Learning Right And Wrong
Modern society has many problems. Quite a few of them arise from
people making poor judgments about what is right and what is wrong.
This seems to be happening more and more today. Why is that?
It seems like a thousand "experts" have written books
or been on TV or otherwise flaunted their ideas to the public.
They all seem to have different ideas but they generally find
some specific and shallow answer to curing it. The effectiveness
of these approaches has been less than ideal.
If I was required to capsulize my thoughts on this, I'd just use
the word consistency.
It seems that today educators and parents work under the impression
that a single clear, logical presentation of a particular fact or
subject will forever imprint in a child's brain forever. Well, that's
probably true. However, words or incidents that seem to contradict
that lesson ALSO get imprinted. A child's brain totals up all of
these inputs to come to a conclusion on the ACTUAL fact, as best
as he or she could understand it.
An additional but related factor is at work. Repetition. It
used to be that students in elementary school had to recite the
alphabet and do addition and subtraction and multiplication problems
until they were coming out of their ears. Kids generally hated that
but that terrible amount of repetition certainly ground those basic
facts into their brains. The three Rs. Basic to future life.
Close to basic for civilization today.
Modern schools are so occupied in presenting a vast diversity of
information to students that they no longer really pound those
basic facts in often enough for them to get permanently
embedded in their brains.
The alphabet and simple math DO have some special things going
for them. The letters are ALWAYS the same and they're ALWAYS
in the same order. Five plus seven ALWAYS equals twelve.
Imagine how difficult it would have been to learn addition if
in one class the teacher taught you that 2 + 2 = 4 and in a different
class the teacher taught you that 2 + 2 = 3. Without a consistent
answer, learning addition would have been a nightmare!
Now, consider a subject where there IS no absolutely obvious
right answer. What's a kid to do?
On the surface, these scenarios don't seem very different. But
the last one included an aspect of absolute consistency. Effectively,
the parent is teaching something as consistent as 2 + 2 = 4.
He is teaching that the homework WILL be checked and the room WILL
be checked. After an extended repetition of this, the child will
know that as a fact as surely as 2 + 2 = 4.
- A parent goes ballistic when they find that their teenage
child has experimented with smoking. But they smoke, even
if it's only an occasional cigarette.
- A parent has very different moods depending on how the day
went at work. Every evening after dinner, the child is
told to do his/her homework and clean their room. After a
good day at work, the parent is in such a good mood that
they forget to check on compliance with these things.
After a bad day at work, the parent may be looking for
somebody to yell at to vent some emotions from the day,
at there might be regular checks on such days. The child soon
learns to make sure to do the homework/cleaning on those
bad days, but that he/she can often slide by on good days,
because even if a check was made, the parental response would
be quiet and calm. Is this a good pattern of reaction to
develop in a child?
- Similar to above, but no mood swings, but only rare checks
made on compliance. A child's life if filled with a multitude
of interesting and fun things to do. If a child sees a
regular opportunity to skip homework, the perception is that
a LOT more fun could be had.
- Similar to above, but a check of homework and room is done
EVERY night at a specific time. This consistency presents
an element of structure in a child's life. It also fosters
an attitude of responsibility toward one's duties.
Most behavioral subjects are FAR more complicated than this.
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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago