Saturday, January 24, 2015


It seemed to me we hit a nerve in the discussion yesterday when the topic turned to grades and your grade aspirations.  Please know that I am not aiming to cause you discomfort.  But I do see my role as in part provoking you to challenge your own preconceptions.  Once in a while discomfort will be the result.  I hope that we can not shy away from topics for this reason, but also that we don't go out of our way to bludgeon ourselves.

Related to this let me make two different points.  One is to tie the experience to our course and, in particular, to Argyris and Schon Models 1 and 2.  Model 2 is difficult to implement, precisely because discomfort (or worse) will happen from time to time when doing it earnestly.  We naturally want to self-protect from those experiences.  The self-protection, however, encourages Model 1.  That is the challenge.

The other point is about being bothered and what that has to do with motivation.  I really like the quote below.

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?
Ray Bradbury (1920 - ), Fahrenheit 451, 1953

Farenheit 451 is a work of science fiction.  It offers a dystopian vision of the future.  (But since it was written 60 years ago you might consider it a vision of the present made in the past.)  The title itself is a reference to the temperature at which paper burns.  I know you're all incredibly busy.  But some of you have indicated you still have some time for pleasure reading.  Maybe Farenheit 451 should get onto your list of what to read.  I think it would engage you.

And here is one sidebar.  Yesterday I mentioned the Index Number Problem in reference to considering GPA as a performance measure.  Since you are all economics students, you should be aware of the Index Number Problem, even if you don't make it an object of study.  Part of the intellectual benefit of studying economics is to learn there are limits to our social constructs.  It is a valuable lesson to learn.


  1. Good idea. I read that while I was in high school (mainly because it was a SAT prep book..). I wasn't really organized while I was reading that book before, since these things did not come to me that closely. Maybe another try of the book would give me some different views on how I should look at this symbolism of dystopian society.

    Also, there is a movie of the same name. I recommend the movie also if you don't have time for reading the entire book. I really liked Oskar Werner's acting in the movie :)

    And I will definitely think more about the Index Number Problem.

    Thank you for the reminding comments, professor Arvan.

  2. There is nothing like test prep to kill the joy of reading. ;-(

    Recently I've been watching movies and reading the book and my conclusion, based on a small sample admittedly, that they are almost two different stories that happen to share the same title.

    I would encourage you to forget about Index numbers for now, but to spend some time thinking about being bothered and whether that motivates you on occasion. It may not be easy to come to grips with being bothered, because it is not the most pleasant emotion. For me, it is a powerful motivator from time to time and I've learned to leverage it for productive use.