Friday, September 16, 2011

The Big Lie

The KIPP education group has been trying to sell some character values to its students:
What appealed to Levin about the list of character strengths that Seligman and Peterson compiled was that it was presented not as a finger-wagging guilt trip about good values and appropriate behavior but as a recipe for a successful and happy life. He was wary of the idea that KIPP’s aim was to instill in its students “middle-class values,” as though well-off kids had some depth of character that low-income students lacked. “The thing that I think is great about the character-strength approach,” he told me, “is it is fundamentally devoid of value judgment.”

Now, if on average the poor possess an equivalent amount of most virtues--discipline, generosity, prudence, etc.--then there's a massive and subtle conspiracy of DaVinci code proportions going on. Virtues by definition make us prosperous, statistically. The idea that the poor are so insecure that they have to be told an obvious untruth to maintain their self-esteem merely creates more resentment against society, which they are told again and again is fundamentally unfair in a really subtle pervasive way. The truth, or something close to it, is necessary for finding the good, and that means telling kids they need bourgeois values. If someone points out that such values are more like 'middle class values' than 'public housing values', the kinder might actually appreciate the connection between these abstract concepts and concrete results.


brendan said...

My wife is a young elementary school teacher. She earned her masters a couple years ago. When her class was not watching Michael Moore flicks, and movies about how the trend towards capitalism was ruining the Nirvana that used to be India in the good old days...

the class did lots of online message board discussion stuff, which I had the privilege of seeing first hand. Sample topic: Is discouragement of ebonics in the classroom wrong, counterproductive, or (correct answer!) both!? Not many independent thinkers among 21 year-old mostly female elementary school teachers, so needless to say, the Professor produced an offspring of teachers who think that teaching proper english is certainly morally wrong and probably counterproductive.

Bought your book on kindle. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

"The truth, or something close to it, is necessary for finding the good, and that means telling kids they need bourgeois values."


"Imagine if he were a bright-eyed young kid with merely a PowerPoint presentation and his own data. It is essential to have the right connections when you have a good idea, more so the bigger the idea."


Eric Falkenstein said...

I've been pushing low volatility stocks since grad school, and hoped to create a fund on that. Low vol/mvp investing is now a growing investing theme, and I am not directly part of it. Partially this is bad luck (working for a litigious person), partly this is because I had no good connections (I spent much of the nineties pitching my idea to funds and journals to no avail). In no way am I poor.

A big idea is one that only makes sense at large scale: index funds, low vol funds, RedBox (for dvd rentals). Getting a piece of them is the difference between upper middle classdom and being very wealthy, it has nothing to do with poverty.