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Conundrums of Motivation

March 31, 2015 1 comment

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. The idiom is classic and its accuracy profound. By what method can one make another do an action? For what purpose does one choose to activate the mind? As an instructor, this challenge of motivation remains the ever-impossible problem to solve. Can the motivational riddle be solved?

Many have tried: incentives such as food and cash have been attempted with diminishing returns. Are external motivators more powerful? The avoidance of the threat certainly works for students whose parents directly influence their performance in school. But are these techniques effective in developing life long learners?

Unfortunately the problem of motivation (seemingly its deficiency and not its excess) has existed forever. For what purpose should I do this thing? The “I” remains the factor. Only when it matters does the individual act. Is it culture that determines the value of an action? Fear might play a part and likewise motivations and the avoidance of punishment. And yet for educators around the world what legitimate action can be taken to inspire another to act. One can only do so much and ultimately the student and his or her cognition remain the single driving force between inaction and the action.

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Baker’s Block

March 31, 2015 1 comment

Indiana’s “Freedom of Religion” law reminds us that, despite our democratic notions, we do not live in an egalitarian society. Aristocrats will defend the status quo by all means necessary. Even as society undergoes changes in cultural perspectives and popular support for these groups wanes they will battle to maintain control. Such groups do not go gentle into that good night: they fight to maintain power.

Aristocrats do not recognize their passing. Even in light of new ideas and perspectives a battle will be mounted to reverse the changing trends. Often, discrimination is a common utility for such figures. To deny access to a service allows a powerful group to manipulate resources; to complicate the day-to-day operations of an undesired faction to focus on their goals. “If I don’t like the things you do, I’ll make your life a challenge”, they might say. Ultimately the means to defeat such actions is to swell around the new ideas and work to quell aristocratic abuse of power.

For the cake maker who refuses to sell cakes to homosexuals there are various methods of response. One might create legislation to ban or allow such limitations. Another option is to recognize the power of the market. For a baker to limit his or her customer base is to sacrifice a source of revenue. Beyond the denied couples a portion of other populations (heterosexual couples) will choose to purchase cakes elsewhere in response to these ideas. Though not directly affected, the belief that someone else is being abused warrants a response. “I would never pay a baker who refused to sell to homosexuals”, they might say.

In the end we are faced with variable responses. Legislation might provide for a desired end, but the more powerful response resides in the market. Let the dollars make the statements. In order to defeat aristocrats whose ideas have waned we are better served by popular response.

Immoral Mission Creep

February 8, 2015 Leave a comment

First expressed in 1953, “mission creep” is the “expansion of a mission beyond its initial goals, even after its initial success”. Though often used to refer to military campaigns, it also provides an agile perspective to assess all social movements. Sensing success and popular acceptance, a group proceeds onward with another set of goals. In business the endless “pushing forward” is the name of the game: new products are the life line of a company and successful companies are known for multiple types of products.

Unlike businesses, where a concrete “product” is created, groups dedicated to the promotion of abstract concepts also suffer mission creep. Advocates can never solve a problem: there will always be persistent crumbs of the initial target problem. For a group determined to eliminate discrimination success can only breed new missions: “We are successful, so let’s move this campaign forward.”

Unfortunately the attributes of these movements is not always associated with goals that benefit society. For every group determined to eliminate discrimination another stands determined to continue or expand the status quo abuse. Progress is an endless battle, a constant give and take between perspectives of the greater good. For the individuals working to achieve a goal there remains only constant, infinite levels of challenge.

Camera Call

December 3, 2014 Leave a comment

In light of recent news, the issue of police authority has given rise to a national question: Can we regulate our police force? Given authority to “serve and protect” the laws and citizens of the country the quandary comes in our inability to determine the acceptable application of this authority. How much force is one allowed to use when facing a lethal threat? We often view such questions with a “tit-for-tat” simplification, concluding that an officer engaged in a life or death battle is justified in lethal force? Yet herein lies our problem: what is “life or death” and how do we determine that once an incident has ended such actions were justified?

The means by which we determine negligence in public officials is faulted. As we see in FIFA, the NFL, and other large organizations the task of investigating comes internally. FIFA investigates FIFA and the NFL considers NFL actions? Should we be surprised when accusers are dismissed and negligence not found?

The challenge comes in finding the means to conduct these investigations. Given that many of these cases involve the death of the other participant in the incident is essential that evidence in the moment be gathered. On-body cameras for officers is the first step to working towards a better system of investigation. Gather video of the incident and require it be used to consider the case. Included with the benefits of this evidence is the additional accountability that comes with awareness of the cameras? Will the cameras eliminate bad behavior or will in hinder officers from doing their jobs? Of course these questions will arise, but for the benefits of the victims whose stories remain untold it is essential that some technology be used to collect their stories. “All men are created equal” and their stories must be told if we are “innocent until proven guilty”

Of Reactions to Reactions

November 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Can Newtown explain Ferguson? In reflecting on the physical world, Sir Isaac Newton wrote that “to every action there is always opposed an equal reaction”. Born in 1642 and yet connected to the here-and-now. In Ferguson, Missouri protestors took to the streets in reaction to a grand jury’s decision to not charge Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. Reaction begot action begot action and reaction. Vicious cycle? Yes: for those who own the buildings and the businesses. From victimization came more victims and from suffering came more suffering.

Speaking in Chicago on the day after the protests, President Obama said: “I’ve never seen a civil rights law or a health care bill or an immigration bill result because a car got burned, it happened because people vote. It happened because people mobilized. It happened because people organized.”

The reactions characterized by Newton can be observed in every aspect of our world. From nature see the microcosm and our human turmoil in miniature. Reactions spindle forward as variables adjust. Are we little more than thunderstorms? Can no progress come from what we wrought?

And yet herein lies the critical value: progress. From what progress do our reactions serve? Perhaps this is the key question to ask: “What progress comes from our protest?” Are we building a better world by reacting as we do? One is cautioned to consider this, to ponder one’s emotion and consider a reaction. Destroying in reaction to destruction is a farce.

Our Cake of Twenty-Three Percent

November 5, 2014 Leave a comment

As of 2013, Ohio’s population was thirteen-million people. Of those, 7.75 million are said to be registered to vote. This is 59.6% of the population. Only 3.1 million people cast ballots in the 2014 mid-term election. This is roughly 40% of those registered and a mere 23% of all citizens in the state. While lack of registration of election day means its impossible to vote, one does have significant swaths of time to register to vote. So-called “motor-voter” laws encourage voter registration by including the ability to register to vote at DMV offices.

One wonders why one wouldn’t vote. Yes, some argue that a single vote has no difference (reducing down to being a 1 in 10 million chance of being decisive), but statistics are unrelated factors here. Instead, I view voting as an act of participation. To be a citizen in a democracy is to be a member of a social machine of sorts, a human construct designed to have human representation as its gears and parts. We vote for representatives who form symbolic collectives of our community who then go on to represent our views in government. The idea is that these representatives will enact, detract or propose legislation that reflects our collective belief. This, of course, is Civics 101 and stupid, simple logic.

But what are we to make of a system where 23% of the population participate. Imagine society as a car. How would a car that is 23% complete function? How might a child respond to a birthday cake that is 23% whole? Unfortunately this is just the cake we’ve baked. Worse yet, while the solution remains in grasp (people can register and vote), the likelihood that they will remain highly doubtful. We live in a world where people will camp outside stores to buy the latest model of expensive electronic toys and yet find no reason to bubble in the teeny tiny dots of a ballot. What purpose does it have? some ask. One wonders where the hesitancy comes in? Is it useless? Well, so what. What other daily chores do we complete that have no functional utility? To vote is to participate and build the machinery of state. At the very least, vote simply to have the right to complain. See those who complain without voting as the baker’s complaining about how bad their 23% completed cake is. What would we say to them? Finish your work, do your job. Low voting rates are tragic. One wonders how such lack of concern for a civic action stems from a country where people died for such a right. Though I know that no one reads this, please, if so inspired take the second to register:

Perfectionist Pursuits

September 4, 2014 Leave a comment

.“If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”
― Ecclesiastes 11:4

Perfection is a relative condition. Your ideal self might be a nightmare for another. The ideal number, an ideal form: one’s relative impression of what-should-be is a self-defined determinant.

As with many pitfalls of consciousness, one’s ability to self-justify perfectionism provides the warm balm in the face of cognitive dissonance. Faced with the question, “Am I taking this too far?” or “Have I finally lost control”, one’s list of past successes lights the way to justify behavior. Greet the doubt with explanation: the reason for success, my only saving grace. A spiraled list is possible as one’s quest for something higher assumes a risk for a reward. We exist in a world where great risk takers have been rewarded for their efforts. Read a biography of Steve Jobs and one will note the list of anecdotal moments of perfectionist tantrums. Can we link this need to his success. Be wary readers, correlation is not causation and one wonders just how many great ideas were lost by Jobs’ obsession with a perfect shade of blue.

Ironically, the quest to understand perfectionism involves an on-going struggle for a “perfect” model. Frost’s Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale” appeared in 1990. Its six item breakdown of common ‘perfectionist’ features lasted but a single year as Hewitt and Flett’s model of 1991 expanded the list to forty-five items. Then again a change was needed and in 1996 with the Slaney model titled “Almost-Perfect Scale” a broader sense was founded. In 2000’s, Daniels and Pierce made an attempt. Yes, the quest remains in progress: never perfect, always striving.

Despite the numerous models, a common collection of personality traits appear in the models. In general, these revolve around an obsession with the self. It branches far and wide and swarms to encompass every aspect of one’s life. Whether physical or mental, the quest for perfectionism casts one into an impossible gauntlet of needing more. Never perfect, always striving. “I refuse to be content.”

Ultimately, the solution lies not with perfecting the personal piggy bank of life. To make the fix? You need to break the pig. To be perfect is impossible, so to crack the need is to solve the puzzle. The solution to perfectionism lies within the heart of the perfectionist: accept yourself for who you are and come to terms with the ugly, stinky mess that is existence here and now.

 

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