Open thread, Jan. 19 - Jan. 25, 2015

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In my small fourth grade class of 20 students, we are learning how to write essays, and get to pick our own thesis statements. One kid, who had a younger sibling, picked the thesis statement: "Being an older sibling is hard." Another kid did "Being the youngest child is hard." Yet another did "Being the middle child is hard", and someone else did "Being an only child is hard." I find this as a rather humorous example of how people often make it look like they're being oppressed.

Does anyone know why people do this?

Be charitable; don't assume they're trying to present themselves as martyrs. Instead they could be outlining the peculiar challenges and difficulties of their particular positions.

Life is hard for everyone at times.

Anybody should be able to write an essay "why my life is hard." They should also be able to write an essay "why my life is easy." It might be a great exercise to have every student write a second essay on a thesis which is essentially the opposite of the thesis of their first essay.

I wouldn't ascribe conscious intent to their actions, but it may be that making your own life seem harder is an evolved social behavior. Remember, humans are adaptation-executors, not fitness-maximizers, so it's entirely possible that the students thought they were being honest, when in fact they may have been subconsciously exaggerating the difficulties they were facing in day-to-day life.

Related: Why Does Power Corrupt?

One kid, who had a younger sibling, picked the thesis statement: "Being an older sibling is hard." Another kid did "Being the youngest child is hard." Yet another did "Being the middle child is hard", and someone else did "Being an only child is hard." I find this as a rather humorous example of how people often make it look like they're being oppressed.

Taken at face value, the four statements aren't incompatible. Saying that being X is hard in an absolute sense isn't the same as saying that being X is harder than being Y in a relative sense, or that X people are being oppressed.

Sure, but the point is that the same argument applies to the flipside: everyone could've written essays like "X is fun" or "Y is fun" without contradiction. But they chose "hard" instead. Why?

Sure, but the point is that the same argument applies to the flipside: everyone could've written essays like "X is fun" or "Y is fun" [...] But they chose "hard" instead. Why?

There were sixteen other students in the class. For all we know, theses about fun things could have been in the majority.

without contradiction.

If you accept what I wrote in the GP, where do you see a contradiction in the four statements? And if you don't, could you try to articulate why?

There were sixteen other students in the class. For all we know, theses about fun things could have been in the majority.

Yeah, maybe.

If you accept what I wrote in the GP, where do you see a contradiction in the four statements? And if you don't, could you try to articulate why?

No, no I don't think you had a contradiction either. I was just saying that you could do the same thing with "fun." And maybe other kids did, as you say.

It is much easier to notice the things in your situation that don't go well than notice all the things that happen in someone else's situation.

I'm curious; have you pointed this out to the students? If so, how did they react?

Ah, that clarifies that. I think I read "we are learning" as the teacher saying that since I've seen teachers use that language (e.g. "next week we'll learn about derivatives").

Alex greatly enjoyed being mistaken for his teacher.

So nice that you two are able to enjoy LessWrong together. Given that this is an open threat, is there anything you (or Alex) would like to share about raising rationalists? My daughters are 3yo and 1yo, so I'm only beginning to think about this...

EDIT: I made a top-level post here.

Alex loves using rationality to beat me in arguments, and part of why he is interested in learning about cognitive biases is to use them to explain why I'm wrong about something. I have warned him against doing this with anyone but me for now. I recommend the game Meta-Forms for your kids when they get to be 4-6. When he was much younger I would say something silly and insist I was right to provoke him into arguing against me.

2 points