Intelligent Design

Even Shasta Daisy Knows Better

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In June we welcomed Shasta Daisy, our new goldendoodle, to our household.  I love goldendoodles.  They are beautiful and smart and full of energy.  Lots of energy.  Did I mention she is energetic?  Watching Shasta play I kept thinking about Alan Greenspan’s famous phrase, “irrational exuberance.”  After a few weeks my wife and I were worn down to a nub, so we began casting about for ways to curb or at least channel Shasta’s enthusiasm.  We rejected doggy downers and decided to enroll her in puppy school instead.

On the first day of class we showed up at the appointed time, paid the tuition, and proceeded to the training area, where Shasta and four other dogs barked, wagged and yanked on their leashes as they got to know each other.  Shasta, at least, was having a grand time, but when the trainer finally arrived I immediately began to reevaluate the wisdom of our choice, because almost the first thing out of his mouth was “there are no right or wrong answers here.”  (Am I the only one who loathes that phrase with the burning intensity of a thousand suns?)  When he said this, many questions began to run through my head such as:  “Have we enrolled Shasta in a post-modern puppy class?”  “If she refuses to sit on command, is the trainer going to deconstruct the word ‘sit’ and tell us that in context it means ‘not to sit’?”  “Is this one of those puppy schools were every student is an ‘honor student,’ so the phrase ‘honor student’ means nothing more than ‘student?'”  And most importantly, “If you don’t have any right answers for me, why am I paying you to teach this class?”

Well of course I needn’t have worried, because no sooner had the trainer spouted the loathsome inanity than he started to give us right answers.  We were to hold the reward treat thusly.  We were to say the command only once and never more than once, etc.  Shasta Daisy was, naturally, the star pupil.  She learned each command (OK, there was only one command) seemingly without effort.  And though none of the other owners admitted it, I have no doubt they were bubbling over with envy.

After class I puzzled over why the trainer had felt it was necessary to begin the course with an obvious falsehood.  Of course there are right ways to train a puppy and wrong ways to train a puppy, and he knew that far better than us.  The best explanation I could think of was that he is a victim of the spirit of our age.  That spirit bids us tolerate all and judge none.  It is not enough to be patient with those who commit error; we must deny that such a thing as “error” even exists.  To which I say, “rubbish.”  Facts, as is often said, are stubborn things.  When it comes to opinion, there may not be any “right” or “wrong” answers.  But even opinions are divided between “foolish” and “wise.”  And even Shasta knows that to obey the “sit” command, is simply not the same thing as refusing to obey the “sit” command, becuase she gets a treat for the former and not the latter.

So please, I beg you, consign the “no right or wrong answer” nonsense to the dustbin of at least useless and probably harmful phrases.  It just ain’t so.

7 Replies to “Even Shasta Daisy Knows Better

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    Rest easy Barry, there is no right way and no wrong way to write an OP.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    Ilion says:

    almost the first thing out of his mouth was “there are no right or wrong answers here.” (Am I the only one who loathes that phrase with the burning intensity of a thousand suns?)

    You’re not the only one.

    Then, on top of have said the stupidity in the first place, most of the people who assert it *really* mean something like, “There are no other ways but MY way — and I’m not about to justify it, so don’t even bother questioning anything I say.

  4. 4
    News says:

    What the “no right or wrong answers” folk never address is the number of pet animals that are put down every year who found the WRONG answer.

    For dogs, there are indeed wrong answers. In one case, some years ago, when a pet dog savaged a child, the city animal control authorities simply informed the family that they would seize the dog and have it put down humanely. If the family wanted to fight it and failed, they would receive a $500 fine for keeping a dangerous dog. Very few people have ever won such a case in that jurisdiction, so the family accepted the verdict.

    The child needed hundreds of stitches. The dog died.

    No right. no wrong? Or how about: Dog training IS right vs. wrong.

  5. 5
    material.infantacy says:

    The notion that there is “no right or wrong” in general, or better or worse way to conduct oneself, I loathe with the fire of TEN thousand suns, so I have Barry beat on that one.

    However I think this was a maladapted version of the phrase, “There are no stupid questions here…,” which is generally used to encourage participation by those involved in whatever activity, who might otherwise be cautious about speaking up due to the possibility of ridicule.

    That’s how it occurred to me anyway.

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    If someone says, there are no stupid questions here, I ask, “Are there any stupid if questions here?”

  7. 7
    tragic mishap says:

    ^ROFL.

    Yeah Barry it sucks being smart. You notice all the little falsehoods that everyone else just lets slip. It’s really annoying. I feel your pain.

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