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Good Choices Revisited

June 1, 2012

Yesterday I talked about the ultimate goal of education being to enable the student to make good choices.

Of course, education isn’t the only thing that influences good choices, and is in fact the weakest of influences.

Take smoking, for example.  It’s a fatally bad choice.  Virtually everyone in America intellectually knows that smoking causes cancer and a host of other bad things.  Education certainly doesn’t keep anyone from smoking.  Looking at the initial puff, what likely influenced that choice?

·         Friends (peer pressure)

·         Example (authority influence, media, advertising)

·         Senses (what we see, hear, taste, feel, smell)

·         False sense of consequences

·         Image (what we want other to think, feel, see)

·         Greed

It becomes clear that we must weigh carefully who we hang out with and who we value.  In the projects, kids look up to gang members, who they see and believe are strong and powerful.  In schools, we allow what our friends think to influence us.

Some examples we can’t do much about.  My kids watch me, my wife, our friends and are influenced.  Others we can control.  Our kids did not grow up watching TV; they didn’t see commercials and I think they are vastly different than kids who do.  They have never begged for things or desired things of no value (except food and eating out, which goes back to my example).

Our senses can be very powerful.  The music we listen to, the movies we watch, the games we play.  I remember the allure of menthol in cigarettes when that first came out.  I eat fried foods because they taste great even though they aren’t good for me.

A firm belief that bad things won’t happen to us is a human condition.  No one thinks a single puff will cause cancer and we blindly believe that one puff won’t necessarily lead to another (I can quit any time).  This one gets me a lot because I trust people and skip over the “but verify” part (though I’m learning my lesson).

And image–oh what a powerful bully that is.  Who buys cars because they get good gas mileage if they don’t first make us look good driving it?  I am fairly image-neutral (as a friend pointed out, “you don’t care what you wear, do you?”) but I drive a bright red PT Cruiser (which my sister hates, but I think is cool).  A rice burner would have been better.

Greed.  Yeah, that thing takes on different shapes, doesn’t it?  I’m no greedy corporate millionaire… but I buy things I want and really don’t need.  That’s greed, isn’t it?

Choices, choices, choices

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