Every year, the Web site - "The World Question Center" - poses a provocative, open-ended question to thinkers and scientists around the world, yielding much gold and a bit of dross. Let's examine one example of each in response to the 2006 question, "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?"

First up, Roger Schank, psychologist, "Chief Learning Officer" of Trump University, and blithering idiot, who offers this reckless - sorry, dangerous - idea: Close all the schools and instead allow eight-year-olds to roam the streets, hoping that at some point they’ll be motivated to drop into a marginally-supervised center where they can learn whatever they need to fulfill their destiny – presumably, how to make a killing in the real-estate market:

… school is bad for kids — it makes them unhappy and as tests show. . . they don't learn much. When you listen to children talk about school you easily discover what they are thinking about in school: who likes them, who is being mean to them, how to improve their social ranking, how to get the teacher to treat them well and give them good grades. . . Schools should simply cease to exist as we know them. The Government needs to get out of the education business and stop thinking it knows what children should know and then testing them constantly . . . Schools need to be replaced by safe places where children can go to learn how to do things that they are interested in learning how to do. Their interests should guide their learning. The government's role should be to create places that are attractive to children and would cause them to want to go there. . . Just call school off. Turn them all into apartment houses.

Now Leasing: The Trump Jefferson High. Four floors of luxury living, with Olympic-size pool. (Just stay out of the boiler room.) 

Meanwhile, Diane Halpern of Claremont-McKenna and the American Psychological Association offered her own most dangerous idea: Choosing your child’s sex. As she puts it:

For an idea to be truly dangerous, it needs to have a strong and near universal appeal. The idea of being able to choose the sex of one's own baby is just such an idea. . . Every year for the last two decades I have asked students in my college classes to write down the number of children they would like to have and the order in which they ideally want to have girls and boys. . . the modal response is 2 children, first a boy, then a girl. If students reply that they want one child, it is most often a boy; if it is 3 children, they are most likely to want a boy, then a girl, then a boy. . . if they acted on their stated intentions. . . they would have an excess of first-borns who are male, and an excess of males overall. In a short time, those personality characteristics associated with being either an only-child or first-born and those associated with being male would be so confounded, it would be difficult to separate them. . . .            

I am guessing that many readers of child-bearing age want to choose the sex of their (as yet) unconceived children and can reason that there is no harm in this practice. And, if you could also choose intelligence, height, and hair color, would you add that too?  But then, there are few things in life that are as appealing as the possibility of a perfectly balanced family, which according to the modal response means an older son and younger daughter, looking just like an improved version of you.

January 12, 2006 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS


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