Friday, June 19, 2009

FUMBLE: WHEN IN A HOLE, STOP DIGGING

Sometimes they’re almost too obvious. Iris Evans is the name of Alberta’s Minister of Health, and she was speaking in Toronto this week when she felt compelled to offer comment on the notion of households where both parents work, leaving the kids in child care during the day. She related a personal anecdote about her own (adult) children forgoing a second paycheque in order for one parent to be at home with the kids. Now, using an anecdote to underscore a point is a tried-and-true, effective communications technique. The problem came when Evans added the comment that “they’ve understood perfectly well that, when you’re raising children, you don’t both go off to work and leave them for someone else to raise. This is not a statement against daycare. It’s a statement about their belief in the importance of raising children properly.” Not surprisingly, child care advocates from far and wide – along with the minister’s political opponents - denounced the comment. She attempted to clarify her remarks, but virtually all of it struck me as so much bafflegab: "The references I made to parenting were in respect to a question about financial literacy and making sure children understand the value of a dollar," she said in a statement. "My intent was to point out that understanding money and finances starts at home, not in the schools. And I was specifically pointing out that my three sons have done a better job than I had in passing this on. I understand some people were offended by some of what I said. I did not intend to suggest there is only one way to raise a child." Well, from where I sit, you suggested there’s a “proper” way (both parents at home) – which infers that there’s also an “improper” way, which can only be the opposite case, namely both parents working. And what they heck does all that “financial literacy and making sure that children understand the value of a dollar” stuff mean? When you’re in a hole, stop digging. If your communications efforts have landed you in hot water, apologize, take your lumps, and move on. Sometimes the attempted recovery can be just as bad – if not worse – than the original Fumble.

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