Think, Know, Prove: Plus-Delta

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

Plus-Delta is a review scheme that I picked up from someone who undoubtedly stole it from some trendy business book, but the idea is that one periodically takes an inventory of actions and identifies the ones that were good (they go in the Plus column) and the ones that either need to be different or need to be added (those are the Deltas, as in “change”).

So, headed into the last week, what is in your Plus column? And what is in your Delta? These may be personal, institutional, or otherwise.

(I’d put my own list up, but there are some personal circumstances that suggest that for a few days at least, less is more; let’s just say that I’m not allowed to operate any heavy machinery, and I include “keyboards expressing personal opinions” in that category given the possibility of dropping an anvil on my own toes with a poorly expressed idea or two. Anyway, I’ll put some up later in the week, if anyone else does.)

What do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?

3 thoughts on “Think, Know, Prove: Plus-Delta

  1. Hi, PhiloDave.

    This feels like a dare. Is it?

    I’m still working on point #5 (re: Bad Faith) under the thread “Ad Hominem Discomfort” of March 26, 2011, so it’s probably no surprise that I hear an echo of it in this current thread about personal accounting.

    While I believe that people have the potential to “clean up their act(s),” I don’t believe most people are physically or emotionally equipped to do it. In other words, most people are not brave enough to change their actions. It is also true that sometimes a situation makes it difficult to be brave. You wrote: “I meant this in the sense of being intellectually honest with oneself and avoiding having a set of private reasons for undertaking some actions that differ from someone’s public reasons; I didn’t mean it in the sense of being sly, sinful, or deceitful (except in the intellectual sense). I think those are different things. No?”

    Practically speaking, the distinction might be moot. “People potential” is bounded by situation. Perhaps there is inadequate response time. Perhaps there is the fear of retribution. Also, people swim in emotion, mood, sleep deprivation, hunger, family obligations, and received behaviors or received interpretive frameworks, all of which limits thought and action. Many swim in the swill of rumor, reek, and proudly declare that. (Lethe. Styx.)

    This isn’t the same as saying you are what you do, you do what you are. What I mean is people merely do. Therefore, “intellectual honesty” is mere potential. (For example, we all have the potential to play harmonica or something, though none of this is infinite and people merely “are” to some extent, too.) I think this is why people conclude that actions speak louder than words. They don’t ever step back from the situation. Mere action structures thought (or, arguably, not). If it were that easy to first apply an interpretive framework learned in graduate school wouldn’t people do that?

    How like our students whose potential dwindles when confronted by the mundane: attendance, meeting deadlines, not following instructions, life. What will plus and minus columns reveal? I mean, Plus-Delta isn’t about silly things, right?

    I think you are probably brave, PhiloDave. I think some others are too.

    I also see now how Googling “faith” and “economics” took me back to March 26. (Is it proof? Looking at things like an economist is genuinely alien to me.) Since Plus-Delta bookkeeping extends the metaphor of economics to include all of us….

    “(Why) do selfish people self-select in economics?”

    Click to access 1-1-art-1.pdf

    Abstract: Several game-theoretical lab experiments helped establish the belief that economists are more selfish than non-economists. Since differences in behavior between experiment participants who are students of economics and those who are not may be observed among junior students as well, it is nowadays widely believed that the origin of the greater selfishness is not the training they undergo, but self-selection. In other words, selfish people voluntarily enroll in economics. Yet, I argue that such explanation is unsatisfactory for several reasons. I also suggest alternative explanations for the observed differences, which have been so far unduly disregarded.

    “Altruism: The Importance of Being Asked.”

    http://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/economics/history/paper24/24varese.pdf

    Abstract
    The rescue of persecuted minorities – such as the Jews in Nazi occupied Europe – is seen in this paper as taking place in a peculiar market. In such a market rescuers face at
    least two dilemmas. Firstly, they might be willing to help but be uncertain how to go
    about rescuing. Secondly, they might be unsure over the nature of the request to help.
    To make a mistake and help the “wrong” person could be very costly.
    Following secondary analysis of the APPBI data on those who rescued Jews (rescuers) and those who did not (non-rescuers) during the Nazi occupation of Europe we find that (a) the first dilemma was solved by a direct request for help from those in need; (b) the second dilemma was solved by helping those who were either known to the rescuers, or sent by a trusted mediators.
    We thus conclude that the observed acts of altruism in society do not account for the potential acts of altruism human beings are capable of. If the market for altruism works more efficiently, more people might be helped.

    • I meant things more along the lines of the high hopes that I had for my revised rubric (awful! must change!) and the experience I had playing mp3s of Emerson’s Essays in class prior to discussion (awesome–big effect on fluency and comprehension, and so on discussion quality; definitely a plus).

      For all of the challenges and limits upon it, I remain confident of the thought that critical reflection (and changes to past actions as a consequence) are both possible, even if there is risk of either being incomplete and flawed…

      • Ah, well…. Dare another day.

        As for myself, I will allow my students to not just give presentations but to teach and to be taught by other students.

        Student presentations already kind of teach one day of class, but I think two days — at midterm and end of term — will allow students to recognize their personal and academic growth. Also, it will allow the hesitant ones a second chance. (Not everyone bravely grasps the magic carrot of extra-credit.) Some students behave so differently when they are in charge. They shimmer and transform and we meet each other all over again. Student-teacher relationships have been strengthened and rebuilt this way.

        I picked up this idea from others of you over the years who already let students teach but I would like to find instructors who want to arrange for guest teaching by students. Advanced music or nursing students, for example, could clarify so much for my developmental students who often have little idea of what it takes to major in their chosen fields. It should be eye opening. (It’s an idea similar to that expressed on the new CCC/CEO wallpaper.) A list of interested instructors is needed…. CAST?

        Re: critical reflection.
        Big change is rare. Action structures/embeds thought. I’m not making a value judgement about that (as a mechanism). Most people aren’t critically self-reflective to the extent that they see the need to change, let alone actually change. For one thing, they don’t have time. Practically speaking, “The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon….”

        It’s not Whirl who is king but the mundane. Given the (educational) experiences that structure some of our students who enter CCC… Students may drop out for any number of reasons, but I believe they will remember the day they presented/taught in a college. It’s an act that might be enough to help bring them back somewhere down the road.

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