Foul Balls, Quantum Mechanics and Education
Is anybody else really annoyed about this “foul ball incident” that is all over the internet today?
I am. I mean, seriously, my blog is WAY more interesting than that story but it gets more hits and comments per minute than I have gotten since I created this thing. Send some of that traffic my way!
I am going to resist the urge to rant for twelve pages about the incident itself, but I do want to take a moment to talk about our reaction to the incident and what it says about us and how it applies to education.
First of all, why is everybody so mad? I don’t like to see children cry any more than anyone else (except perhaps my students but only if they really deserve it). I mean, not only is the sound terribly annoying but it also implies that the child is sad and that’s not cool either. But I’m not going to call DSS every time I see a toddler cry – it’s what they do.
How we perceive crying is a really funny thing. The younger children are, the more they cry – it’s just how they naturally learn to get attention, tell us they want or need something or that they are hurt. As they get older, they cry less. Not because these things stop happening, but because the child starts to develop emotionally and learn a variety of ways to express and deal with these feelings. My point is that when a child cries, it generally isn’t that big of a deal whereas if an adolescent or adult cries, the reason is generally much more serious. So why do we get all crazy when a younger child cries but turn our backs to it as they get older?
Here is my question (please feel free to answer in the comments below): At what age would a child crying in this situation have:
a) Not been significant enough to get spread all over the internet?
b) Started to make us question the child’s emotional stability and the parents’ ability to raise their child?
c) Started to make people actually make fun of the child and question his sexuality? (because everybody knows that tears are a physiological byproduct of men being attracted to other men – just ask your doctor, priest or football coach)
Here is what I have observed:
a) None of the people involved in the actual incident are angry at all and they all seem like decent enough people. (Do you really think that guy was actually teasing the boy? People are talking as if the guy ripped the ball out of the kid’s hands, then pointed at him and proclaimed ‘hey everybody, look at that stupid crybaby’. I mean, seriously, a crying kid at a baseball game is a standard part of the background noise, I think there is even a $0.04 surcharge in the ticket price. You don’t go to a baseball game to stare at crying little boys, you go to watch baseball games and drink beer.)
b) The child has excellent batting form.
c) The child got over it WAY more quickly than 99% of the people who saw the video.
d) The child has parents that still make a point of spending quality time with their son and take him to baseball games.
So many assumptions, accusations and misinterpretations have come from this incident and it is very much like what is happening in education these days. A majority of us assumed the worst about at least one person involved; the child, the parents, the ball stealing couple, the announcers, etc. When we read some statistic about how 89% of children born in 2012 will have the IQ of a goldfish by the time they turn 18 we do the same: we assume the worst about the children, the parents, the teachers, the administrators, the government, etc.
When are we going to realize that all of the blame, accusations and mistrust are actually the real cause of most of these problems? Nobody trusts anybody else and thus none of us work together. Schools are forced to spend more time “proving” that they are teaching “correctly and effectively” than actually teaching effectively. I used to think that all of the standardized testing was a “necessary evil”; that we had to do it to ensure children get an equal education. But in reality, it is just being used as a way to blame each other and validates our lack of trust in everyone. Please don’t hate me for saying this fellow teachers, but we often do this to our administrators the same way they sometimes do it to us – do you really think your principal loves standardized testing as much as the Board of Education makes them pretend to?
I hope that this next comment ticks all of you off a little bit. There are very few bad teachers, bad parents, bad students or bad administrators. I don’t even mean a few percent, I mean a few – as in mathematically speaking you probably have never even met one. Many whom we perceive to be bad only get that way because they have devoted their lives to something they truly care about only to be blamed for everything and have their intentions and ability questioned by just about everybody else. Well yeah, of course some teachers, administrators, students and parents eventually just say “f* it all, I just don’t care anymore.”
Testing and data is great but has a huge flaw: the more data you have, the easier it is to make it say anything you want. If anyone doesn’t believe me, please email me with your basic information (name, age, occupation, ethnic background, place of birth and place of residence) and I will prove to you that you will almost certainly get cancer or some terminal illness and die within the next five years.
If there is one thing we have learned from quantum mechanics it is that as important as taking and using data is, the more data you take the more you actually screw everything up. Children are like the quantum state of a subatomic particle – they can be infinitely complex, contain and store endless information and have limitless potential, but if you even look at one the wrong way they/it will collapse in on itself and everything will be lost.
We need to stop looking at one crying child or one bad test and making all sorts of assumptions and conclusions. If you don’t know the people involved with the “foul ball incident” than kindly do everyone a favor: stop wasting your time speculating and whining about a situation about which you will never really know all the facts and spend that time doing something more productive. Maybe you could go and take your child to a baseball game. Or you could go and volunteer at a local ”underperforming school“. Or better yet – read my blog and refer it to all of your friends. If you are one those people that just likes to bitch about everything, then fear not! I’ll give you plenty to get angry about and disagree with. I encourage you to post your worthless, uninformed and un-proofread comments that you think are so deep, thoughtful and profound so my dog and I can laugh at you. All you are to me is a +1 in my statistics.
Are you mad yet or do I need to try harder?