Education: An Infinite Game
Professor James P. Carse in his book Finite and Infinite Games defined finite versus infinite games and explained how different fields of human activity can be classified as one or the other. Finite games are those where players follow a set of rules and the game has an end where a player or a team is declared the winner while another as the loser according to a set of predefined and fixed rules. In a finite game there is always a winner and a loser. Golf, basketball, chess, etc. are finite games. Infinite games are those where there is no need to declare a winner and the game continuous indefinitely, others can join the game at any time, the objective being to continue playing. Others may also quit the game at any time while the rest continue playing, without a winner or loser being declared. Business for example can be thought of as an infinite game. There are no fixed rules except the law of the land where the business is established, and even those laws vary from one country to another. No one is declared the winner or loser because there is no end and anybody can join the game at any time. Life is also an infinite game. In the millions of years that we have been around, no one was crowned the winner of life. We just go on with our lives to live happily and meaningfully. Those who live their lives beating each other and trying to be the winner will be the most unhappy. The proper treatment of different human activities will ensure favorable outcomes for the individual.
Education should be treated as an infinite game. We just continue to learn and there is no end of it. There is no winner in education. See How to Educate People (yourself included). We should try to learn the things that we need in order to reach our fullest potential. We do not need to learn everything; let alone be graded as a failure on some of it. If a child is passionate about visual arts, he can develop his abilities on making more of that art and someday earn a living from it. A teacher can guide him to be able to do this and the earlier he starts developing his ability in that area the better he would become. Would it not be a waste of his time and then his life if somebody forces him from age six to eighteen to spend most of his time solving right triangles over and over again? This is the problem of our present education. We are forcing our children to learn the wrong stuff and also we are forcing our teachers to teach the wrong stuff instead of allowing them to practice their art and produce masterpieces, the children who have found and developed their talents to the fullest. See Teacher: Artist.
There is no winner or loser in education. That is why the self-determinate education system frowns upon a numerical grading system as if learning is a competition. It is not. Learning is a basic human need that we will try to satisfy that need without somebody forcing it to into us, let alone be measured at it. Just like eating, would it be necessary that somebody be declared the biggest eater at the end of the day? Or the earliest eater? Or be given a card each year that says you have eaten 500 kg of rice and only 190 kg of pork? Would you call it better nutrition?
Standardized testing, grading, segregation by age, standard curriculum, and homework, should have no place in a modern school. Life should be learning at the same time and it should not be confined only to schools. It should happen anywhere as life goes on. If children are made to understand this very early in life, there will be no more need of homework because children will, by themselves, be trying to learn many things as they are driven by their own interests anywhere they are without prodding from adults or compulsion.
Another remnant of the factory model in our education system is when we hear parents, with good intentions, telling their children to study hard and follow instructions and get good grades so that you can get a good job where you are going to be more obedient and a great follower of another who will be giving you orders. This is why when we go back to the history of our school systems we will know that the establishment of the first schools were sponsored by these factories and would you believe it was out of honest philanthropy or more of a business calculation? They sponsored schools because they were having difficulty hiring factory workers because many would not allow trading their freedom for a small amount of wage. They found out that the best way to produce this kind of workers is to train them in schools, teaching them very little aside from blind obedience and fooling them into trading their freedom for a little wage and security at work that they do not really need. There were better opportunities outside of these factories but they were duped by these schools into believing that there were none. This deception continues up to today but the advent of technology is making it harder and harder everyday to hide the truth. See Schooling in Modern Society.
The best advice we can give our children is to get a good education, not schooling, so that they will learn how to create something new(art, invention, or a new theory) or solve the big problems using their own talents. Hence the need of developing each individual’s fullest potential in line with his own unique abilities. Each of us has our own unique abilities and we must try to find what that is very early in life so that we can make use of those abilities as soon as possible. Again, we do not need to learn everything. Only the things that we love or have the ability to do.
Consider a shark. Teach it how to hunt in the forest for 12 years and give it a test every now and then on how well it can do the job,the shark will fail. Now consider a lion. Train it to hunt in the ocean for the same amount of time, and give it a test It will also not pass of course. We know that both are great hunters if placed in their proper places. We need to do the same for human beings. We have a broad range of human abilities and the present curriculum in schools is only addresses a tiny portion of that broad range. We might be training some sharks to hunt in the forest or to climb trees. What a waste of time and resources. A child must therefore be given enough time, with the assistance of teachers, to find their proper place first and only then start the training towards mastery in wherever nature wanted them to be, as the ancients did before we established our first schools. This is how we solve all the problems of education without pouring in more tax money into the system. See Homeschooling and Unschooling as Options.