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What do we teach our kids?

I've just experienced a sports day with very young children.

Once of the event was the egg and spoon race, where they have to run with an egg (actually a ball) balanced on their spoons. 

In another race they had to run with a bean bag balanced on their heads.

Being the great pragmatists that children are, the kids all held the eggs and bean bags with one hand and ran.  If you do have to run with a bean bag on your head or an egg on a spoon, this definately seems like the most effective approach.

In a few years time, these same children will be doing things the hard way, because that is the 'proper' way. 

It seems that throughout schooling we are trained to stop doing things the most effective way, and instead adopt the proper, approved approach.

Is it little wonder that by the time they reach employment so many slavishly stick to processes even though there are far more effective ways. 

When you insist on doing something the easy way, it generates resentment.  Is this because you are 'cheating' when everybody knows that your supposed to hold the egg.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, July 15, 2004

... *not* supposed to hold the egg.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I disagree with your analysis.

The point of the game isn't "find the most effective way to run with the egg".  Using your logic, why should NBA players have to dribble the ball? Clearly, it's more pragmatic to simply hold the ball and run. It makes it harder to steal.

So I think there's two problems with your question.

1. Don't equate work with games.

2. Even in work, where creative solutions are good, there will always be constraints that you cannot ignore.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I also totally disagree. Games by their nature are contrived to have difficulties.  That's the point.  The comepetition is to see who can overcome the obstacles within the confines of the rules.

Brian
Thursday, July 15, 2004

> The comepetition is to see who can overcome the obstacles within the confines of the rules

Or, if you are a professional sportsman, outside of the rules without the referee seeing.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

Although I see your point, and it is a good one. I think you miss the point of the games you mentioned.

ie balance, coordination etc as opposed to logic.

The point you make focuses on too small a picture...ie getting to the finish line with the egg first. The race is just a distraction to entice the kids to learn some important skills.

Aussie chick
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Simple Ged; either the rule says you can't hold the egg in one hand or it doesn't.

I remember a few years ago when my local bar had a drinking competition as part of the local festivities. A Kings Street Run without the running, the idea was to see who could drink five litres of beer the quickest. One of the Civil Guards in the competition simply drank the pints and then spat them straight out again. He argued, reasonably, that nobody had specified anything about this in the rules. They had to give him first prize and make another one for those that didn't vomit - which I managed to win I say with pride :)

Stephen Jones
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Ged,

or you the guy that wins every game of Monopoly by puching your nephews in the eye and shouting "now give me the money or I'll have to get less friendly"?

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Agreed.  In basketball, there's a rule that says you can't just hold the ball and run.  Little kid's games are often crafted by people who don't consider spelling out obvious rules, and yet those are the very ones you should always spell out, i.e:
1) in a drinking contest, you have to actually imbibe the drink, not just spit it out.
2) in an egg-spoon running contest, you can't hold the actual egg, only the spoon.
3) in the shot put, you can't use a cannon.
4) in the tour de France, you can't use a motorcycle, etc.

sir_flexalot
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Just a random, ill thought through musing relating every aspect of my life to software development.  I'm practicing for my own blog.

I just felt sorry for these poor kids staring confusedly at their parents who were telling them not to hold the spoon.  You could see them thinking "what, you want it to fall off?"

The question remains:  when in our schooling do we get to practice the skills that equate to real life success.

For example, Sir, it seems that more companies have won real life monopolies using the tactics you describe than by playing by the rules.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I'm off to a sport's day in 20 minutes so I'll reflect on the messages here.

Incidentally at Easter my little girl was in the Egg & Spoon Race. She was one of the few who didn't cheat. She lost. In fact she tripped over the cone at the start of the course (inherits that from her mother!). She didn't care though and I told her she'd done well for doing it properly.

My concern is that the British schools are now trying to adopt a more non-competitive philosophy which kind of goes against human instinct and the real world.

Well done for the post anyway Ged. I find having children forces me to re-examine almost everything I take for granted about my behaviour and the behaviour of others. Just *why* do we do things that we have always accepted and never actually thought about? Or why do we do them in a certain way? It has increased my already high analytical tendencies. But that's good right? Except now I feel I need to think about absolutely everything which must lower my effectiveness / productivity!

gwyn
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I agree with Ged. Maybe his analysis of the game was a bit off - the rules weren't specific enough, but the glee you get from breaking the rules & getting away with it is something you lose later in life, and it's definately something that can be schooled out of you. School is designed to make you a "productive" member of society - i.e. keep your head down & work harder.

Now I want each one of you who replied to this thread to tell me why you got in to programming. What drew you to it?

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, July 15, 2004

A natural ability and a tendency towards structure and perfection.

gwyn
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Ged, of course I was just kidding.

The point is interesting. Living in a part of the world that sees a rapid decline of "civility" in favor of opportunism, I also often wonder what to teach my children. Do I teach them to be nice, knowing full well they are going to learn the truth being suckered by some selfish basterd with no inhibitions, or do I give them "a head start" by showing them the true nature of the game.
I still believe the former is right, even though seeing the clear advantages of the latter on a daily basis makes me sick.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, July 15, 2004

>Well done for the post anyway Ged.
>I find having children forces me to
>re-examine almost everything I take
>for granted about my behaviour and
>the behaviour of others.

Complete ditto.  As for why I got into programming, it was because I loved to code.  The computer made sense, it did what I told it told it to, and when it got mad at me, it was my own fault. 

In Briggs-Meyers, I'm INFP.  I am -extremely- good with memorization and expert-systems like work.  People, I don't get.

I spent most of my MS working on the people side of software - software engineering, testing, project mgt, quality, etc.  It's been fun.  I'm now taking my final course, which is computer architecture, where I'm fiddling with logic gates, writing assembler code, and writing microcode to generate opcodes.

And you know what?  It's fun. It reminds me why I got into this field.

Regards,

www.xndev.com (Formerly Matt H.)
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Actually, the egg and spoon race, and the sack race and bean bag balancing are all because teachers don't think kids that age, up to around 7-8 can cope with straight line sports such as running, jumping and such and that these fun alternatives give them all a chance.

In fact they don't because the less coordinated look and feel even clumsier than they would otherwise.

I was at my daughter's sports day yesterday which now they're in middle school is far more traditional and they seemed to enjoy taking part even more.

Although I couldn't help noticing that the school's records often dated back to the early 80's or earlier.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, July 15, 2004

So what we've realized is that sports don't necessarily teach real-life skills, because they contain artificial rules that the real world doesn't.  Perhaps we shouldn't try to teach our kids that sports are the world, and instead focus on problem solving skills!  I remember playing sports and not being good at the rules, but I also remember killing the other kids at problem-solving contests (i.e. get x people from point A to point B, with only one constraint, like they can't touch the ground).

sir_flexalot
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I agree with Ged, too.

The point is THE KIDS WERE FOLLOWING THE RULES AS SPECIFIED.  The parents then tried to change the rules while the game was in progress.  Kids are very creative when it comes to figuring out just how far they can go within the rules, and there is a danger in quashing this creativity.  Aren't we always being admonished to (CLICHE ALERT! CLICHE ALERT! CLICHE ALERT!) "Think outside the box"?

Which also displays a very important legal principle, I think.  Is there not a principle that laws may not be passed making something retrospectively illegal, then punishing the person for something that was legal at the time it happened?  In the context of this silly little game, that principle was violated.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, July 15, 2004

"Do I teach them to be nice, knowing full well they are going to learn the truth being suckered by some selfish basterd with no inhibitions, or do I give them "a head start" by showing them the true nature of the game."

Jesus addressed the problem thusly:

Matthew 10:16

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. "

Teach them the truth about the world, and what and who to look out for.  But teach them they don't have to act the same way.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, July 15, 2004

So where are real life skills taught?

Ged Byrne
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Just what is the pragmatic purpose to putting an egg on a spoon and running with it?  Same with a beanbag....

Games are usually silly, and have little, if any, pragmatic purpose to begin with.  In my mind, the biggest difference between games and business is that a game is defined by the rules, and business is defined by the goal.  Of course, there is some cross-breeding in there, but generally, that's the idea.

JT
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Teaching kids not to always pick the easy way has some strong merits.  For instance, the easy way to get large sums of money would be to make large withdrawls from banks where I don't have accounts.  I'm reasonably well armed, fairly proficient at planning things out, and not bothered by confrontation. Fortunately for the local bank tellers, I also have a strong drive not to have my name mentioned Sunday morning in the homily.

Specifying the requirements of the project is essential. If one of the requirements isn't that you need to keep your hands off the egg, it makes very good sense to take both spoon and egg directly into the palm, if your hands are big enough for it.

Personally I prefer a straight forward games day. Run farther, faster. Climb higher. Nail your opponent with the big red ball before he does it to you (yeah, it hurts, but keeping out of the way is a big thrill).

Clay Dowling
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Part of the point of the artificial constraints that make games what they are is to isolate and emphasize certain skills, usually at the expense of others.

Someone good at the bean bag race will develop good balance.  Someone good at the egg race has learned the relationship between speed and stability, and the trade-off involved.  Playing chess doesn't teach you about small-unit tactics in wartime, but you do learn the abstract relationships between time, space and force.

When you try to teach everything at once, you often fail to teach anything.  Games help focus the intended lesson.

Justin Johnson
Thursday, July 15, 2004

> Specifying the requirements of the project is essential.

I agree 100%. When you're drafting a law, you have to anticipate all the loopholes. When you're programming, you have to anticipate all the bugs. When our kids run with one hand on the bean bag or one hand holding both the egg and the spoon, they're basically acting like software bugs, or shady characters trying to cheat the law. Sorry for the unfortunate analogy, but it's not their fault for finding and exploiting weaknesses in the requirements.

The people who should be learning from this experience is *us*, who were supposed to describe the rules properly in the first place. I think a person who can do that would make a good engineer.

Derek
Thursday, July 15, 2004

>> So where are real life skills taught?

In real life.

njb
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Just me ( Sir to you):

I am a 22 year old. I respect my parents because whatever they have tought me till now was/is fair, good and right. For me they are the best people in the world and then ofcourse my teachers.

They never really tought or showed me what real world is like! They always showed me the brighter and the beautiful side of the life and other's.

If parents want their children to love and respect them, then they_ have_to teach them to do the same with others!

And now, when I see the real world, and the realities of the real world,I really THANK GOD for giving me such a nice childhood and parents. And then "respect for them"  keeps on growing with time.

I hope you would also want this from your children . Everybody want's!
Believe me they will never criticise you for teaching good and right, but OFTEN criticise you for not doing the same.
Teach them to be nice!, Just me( Sir to you)
You will really love it and be proud of yourself.
Ofcourse, I would surely do the same. Let the right time come... ;-)

A father in child's eye.
Thursday, July 15, 2004

And when do they experience real life?

It seems now that kids are ferried from school to home to clubs.  It seems that they live life in a protective bubble that we have created for them, and more and more it seems that they are growing up into adults that just haven't experienced real life.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, July 15, 2004

They experience real life when a bigger kid smacks them and grabs their candy. When they see their Dad depressed because he just lost his job. When they see a homeless person. When they get yelled at by the crabby old guy across the street... you can't "teach" real life.

njb
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Ahh, but what then is "real life" Ged?  Is it not the invariant splitting of time between work, home, and social activities?

Of course there's also the extreme tragedy, like war, terrorism, etc...but that's another matter.

Joe
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I don't think the problem is what you think it is
Ged.

This "cocooning' of children is something I've noticed, but luckily they'll find a way round it.

UK parents do seem to have long been gripped by a kind of self-righteous hysteria.

I see kids happier elsewhere, in much poorer countries. Unfortunately it doesn't last.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Ged;

"And when do they experience real life?"
Ged;

But Why do you want your children to experience real life so early?
And how will it help or benefit them?

Try explaining any real life situation to them,
I am sure they_won't_believe_you, untill or unless they had faced that situation before.

It is very difficult to make them believe! I really never believed, if somebody tried so...and now I somewhat believe them.

A father in child's eye.
Thursday, July 15, 2004

asked (perhaps rhetorically) Jim Rankin:

"Is there not a principle that laws may not be passed making something retrospectively illegal, then punishing the person for something that was legal at the time it happened?"

Indeed there is: "ex post facto"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_post_facto

- former car owner in Queens
Thursday, July 15, 2004

" THE KIDS WERE FOLLOWING THE RULES AS SPECIFIED."

Congratulations! You just invented lawyers!

Philo

Philo
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I am a 22 year old boy living in India. I have never been to any other country. Few of you have been to various countries, I guess. And seen them closely.
What is a life of a 22 year old boy and girl in, say US and UK. I am studying and till now dependent on my parents for emotional and financial support. Hopefully two years from now, I would start earning.
"Stephen's you have been to India couple of times. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages with the "family system" and "upbringing of the children" here in India?
Yes, Girls here don't have much freedom as any westerner girl would have. And story is far more shocking in rural india.
I just wanted to know the advantages or disadvantages of both!
If you know any book or site, please let me know...

   

A father in child's eye.
Friday, July 16, 2004

"you can't "teach" real life."

njb,

This is exactly my point.  Children's lives seems to have become so constrained and structured.

I remember as a child taking a fairly long walk to school every day at quiet a young age.  There would be a group of us who would meet up and walk together.  This was our time.  I also knew everybody on the street.  Our neighbours are strangers to us.

Children know plenty about fashion, shopping malls, theme parks and the rest, but they don't seem to have time to learn about real life.

It isn't just that we're not teaching them about real life, it is that we are going to so much trouble to prevent them from learning for themselves.

I've stayed a fair bit here, since I started with just something that struck me as an amusing notion.  However, I think it runs deeper.

Perhaps another aspect was the fact that all of these events were non competetive.  Not only were these children running backwards and forwards with eggs balanced on spoon, the activity had no apparant purpose.  They weren't doing it for there team to win, they did it simply because they had been told too, and to please expectant parents that were watching. 

What if one of these children asks 'Why?'  Refuses to do it on the ground that it was all plain silly?  Such disobedience could never be tolerated, but the kid would have a valid point.

Ged Byrne
Friday, July 16, 2004

Sorry, "Stephen" not "Stephen's"

A father in child's eye.
Friday, July 16, 2004

You mean they were having an egg race that wasn't even a race? Is this because there could not be a winner, because *gasp* then someone else would have to be a non-winner (I wont mention the L word to spare our more sensitive readers) and that would be an intolerable concept in the "everyone is equal" society?

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, July 16, 2004

Sir,

Exactly, what are we teaching our kids?

If we are teaching them that life is just and fair, then isn't this just a great big lie?

Ok, Ok, we lie about Santa, but at least they find out about that one before they are too old.

Ged Byrne
Friday, July 16, 2004

That reminds me of a Jasper Carot joke. He is talking about how his kids catch him out being Santa and he says "Oh, but we do it all for you, to make like more interesting and fun." Then his kid says "What about God, Daddy? It is you, isn't it Daddy? You're God!"

...
Friday, July 16, 2004

I am the nasty person who tells her five year old sisters that santa isn't real.

My parents usually avoid us around Christmas time.

Dad dressed up as santa for a lions club, my brother and I had to be restrained from pointing the truth out to our younger sisters.

Why lie I say. Why lie?

Aussie Chick
Friday, July 16, 2004

"Ok, Ok, we lie about Santa,..."

What, exactly, are you trying to say here?

Jim Rankin
Friday, July 16, 2004

If any of you are suggesting not believing in Santa Claus, here is an iron-clad, irrefutable argument for why believing in Santa Claus is the only rational course.

(found in http://biblebabble.curbjaw.com/calvinandhobbes.htm)

Calvin: Well. I´ve decided I *do* believe in Santa Claus,  no matter how preposterous he sounds.
Hobbes: What convinced you?
Calvin: A simple risk analysis. I want presents. *Lots* of presents. Why  risk not getting them over a matter of belief?  Heck,  I´ll believe anything they want.
Hobbes: How cynically enterprising of you.
Calvin: It´s the spirit of Christmas.

Jim Rankin
Friday, July 16, 2004

Ged, when you think about it, the whole school thing is a bit of an imposition.

We make kids leave early, spend all day sitting in desks, reading and stuff, and it's part of a mechanised squash system that keeps civilisation ticking over. It means each new generation learns some pretty impressive capabilities.

On top of that we impose additional rules like uniforms so that by the time those kids are 18 they're ready to obey captains of industry and battlefield commanders (enough of them anyway.)

I've noticed with my own kids that, at a young age, they already become anxious if we're running late, and I wonder where they got that from, because I don't do it.

Me And The View Out The Window
Friday, July 16, 2004

I'm sure some of you will find this abberant, but we were always honest to our kids wrt Santa. They enjoy the day and the presents just as much as any other kids

Just me (Sir to you)
Saturday, July 17, 2004

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