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Notes Towards Day 20: Zero-Sum or Not?

Anne Dalke's picture

Notes Towards Day 20 of Food for Thought

I. Coursekeeping
by 9 a.m. on Mon: Post in our on-line course forum a one-paragraph analysis of
the findings of your initial research into ONE dimension (economic? psychological?
historical? cross-cultural?) of  designing a college curriculum.
Support that analysis w/ an annotated bibliography of 3 web sources.

for class on Tues, DON'T read
Jared Diamond on “
Living Through the Donner Party
but some new materials about curriculum which we'll
make available soon!

II. Taking a little time w/ that last paper...

III. Playing
Prisoner’s Dilemma: what happened?

theoretically: a non-zero-sum experience, in which
the best strategy increases your partner's pay-off
how to maximize one's own pay-off depends on partner;
there's no single best strategy

actually? experientially? does it "pay to be devious"?

what experiences have you had of "playing"
prisoner's dilemma in your own life?

"The Point" of Prisoner's Dilemma here/now:
to get you to think differently about your upcoming
proposals and papers on curricular choice-making

what should guide our decisions about curriculum?
(both personally and institutionally?)
can you design a "non-zero-sum" situation?
something "win-win"?
reducing competition/increasing cooperation?
can you re-configure/re-frame the curriculum altogether?

Prisoner's Dilemma is such an important game
because it demonstrates that (in the abstract)
two cooperating partners can both win
(significant caveat: both need to have
the information/agree to do this!)

IV. Cf. to "The Tragedy of the Commons"
two kinds of solutions:
technical and those requiring a change in human values/morals
"no technical solutions" include population problem
grows geometrically/exponentially
in a world that is practically finite
--not mathematically possible to maximize for 2+ variables @ once
--biological fact: problem of acquisition of energy
--need to make work calories close to zero
optimum population less than maximum
what is good? incommensensurables are comparable:
need only a criterion of judgment, system of weighting
exorcise Adam Smith's "invisible hand":
individual decisions not best for entire society
reexamine individual freedoms
"essence of tragedy: remorseless working of things"/
inevitableness of destiny/futility of escape

tragedy of the commons:
rational being seeks to maximize his gain,
but costs are shared by all in a world that is limited
exs: Western ranges, world oceans, National Parks
reverse ex: pollution/commons as cesspool
overloaded bhemical/biological recycling processes
calls for redefining private property rights
morality of an act function of state of system:
need to know total system

morality is system-sensitive
(cf. trad'l ethics, don't allow for particular circumstances)
who watches the watchers? how legislate temperate?
invent correctives to keep custodians honest?
no negative feedback for exuberant breeding in the welfare state
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (wrongly)
places decision w/ family

exosomatic transmission
(or: what's the point of education?)
to appeal to conscience selects against it:
condemns simpletons in exploitative world
double bind of conjuring up conscience in others:
we now doubt the value of guilt (focus on own anxieties, not object)
responsibility verbal counterfeit for quid pro quo:
get something for nothing
"product of definite social arrangements," which create mutual coercion
(ex: taxing; legal inheritance)
warfare between reform and status quo
thoughtlessly governed by double standard of perfection
commons justified only under conditions of low-population density
abandoned in food gathering; then waste disposal; now pleasure?
every new enclosure of the commons
involves infringing on someone's personal liberty

"Freedom is the recognition of necessity"--
and it is the role of education to reveal to all
the necessity of abandoning freedom to....what??

V. relevance of Milgram's "obedience studies"?
--those who stopped believed themselves responsible;
those who kept going held experimenter accountable
--on acting destructively w/out coercion: pressured to produce results
--other factors: uncertainty and time pressure
(rushed, disoriented: more compliant)
physical, biological, psychological differences:
need time to do right thing?

VI. thinking about what happens when
"obedience studies" and "Prisoners' Dilemma" rubs
up against "The Tragedy of the Commons":
what results? what are the implications for your project?
in the terms we've been using, might you
begin to imagine your philosophy of education?
i.e.: can you make it an "open" system,
instead of a "closed" one?