How to Runaway from a Problem


1. Find a scapegoat and ride him. Teachers (employees, medical staff, taxpayers) can always blame school administrators (management, hospital administration, government), school administrators (etc.) can blame teachers (etc.), both can blame parents (customers, patients, politicians), and everyone can blame the social order.

2. Profess not to have the answer. This lets you out of having any answer.

3. Say that we must not move too rapidly. This avoids the necessity of getting started.

4. For every proposal set up an opposite and conclude that the "middle ground" (no motion whatever) represents the wisest course of action.

5. Point out that an attempt to reach a conclusion is only a futile "quest for certainty". Doubt and indecision "promote growth".

6. When, in a tight place, say something the group cannot understand.

7. Look slightly embarrassed when the problem is brought up. Hint that it is in bad taste, or too elementary for mature consideration, or that any discussion of it is likely to be misinterpreted by outsiders.

8. Say that the problem "cannot be separated" from other problems; therefore no problem can be solved until all other problems have been solved.

9. Carry the problem into other fields show that it exists everywhere hence is of no concern.

10. Point out that those who see the problem do so by virtue of personality traits e.g., they are unhappy and transfer their dissatisfaction to the area under discussion.

11. Ask what is meant by the question. When it is clarified, there will be no time left for the answer.

12. Discover that there are all sorts of "dangers" in any specific formulation of conclusions: Dangers of exceeding authority or seeming to, of asserting more than is definitely known, of misinterpretation, misuse by the uninformed, criticism (and, of course, the danger of revealing that no one has a sound conclusion to offer.)

13. Look for some remote philosophical basis for settling the problem, then a basis for settling that problem, then a basis for this, then a basis for that, and so on back into Noah's Ark.

14. Retreat from the problem into endless discussion of various techniques for approaching it.

15. Put off recommendations until every related problem has been definitely settled by scientific research.

16. Retreat into general objectives on which everyone can agree, but which suggest no content and no change in the present program.

17. Find a face-saving verbal formula (like "in a Pickwickian sense") which means nothing, but everyone will accept because he can read into his interpretation. This is the highest art of the good administrator.

18. Rationalize the status quo with minor improvements.

19. Retreat into analogies and discuss them until everyone has forgotten the original problem.

20. The reverse of "begging the question." Begin with a problem like "what should be the content of our core course?" End with the conclusion that maybe we ought to have a core course.

21. Explain and clarify over and over again what you have already said.

22. As soon as any proposal is made, say that you have been doing it for 10 years, even though what you have been doing bears only the faintest resemblance to the proposal.

23. Appoint a committee.

24. Wait until some expert can be consulted.

25. Say "That is not on the agenda; we'll take it up later." This may be extended ad infinitum.

26. Notice that the time is up. If other members of the group look surprised, list your engagements for the next two days.

27. Conclude that you have all clarified your thinking on the problem, even though no definite conclusions have been reached.

28. Point out that some of the greatest minds have struggled with this problem, implying that it does us credit to have even thought of it.

29. Say forcefully, "Do we really want this laid out cold for us?" Obviously we don't . Therefore, wet-nurse the problem.

30. Be thankful for the problem. It has stimulated our best thinking and has therefore contributed to our growth. It should get a medal.

Certainly with all these techniques, there is no excuse for awkwardness in problem-evasion.

Adapted from Los Angeles School Journal, - Paul B. Diedrich

Dave Palmer, Oakville, Wa - 1993 (-Back to home page-)