Battlepanda: What's my motivation?


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What's my motivation?

Rarely is the question asked: Why do pandas learn?

Believe me, I've went through some of the most hideously expensive secondary schooling known to mankind, much of it when I was in the U.K. Oh yes, they tried their darndest to teach me European geography for years. My brain simply refused to absorb it. I know because I discovered this website (via The Liberal Order) where you can test your knowledge of European geography by dragging and dropping the outlines of the countries onto a blank map. I got a paltry 60% on my first try. It was clear that I couldn't tell my Luxembourg from my Liechtenstein. Take that, Mrs. Robinson. My laziness and insouciance overcame everything you ever tried to do.

The funny thing is, I kept playing. I was like a pigeon in one of Skinner's experiments, constantly pecking at the tab until a kibble rolled out. A momentary dose of accomplishment when I managed to correctly place Belarus in the blank interior of the continent. A little jolt of annoyance when I confused Slovakia and Slovenia (again!). The rush of trying to beat my previous high score, if only by a few percentage points, kept me going until I got to the point where I can draw a serviceable-if-misshapen schematic map of Europe with all countries in their relative positions freehand, an unthinkable task just a few hours ago.

So what did I learn, really?

1) Where everything is in Europe (duh!). You can argue that I haven't really put the map into my long-term memory just by playing a game. But little observaions such as "Huh, I never realized that Denmark is so small compared to Norway and Sweden" or "Whoa! There's a chunk o' Russia that's randomly lodged between Poland and Lithuania!" will never leave me.

2) What a waste it is to spend good money on the education of ungrateful kids who just don't wanna learn.

3) So this is why I like blogging. Constant feedback. A little jolt of excitement when something I write is linked elsewhere. Instant humble pie in the comment section when I write something stupid. Frequent visits to sitemeter to check on traffic. How can such trifling incentives drive my behavior to such a large degree? And why am I learning more about politics, economics and American history through blogging than I ever could have with more important goals as "being an informed citizen" and "getting an 'A' in Econ 11" in mind?

4) What does my inability to respond to long-term goals portend? Will I never be able to do anything meaningful without the incentive equivalents of gold-star stickers cheering me along the way? Isn't a big part of education supposed to be teaching one to be disciplined and independent? Oops.