Marc Carlisle: What does … and does not … define a crisis
I was a good student in school. I mastered a few subjects, struggled with others, and only failed at one thing: an extracurricular called Modern American Inflection. To me, the million and a half words in the English language offer a infinite array of possibilities to understand and be understood, and although I don’t go out of my way to use a three-syllable word when a one-syllable word will do, I’m not afraid of using the word that best conveys my meaning – even if the choice is a trifle archaic. Modern American Inflection threw out all but a handful of words, and we used those that were left to convey different meanings based on how the word was said. The meaning of cool, hot, sweet, tight and flavor, for example, varied wildly with inflection and use in a sentence.
Skilled inflectors not only used one word for many meanings, but could turn a verb into a noun as well as an adjective, and use the gerund and the expletive form all in the same sentence, with each use of the same word being different. F*** is a verb with one meaning, and I never mastered its doubtful use anywhere else in a sentence. Impact is another staple of abuse through inflection. Through repetition, a perfectly good noun mutated into a verb, as found in the headline “Center closure impacts daycare crisis”. But while I feel for impact’s distress at being misused, I doubt crisis was happy either, being used to describe a situation where some parents can’t find anyone to look after their kids. September 11, 2001, was a crisis, the cost and availability of health care in America is taking on crisis proportions, but while there may be a shortage, a paucity, a dearth of affordable daycare, there’s no reason to describe daycare in Summit County as a crisis anymore than there is to call the kid with what looks like a Pomeranian on his head on American Idol a superstar. The word crisis implies not only a dangerous situation, but an intractable one as well, a problem with no easy solution. The solution to this problem, however, is straightforward. Labor shortages, especially skilled labor shortages, happen either when the buyers, in this case the mothers and fathers, won’t pay the suppliers what their skills are worth here, or the suppliers are pricing themselves out of the market.
Most people equate daycare with the babysitter down the street who got the run of the fridge and a few bucks to watch the kids. Licensed daycare providers in Colorado, however, are anything but babysitters. Two and four year degrees are encouraged, and on paper a BA seems easier to obtain than certification as a Child Development Associate or a Certified Childcare Professional. The only thing these folks have in common with the babysitter is what they’re paid, which isn’t very much despite their training. In actuality, parents in Summit County are fortunate the daycare providers haven’t organized to demand higher wages, or at least a restoration of fridge access. The problem is a simple one of supply and demand for the marketplace to solve through higher wages for trained professionals. To describe the problem as a lack of affordable daycare is a parents’ perspective on the situation; the headline, if written by a daycare provider, could as accurately have used priceless for affordable. By contrast, the lack of affordable housing is a phrase that can be honestly used to describe a situation the marketplace cannot readily solve. We the people are taking a hand to address the lack of affordable housing because supply (they ain’t making any more land) and demand (can you pay cash for a home?) have created a marketplace where not enough is available at any price to county residents.
As a taxpayer, I have no responsibility for the financial burden of someone else’s decision to have children. As an employer, however, I’ll have to, and willingly, to keep and attract good employees. Today, in my business, employee benefits revolve around the needs of single males in their 20s. Tomorrow, when my employees start to bring babies along with their dogs to work, I may have to take steps to bring daycare within reach. Do you suppose I can insist that the daycare has a dictionary?Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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