LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Debate over convocation continues

Dominique Yarnell

Although Mr. Wilber’s response to my editorial addressing the Wilson convocation had some important points, I believe he misinterpreted the intent with which it was written.
The first point concerns the missing father figure of the single mother instanced by Wilson and myself. Mr. Wilber implies that the father (assumed to be an integral source of income) of these children bares some of the responsibility for their well-being. But since it is rational for him to want to support himself and stay off welfare, the mother cannot be held as solely responsible for her current situation. I agree with this point completely.
The second point addresses unforeseen factors outside the control of a typical citizen. Mr. Wilber points out that increasing costs of living, a sour economy, or the death of the income-earning father could all result in the poverty of a single mother, and that she should not be held solely responsible for her current situation. I also agree with this point completely.
I can agree with these points made in Mr. Wilber’s critical editorial because I was not arguing against welfare, and I certainly was not warning people to “be wary of women who make the…decision to have children…”
My point was to emphasize the need to critically examine the claims implied by Wilson and his supporters. Obviously there are times when, due to forces beyond our control, we find ourselves in situations in which we require assistance in order to make it through. However, there are also times when we find ourselves in such situations when we know, no matter how much we might try to deny it, that we are responsible for being there.
But Wilson failed to differentiate between the two types of situations. Granted, we cannot expect him to prescribe the proper course of action for each possible situation in the mere hour we allot for his speech. However, I do believe that he could have better used at least part of that hour addressing this issue (or any issue, for that matter), instead of quoting statistics without explaining the meaning behind them.
Statistical evidence is extremely susceptible to misleading interpretations, as any social scientist or statistician will tell you. Mark Twain once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I believe that in order to think critically and examine Wilson’s claims, we require a more informed argument than the statistics he cited at the convocation.

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