Yesterday I got a bit embroiled in a blog thread at this blog. The discussion was about co-sleeping with children. Blogs often will introduce topics like these to foster discussion. Parenting is a hot-button issue, so placid comments can give way to strong opinion and then debate. These things happen.
But some people don’t like them to happen. The whole co-sleeping/Attachment Parenting (yes, I know they're not identical!) discussion is just an example of HOW PEOPLE DON’T REALLY WANT YOU TO MAKE AN ASSESSMENT. They want you to say things like this: “This is what I do. It works for me. You should do whatever works for you. It’s all pragmatic. There really are no wrongs or rights on this issue. Live and let live!” So, the blog thread becomes a recital of what various people have done. And each person ends with (basically), “Whatever! Do what you fee like!”
And heaven help the person who begs to differ – not about the topic at hand, although that will get her into hot water too. What really gets her in trouble is when she is bold to assert an ASSESSMENT. You all know what an assessment is: it’s a test. You assess students to see if they meet the standard required. You test gold to see what impurities it has. You evaluate a system of thought to determine if it is logical.
We assess philosophies and ideologies. At least we should. We hold them up, evaluate them, find their weaknesses and strengths and determine if they are lacking. And people really, really don’t like it if you do that to their personal ideology. Ever.
In our day, the practice of assessment is under attack. It’s labeled as judgmental, mean-spirited, callous, unkind. We should never, ever judge, we are told. You’re in charge of your own life, but others’ lives are none of your business.
(And, the practice of assessment is under attack just when the blogosphere and its threads-to-the-edge-of-doom are popular.)
So, I’m here to say that we need more assessment. More judging (in the good sense). More evaluating. Philosophies and ideologies need to have the light of good reason shone upon them – and the light of Scripture, I’ll add. WE WILL NOT ALL COME TO THE SAME CONCLUSIONS WHEN WE ASSESS, but it needs to be done anyway. We should – we should – be able to assess, debate, differ, and do so without malice or taking offense.
Unfortunately, people who hold their practices without having studied the ideologies that underlie them, can be insecure about both. They might not know the ideology, they might not think it’s important to do so, and they prefer to do whatever practice their instinct or personal experience tells them works for them.
And that’s a kind of assessment, isn’t it? If you co-sleep (just an example, mind you), and your house is more calm, your sleep more restful, your child more happily independent , your marital intimacy purring nicely along, then you may try to argue the cause/effect of those things. You may be right or wrong. Those things might occur in spite of, not because of, co-sleeping. That’s no proper assessment, really. But assessing the philosophy behind it – that’s more useful.
Assessing ideologies is much more accurate and easily done – they must be held to the standard of reason, and pass. If Attachment Parenting tells me that its practices will produce unattached (i.e. independent) children, that makes no sense to me. I’ve heard the arguments, and they do not seem logical. One, two, or twenty personal stories are merely anecdotal evidence – no evidence at all. When Attachment Parenting tells me that training children to cling to their parents physically, to be bundled up against the scary world out there, to be wrapped up with a parent 24/7, will produce confident children who will step boldly into that world, unafraid and self-confident -- that makes no sense to me. It’s illogical to me. Teaching them to trust God, who WILL protect them, and to cling to Him, to see the world as His world – well, you get the point.( I could go on and on.) I don’t see the rationality in the AP model.
Yet some do. And if they’ve made a logical, reasoned assessment (not based on emotional preference, or on instinct), and then embraced that ideology, that’s fine. We can agree to disagree. And I can puzzle at their thinking, and they can puzzle at mine. That’s honest debate. But for someone to tell me that I shouldn’t make an assessment, that judgments of this type are wrong? That I’ll oppose. When people refuse to use their minds (or allow others to) to make assessments, and then claim their practices as ‘correct’ – that’s laughable.
A philosophy is a system of thought. It either works well in the mind, maintaining consistent, smooth-running logic, or it doesn’t. When the systems that run our cars, or our air conditioners, or our bodies, or our governments, are broken, we assess them, and fix them. If we’re not aware of the flaws in the systems that run our lives – our practices – then it’s time we sat down and assessed them too.