Archive for December, 2012

The law of unintended consequences

December.18. 2012

First draft of what I hope will be a more extended article on a favorite topic.

I’m constantly fascinated by the human condition and its built-in contradictions and paradoxes.

Especially in the phenomenon of ‘unintended consequences.’

This is trying to achieve a certain objective and obtaining a totally different result.

Examples of unintended consequences abound.

For example, I’ve found that being helpful and magnanimous to someone does not produce goodwill in that person. In fact, it often produces the opposite effect. Because one day, you won’t be able to be helpful anymore, and this creates resentment in the person. I suppose the operative word here is’ entitlement.’ When someone is given what he wants all the time, he begins to feel entitled to whatever he asks for, and when he doesn’t get it, he feels let down.

Or you lavish praises and compliments on a student, hoping this will build up their self-esteem and motivate them, and they turn into self-satisfied cocky creatures and become impossible to teach. Some even begin to think they’ve surpassed you and therefore no longer need your tutelage.

Or you’re extremely understanding and easy on your students, hoping to encourage them, and then they transfer to another school, and the first nasty teacher they get, they drop out of school, because the teacher is ‘rude’ to them.

Or perhaps you love someone and you want them to be happy, so you give them everything they want. The problem is that happiness comes from getting something unexpected in life. When you get everything you ask for in life, there’s no more specialness in anything. So you can give someone everything they want, hoping to make them happy, and in the end, up with the most unhappy people in the world.

I guess I’m writing this especially for parents and teachers all over the world.

Be careful what you wish for, for your children and your students.

Because the law of unintended consequences will hit back with a vengeance.