Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Law of Unintended Consequences

There are many books about the law of Unintended Consequences.  My favorite is the follow up book too - Time and Again – From Time to Time.  For the dedicated 19th century enthusiast I would recommend both – but for the rest of us here is the plot point of the book that intrudes me.

Man travels back in time to stop WWI by saving the Titanic.  Man sinks said ship by changing the course of the ship.  Hence the Law of unintended consequence in action.  I have many more from real life… 

What about United States Trains Islamic Extremists to battle evil Soviet Empire… not good ending there either….

Rabbits released in Australia as game animal leads to rabbit invasion…

I could go on and on – humans have been living this story for thousands of years so I am nor surprised to read recently that asking students to lineup in line alphabetically has had unintended consequences that last a whole life time.

I remember fondly they day my 4th grade teacher had us lineup by last name first – I think it was only once.  Ahh the glory to have a W in your last name!   The authors of this study have discovered that people with letter late in the alphabet were more likely to be quick to seize the first opportunities and people with a, b, c’s are more likely to wait and search for the best opportunity.

I find that I am the fastest eater I know – mostly because in grade school I had 12 minutes to eat my lunch.  I had 12 minutes because it took us 10 minutes to get served and I was always at the end of the line.  Lunch was 50 minutes long – but I wanted to catch the 25 minute group walk out to the recess yard.  Remember when we had recess in grade school? – ahh the good old days?
So today I eat to fast – I really try to eat slowly – but it’s I the bones you know?  Just another reminder of the important and influential role that teachers can have on students with the smallest of decisions.  Choices that last a lifetime.

Read the original report on the paper here...

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