Monday, 14 November 2011

Freedom to learn

On Psychology Today Peter Gray writes an intriguing blog on education called Freedom to learn.. In it he argues that forcing children to learn stifles their innate motivation to teach themselves and is thus counter productive.

The post titled Seven Sins of forced education gives as the fourth sin: "Interference with the development of personal responsibility and self-direction."

Children are biologically predisposed to take responsibility for their own education... The implicit and sometimes explicit message of our forced schooling system is: "If you do what you are told to do in school, everything will work out well for you." Children who buy into that may stop taking responsibility for their own education.

When I look back on my time as a student, what wonders me most, is that I never had the idea to explore a certain topic myself. I just read the books the school or university told me to read and that was it. Only as a researcher I started to take responsibility for my own eduction.

Another sin that fits well to the theme of the blog, variability, is the "Reduction in diversity of skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking." In a highly diversified economy, it is detrimental to teach everyone the same topics.

A highly recommended blog, Freedom to learn.

Further reading

More posts on paleo (diet and lifestyle topics inspired by evolutionary thinking).

Paleo and fruitarian lifestyles have a lot in common
A comparison of the main ideas and recommendations of these two lifestyles.
Natural cures for asthma?
Some ideas for natural ways, which helped me cure or reduce asthma.
Sleep and diversity
Differences in sleeping times, from early bird to night owls, may provide security advantages.
Is obesity bias evolutionary?
A critical comment on an article, which states that humans have an intrinsic propensity to eat too much.
Freedom to learn
Forcing children to learn stifles their innate motivation to teach themselves and may thus be counter productive.
The paleo culture
After the Ancestral Health Symposium 2012, as discussion started about the sometimes self-centred culture of the paleo community

Friday, 4 November 2011

Darwinian or Smithian competition

Econtalk recently held an interview with Robert Frank, author of the book "The Darwin Economy".
The most interesting part starts with the statement:
"I start with a prediction that I won't live to see whether it comes true or not: I predict that if we were to poll professional economists a century from now about who is the intellectual founder of the discipline, I say we'd get a majority responding by naming Charles Darwin, not Adam Smith. Smith, of course, would be the name out of 99% of economists if you asked the same question today. My claim behind that prediction is that in time, not next year, we'll recognize that Darwin's vision of the competitive process was just a lot more accurate and descriptive than Smith's was."
I think he is right, but am hopeful we do not have to wait an entire century.

The competition of Adam Smith is the competition between lion and gazelle. It makes both fast and strong. You could say, it also makes the group better of, on evolutionary time scales. Charles Darwin was aware that this is not always the case, competition between males can lead to aggressive and too strong males, competition between trees for the sun makes them tall (inefficient) and fragile (storm damage). In these cases collaboration between members of a species would make everyone better of.

The irony for economics, the study of how humans allocate their resources, is that humans are one of the most cooperative species on earth (we are strong reciprocators). You can see this everywhere, if you have an eye for it. You can see it in its most distilled form in economic games performed in laboratories, such as the ultimatum game and the common goods game.