He faces many challenges of irony at Fairhills. At the most immediate level is the ironic policy of the public schools in his city. The official policy is to rehabilitate the Fairhills clients, so that these young men and women can return to the regular classroom (or at least return to a special education program at one of the public schools). This return, however, rarely happens. The school officials don’t really want these difficult students back in their schools. They have neither the budget nor the expertise to handle these students.
Hence, the real choice for these adolescents is between an extended stay at Fairhills (usually until they are at least 16 years old) or transfer to one of the state’s overcrowded mental health facilities. The discrepancy between formal policy and actual practices can never be formally discussed by either Joshua or the public school administrators with whom he meets. Joshua can appreciate this from a bit of a distance. He can be contingent (to use Rorty’s word) or “painfully flexible” (to use Joshua’s own words) in confronting this irony-filled condition. Joshua receives funding on a per-capita basis, so he needs to keep his adolescent clients at Fairhills, but can’t really admit to this financial imperative; the school administrators don’t want the kids back yet must not declare this publicly. So, nothing is said about this discrepancy between private and public priorities.
At a personal level, Joshua is faced with the Hard Irony of operating from both a thinking and feeling perspective. He cares about the kids and wants to provide them with hope and opportunity. This is supported by and nurtures his feeling function. Yet, as the chief administrator of his organization and as the principle financial steward of Fairhills, Joshua must keep the place filled and must continue to receive substantial checks coming in from city, state and federal sources. Fairhills can’t be too effective—enabling clients to return to the public schools. Fairhills also can’t be too ineffective—requiring the transfer of clients to mental health facilities. It’s a delicate balancing act. Joshua hates this tension between rational financial planning and the way these kids tug on his heart. He hates being contingent!Download Article 1K Club