The real problem behind food stamps

Too often in society, we point a finger at solutions that just don’t work rather than examining more closely the underlying problems that led us there in the first place.

In an editorial in today’s New York Times, readers are encouraged to stop fixating on the weaknesses of the current food stamp system–a program devised of good intentions and legitimate need. Rather, we might take to task those employers who fail to pay workers a sufficient wage leading many of these employees in search of a way to afford food for their families: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/26/opinion/trump-budget-food-stamps-wages.html?emc=edit_th_20170527&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=44005038&_r=0

One of the components of critical thinking that I emphasize in my courses is problem-solving, specifically the process of “unpacking” a situation until it can’t be unpacked further. The goal of this exercise is to encourage students to keep digging until they discover the root problem that underlies a host of solutions (some promising and others not so much). I ask them to define the problem and its scope, the constituencies affected by the problem, potential benefits and drawbacks of addressing the problem from certain angles, the criteria by which a solution should be measured.

“If you expend all of your energy on a ‘problem’ that is borne of other, more central problems,” I tell my students, “you’ll often discover you’ve wasted a good amount of time without making any headway.”

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