who did not benefit from the luck of birth.

It may be the halo effect brought on by such strong disagreement to her thoughts on how to solve poverty, but I found few, if any, areas of agreement with Mac Donald’s views on other issues.

While I have no problem with people having opinions that differ from mine, it does bother me when those opinions show a lack of compassion and kindness.

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