Thursday, March 08, 2007

Contrasts

A few weeks ago I heard a segment preview on "Good Morning America" that had me ready to hate. The segment was entitled "Why Praise Can be Bad For Kids", but as with many things, inflammatory title aside, it was quite interesting. Children who received good grades or test results were either told that they must be very smart or that they must have worked very hard. The kids told they must have worked hard did better in the long term. Now of course, that makes sense. As we have tried to move away from heaping too much praise on things kids really can't control - such as their attractiveness - somehow we forgot that they can't really fix smart. And that the more important lesson is that if you work hard, you do better.
In contrast, raising the ire a UU blogger or two, we have "The Secret". Apparently the secret is that by thinking about good things, you will get good things. Now of course, the concept is very appealing. And certainly as humans I think we strive for explanations, be they karma, past lives, superstitions or other patterns that can help us make sense of the things that happen to us - good and bad. (For a great example listen to the third act of "Kid Logic" over at This American Life.)
But bad things happen. To everyone. And good things may happen if you wish for them. But as any good knitter knows, time and effort gets you so much farther. And sometimes, even when it doesn't work out as planned, at least you could say you worked on it. It's much harder to claim failure on something one hasn't even tried. Although perhaps that, in the end, is the real appeal of the methodology.

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