Letters to the Editor

Don't limit thinking about dropouts


A recent letter from Timothy Siegel faulted the King County Prosecuting Attorney for suggesting that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between dropping out of high school and committing a crime. Siegel correctly pointed out that fetal alcohol syndrome, for example, might cause both events.

However, he seems to have missed the fact that dropping out of high school in itself can still be causal. For example, dropping out (whatever caused it) tends to result in lower income, which in turn may make it more likely that a person will turn to crime.

As a safety and accident analyst for many years I thought a lot about accident causes to decide what, if anything, ought to be fixed. Even many accident analysts tend to try to pick out a single cause for a problem, but doing that is an oversimplification.

There are always many probable causes of any undesired event such as a crime or an accident. And single-cause thinking is a particularly poor idea because it limits your thinking about how you might improve things.

Ted Yellman, Bellevue

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