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Monday, June 16, 2014

David Brooks, "The Structures of Growth": Why Kids Prefer Soccer Over Baseball

Following a thought provoking op-ed concerning the destruction of Iraq by ISIL (see:, David Brooks is back with a mind numbing opinion piece concerning the nature of learning. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Structures of Growth" (, Brooks would differentiate between "logarithmic" learning ("You make a lot of progress when you first begin the activity, but, as you get better, it gets harder and harder to improve") and "exponential" learning ("after you have put in your 10,000 hours of effort, suddenly you develop a natural ease and your progress multiplies quickly"). He then explains why children increasingly prefer soccer (football outside of the US) over baseball:

"It does seem clear that our society celebrates fast-payoff instrumental activities, like sports and rock stardom, while undervaluing exponential activities, like being a statesman or craftsman. Kids increasingly flock to logarithmic sports, like soccer, over exponential sports, like baseball."

Oddly, it doesn't occur to Brooks that this preference might stem from the fact that over the course of a baseball game, most players - other than the pitcher and the catcher - do absolutely nothing, whereas in soccer, players are in perpetual motion.

And then there is Brooks's strange remark concerning politicians:

"If you go into politics, you have to make the transition from campaigning, which is an instantly gratifying activity, to governing, which is an exponential activity, requiring experience, patience and hard-earned wisdom."

No mention by Brooks of Obama, who proved himself a natural orator with the help of a teleprompter, but never picked up any management or leadership skills.

Brooks's more peculiar conclusion:

"Finally, this focus on growth structures takes your eyes off yourself. The crucial thing is not what traits you intrinsically possess. The crucial questions are: What is the structure of your domain? Where are you now on the progress curve? How are you interacting with the structures of the field?

The crucial answers to those questions are not found in the mirror. They are found by seeing yourself from a distance as part of a landscape. That’s a more pleasing and healthier perspective in any case."

Well, depending upon my mood later today, I might (no meetings with clients today) consider looking into a mirror and shaving, but consider myself "as part of a landscape"? Sorry, but my work in the garden later today, planting tomatoes and peppers, as I angrily mull the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas, wouldn't make for much of a Constable, Gainsborough or Turner.

1 comment:

  1. ",,,as I angrily mull the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas."

    Kidnapped? According to the NYT, the youths are 'missing', all part of a greater plan..."They want to destroy the reconciliation.”
    Jodi Rudoren should be thrown out of Israel after this kind of reporting. But she'd surely say "Blame Nayef Hashlamoun and Said Ghazali, the real victims of the Occupation".