Thinking is Hard

Ever wonder “why are people so stupid?” – or, more properly speaking, why so many people say and do so many stupid things?

I could write an entire article devoted to stupid ideas. I could try to fix the “SIWOTI” is Wrong on the Internet) problem once and for all. And Sisyphus could, given sufficient labor and will, reach the top of the hill.

There are several sorts of responses to one’s own error.

One sort tends to see the error as evidence that one is stupid, bad, unlucky, has bad genes or other problems of ancestry, and should give up.

Another sort replies “I need to work harder.”

Still others fail to notice, or deny that there was any error.

There is a classic spoof about a teacher angrily demanding that a student comply in class rather than (correctly) aver that miles are longer than kilometers. While this particular letter is known to be a spoof, it resonates with our own experiences. Think about the folks who said “Did I tell you to do X? Why did you do X?”

A recent report by Reading is Fundamental discovered that, simply by giving children a choice of which books to take home for the summer, large numbers of children’s reading abilities improved over the course of those few months. (The usual expectation, based on past research, is that many children, especially of low socio-economic status, will actually lose reading ability over the summer.)

The result astonished the RIF organization. Why? I conjecture that this method falls too far outside the normal paradigm. What is a teacher to do? Merely to arrange for the distribution of lightly-curated books according to the actual choices of children? This suggests that the bulk of heavy lifting, learning-wise, must be accomplished by the children themselves.

Well, who knew? Answer: every one of the few children who run circles around their peers. These few work harder and reap the benefits, instead of beating themselves up with reasons why they can’t. These few are much more productive because they have taken ownership away from the self-appointed guardians of learning.


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