Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The forming of social capital skills

In the last class we talked about responsibility or ownership - what is necessary for a group to become an effective team.  I don't want to redo the entire argument, but as a quick reminder, there are many acts that will benefit the team but for which the individual performing the acts will get no recognition.  The question then is why the individual does this.

Here I'd like to step outside of economics and discuss learning - mostly outside of school that either encourages the development of this sense of responsibility or retards it.   These are a few things you might read at your leisure on the matter.  I think you'll find them quite interesting.  (None of this will be on the test.  Reading interesting stuff for its own sake is a different form of responsibility - to yourself.)

  • The Overprotected Kid by Hanna Rosin - Today children in middle class families always seemingly have an adult around when they play.  The adult keeps an eye on the kids and might serve as referee when they have disputes.  Near term, this probably is a benefit.  Longer term, it likely serves to keep the kids from learning to negotiate these matters themselves and might make them overly fearful of taking reasonable risks.  
  • Slapball from my blog - A nostalgic look at my own childhood where we played a variety of ball games right on the street.  (I lived in Bayside, a residential neighborhood in Queens, a borough in NYC.)  There were no adults present then. 
  • Stop Googling. Let's talk. by Sherry Turkle - Conversation is the way we learn to have empathy for others.  Listening to what they have to say (and holding up your own end of the discussion) are crucial life skills.  If we have our heads always in our devices, thinking we can multi-process more than one conversation at a time, we are fooling ourselves.  We learn to be very impatient and want immediate reward.  We focus on that rather than on the struggles others are having. 
  • Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam - The title is meant as an example of the issue.  There used to bowling leagues.  You were on a team that competed with other teams one or two nights a week.  It was mainly for good fun - friendly competition if you will.  Your teammates might socialize with you afterward.  People used to have many sorts of social connections of that sort.  It made everyone feel like their part of a community.  Campus may have some of those with RSOs.  Of that I'm less sure.  But the larger society is losing that sort of connection with others outside of work.  Putnam's book got a lot of attention.  It hit a nerve with quite a few people. 
  • Miss Manner's Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin - Some of it is quite funny.  Much of it gets at the operative principle behind manners in awkward situations.  There usually is a larger goal one is trying to achieve by polite behavior or by scolding rude behavior.  Bringing out those larger goals makes manners seem like sensible social conventions rather than a bunch of arbitrary rules. 

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