A03: A Blow to the Head

What We Don’t Know

Will Rogers may have described “Counterintuitive” better than anybody before or since when he said, about a hundred years ago, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

So much of what we do depends on what we think we know about other people. Just think how many times you’ve gone out of your way to surprise or delight someone only to have to explain later, “But I thought you liked that sort of thing!” Those little misunderstandings between individuals are usually just an annoyance and quickly forgotten.

But suppose huge government programs were based on fundamental misunderstandings about how people act or what they need. Beyond merely wasting millions or billions of dollars without solving social problems, we might actually be making things worse.

Ending Homelessness On the Cheap

Billions have been spent trying to solve America’s homelessness crisis, earnestly spent, carefully spent in a sincere effort to relieve suffering. How much of it was wasted because the people who designed programs to house the homeless misunderstood why people are homeless in the first place, or what it takes to make them stable in new homes?

Suppose 40% of those now homeless had first suffered a traumatic brain injury, like from a fall or a car accident. Would that be a shocking surprise? If they were brain damaged in this way, would putting them in a new house help them in the long run, or would they eventually return to the street?

For your second essay, the first for which I want you to do original research, first read this fascinating article by David Bornstein, a man whose ear is finely tuned to hear the nuances of argument that signal the counterintuitive. Then do your own research to find materials to support new academic work.

Assignment Details

1. Read “The Street Level Solution,” in which Bornstein cites one doctor’s evidence to support a broad conclusion about the effect of brain trauma on homelessness.

2. Read the companion piece “A Plan to Make Homelessness History,” in which he cites additional evidence including a Canadian study Mr. Bornstein himself provided us a link to, in his comment on this blog for a prior semester.

3. Decide whether the argument sounds convincing, or at least compelling, that money is wasted building housing and trying to create jobs for clients who are so brain-damaged that they won’t be able to make use of houses and jobs until the root causes of their original homelessness are understood and addressed.

4. See what you can find in the Rowan Library databases either to support, or to refute, the conclusions Bornstein draws. Sources in which other authors draw similar conclusions are useful, but not as convincing as surveys, statistical data, hospital records, or other evidence that head trauma causes homelessness (or closely related theses).

5. Post a well-organized support or refutation essay demonstrating original research, in the Category A03: A Blow to the Head, before midnight on MON JAN 30.

6. Use RefWorks to produce in-text Citations you find at the Rowan Library and a Works Cited in MLA format for any sources you cite.

Click Free MLA Citation Manual in the Resources Category if you need assistance with in-text citations. Also find links there to EasyBib and Citation Machine.

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