To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Academic papers are supposed to be dull affairs, one would think. And they are for the most part. But, what I have observed is that the papers that make you sit up and think are the ones that are most ‘literary’ in character, if you know what I mean. I could read pages and pages of such almost like I would read fiction, and believe it or not, some of the wit makes me even giggle. When I was a child, my mom or bro or sis would sometimes get startled by a laugh or a titter from whichever solitary corner of the house I was reading in (in Mumbai we don’t have the luxury of a room to ourselves, or at least we didn’t what with three kids in the house!) and after checking a few times if something was wrong, they grew used to it. Thankfully, there are no other persons in my current accommodation to ask me what’s wrong with me because if they saw I was reading an academic paper, they wouldn’t need any convincing proof of the fact.

Now judge for yourself. Take this paper, “On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B” (I absolutely recommend that you download from here and read it. The opening statement cannot but draw you in:
“Whether dealing with monkeys, rats, or human beings, it is hardly controversial to state that most organisms seek information concerning what activities are rewarded, and then seek to do (or at least pretend to do) those things, often to the virtual exclusion of activities not rewarded.”
Kerr then talks about how rewards are sometimes designed such that they attract A behaviour when actually one wants to encourage B behaviour. An example he gives is that of orphanages and here is what he says:
“The orphanage therefore theoretically is interested in placing as many children as possible in good homes. However, often orphanages surround themselves with so many rules concerning adoption that it is nearly impossible to pry a child out of the place. Orphanages may deny adoption unless the applicants are a married couple, both of the same religion as the child, without history of emotional or vocational instability, with a specified minimum income and a private room for the child, etc.”
I couldn’t stifle a giggle at the ‘pry a child out of the place’! I mean, isn’t that a delicious way of putting it in the given context! JJ
What he is getting at of course is that while one wants to encourage orphanages to put maximum children into good homes, they are actually rewarded for something else, for example, the allocated budget or size of staff may depend on number of children ‘in’ the orphanage. Here is how he concludes the point:
“…to the extent that staff size, total budget, and personal prestige are valued by the orphanage's executive personnel, it becomes rational for them to make it difficult for children to be adopted. After all, who wants to be the director of the smallest orphanage in the state?”
Is not that last statement funny? ;)
And yet on the whole so convincing!