Thursday, March 29, 2018

Public Thinking Event: Lucky breaks and misfortune in education

For our Public Event on March 28, we focused on lucky breaks and misfortune in education. That is, we discussed, on the one hand, the benefits or advantages people received that were less about their hard work and more about unintentionally being in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, we considered distinct disadvantages that people encountered that was hardly related to their abilities or lack of hard work.

The discussion drew from research and writing by economist Robert Frank. He written that "Chance plays a far larger role in life outcomes than most people realize. And yet, the luckiest among us appear especially unlikely to appreciate our good fortune. … Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time."

He's also noted that "“a growing body of evidence suggests that seeing ourselves as self-made—rather than as talented, hardworking, and lucky—leads us to be less generous and public-spirited. It may even make the lucky less likely to support the conditions (such as high-quality public infrastructure and education) that made their own success possible. Happily, though, when people are prompted to reflect on their good fortune, they become much more willing to contribute to the common good."

Thinking about luck and misfortune created opportunities for students to consider how circumstances beyond individual efforts shaped important outcomes.

Spring 2018 Programming

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