Tuesday, February 24, 2009


~From Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely, page 140:

And in the case of our kids, we give up their time and ours--and the chance that they could become really good at one activity--in trying to give them some experience in a large range of activities. In running back and forth among the things that might be important, we forget to spend enough time on what really is important. It's a fool's game, and one we are remarkably adept at playing.

Yes, it's a good point! I agree! I even think this is one of the problems with education: it tries to teach too much. I once met someone on our school board who was just this blindly stupid. He seemed to think that the more classes one can stuff in a school, the more "well-rounded" a student is, the better off he'll be. Well... NO! Okay, "well-rounded" is good, but I think forcing students to take too many classes in too many subjects just makes them "poorly-rounded" and that doesn't help. It helps to have focus. FOCUS! Don't just try to take in everything. You can't. Focus on something.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Forcing kids to learn

~From Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely, pages 85-86:

So how can we improve the educational system? We should probably first rethink school curricula, and link them in more obvious ways to social goals (elimination of poverty and crime, elevation of human rights, etc.), technological goals (boosting energy conservation, space exploration, nanotechnology, etc.), and medical goals (cures for cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.) that we care about as a society. This way the students, teachers, and parents might see the larger point in education and become more enthusiastic and motivated about it. We should also work hard on making education a goal in itself, and stop confusing the number of hours students spend in school with the quality of the education they get. Kids can get excited about many things (baseball, for example), and it is our challenge as a society to make them want to know as much about Nobel laureates as they now know about baseball players. I am not suggesting that igniting social passion for education is simple; but if we succeed in doing so, the value could be immense.

While I'm not sure "making education a goal in itself" makes much sense, I do overall agree with this statement. I think this sort of goes with the quote I posted right below this one, about how when we're forced to do things they don't seem quite as nice. So much of school seems like "forcing kids to learn" and as a result they don't like it. I think a lot of parents and teachers don't even question it; they had to go to school, so it must be a good thing. But I believe there are quite a few ways that can make a child be more interested in his or her own education, such as giving them more control over what they're learning, getting rid of so much strict testing, and getting rid of the strict-grading system which obscures the real reasons behind learning. It's like when a child asks his parents "why do I have to do such-and-such?" and the parent says "because I said so!" That is a DUMB nonsense reason, and any parent who says that is a BAD parent, for that moment at least. Have a REAL reason and be honest; let's not be stupid!

On a side note, I think the "moodiness" of teenagers is caused almost entirely by being forced to do things all the time that don't matter them: go to school, do your homework, do your chores, go to bed. If parents and teachers lived in the same restrictive environment teenagers do and were forced to go to school, do homework, etc., they'd be just as moody! It has nothing to do with hormones and changing brains and all that crap. But I think teenagers grow up, become adults, and forget the real reasons they were miserable, continuing the cycle. :-(


Enjoying work?

~From Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely, pages 42-43:

Of course, Mark Twain came to the same conclusions: "If Tom had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do." Mark Twain further observed: "There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line in the summer because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work, and then they would resign."

This is more of a quote within a quote, because my post here is really in response to what Mark Twain said. I don't think what he said implies that a price can be stuck on anything at all and people will then be willing to pay for it; humans are not absolute complete idiots. However, how we view what we do is affected by why we think we're doing it. I've observed this first-hand with some of my hobbies, especially computer programming. I enjoy the act of programming when I feel that I'm in control, when I feel that I'm programming something for my own self-interest. But when I know I'm doing it for homework, as an assignment, it instantly becomes dreadful work that I hate doing. It makes no sense, I'm doing the same dang thing, why oh why do I suddenly begin hating it? I've observed it, but it seems there's really nothing I can do to change what I feel. Even though I know it's all psychology, I just can't trick myself into enjoying it if I feel like I don't have a choice. I wish there was a way I could but I haven't discovered it. And this goes for even something like cleaning my room. If I decided to clean my room, the task didn't make me very angry, but if my parents then commanded me to clean my room, it turned into a chore, and I began hating it in the middle of doing it. That really makes no sense if you think about it, but that's how my psychology works, and I can't think of any way to change it. :-(