Thought Cluster: The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

I first heard the line “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” when reading A Wrinkle in Time in 4th grade, but I didn’t quite understand what it meant at the time. Since then, I’ve realized the brilliance of the quote and picked up a few examples, which I’ve organized and dumped below.


Microaggressions

After reading this article and scrolling through this tumblogI became interested in learning more about microaggressions, which are actions or words that subtly convey something (usually offensive) about a particular group of people based on their race, gender, or something else. In short, the modern form of racism/sexism/-isms. 

Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt – acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult. Social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.About, The Microaggressions Project 

We’ve all said our share of insensitive things, probably none of them with the intention to offend people, but rather the opposite–to be able to relate with them somehow. This makes it all the more difficult to combat, because fixing microaggressions will require an entire society to make an active effort to respect different people. In the meantime, I like to laugh at racist Youtube videos.

Making an impact

After being introduced to 80,000 Hours a few months ago, I became obsessed with the idea of measuring impact. In less than an hour of exploring the site, I had learned that going into non-profit wasn’t necessarily the best way to make an impact and that jobs that were traditionally seen as “philanthropic” could even have a negative impact. [See: How many lives does a doctor save?] Instead, they suggested some unusual alternatives, namely becoming a personal assistant to someone making a large impact and earning to give.

Replaceability is the main factor behind 80,000 Hours framework of measuring impact. Their belief is that if the person who would replace you if you left your job would do the job as well as you, then your impact is zero. If they would do a better job, your impact is negative. Only if you are better than the person you’re replacing (or better, do something where you have no replacement) do you have a positive impact.

Since I’m working with Givology this summer, the idea of making an impact and not being replaceable has constantly been at the front of my mind. I’m bothered by the fact that there’s no easy way to evaluate one’s impact, since so many factors influence a person’s donation, and I can’t give any money of my own. Yet.

Because John Green and pseudo-philosophical stuff

Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting death. We all want to be remembered. I do, too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease.

I want to leave a mark. 

But Van Houten: The marks humans leave are too often scars. You build a hideous minimall or start a coup or try to become a rock star and you think, “They’ll remember me now,” but (a) they don’t remember you, and (b) all you leave behind are more scars. Your coup becomes a dictatorship. Your minimall becomes a lesion.

[…]

Hazel is different. She walks lightly, old man.  She walks lightly upon the earth. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either. 

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

(The concept of being remembered and leaving a legacy is also one of the central ideas of an earlier John Green book, An Abundance of Katherines, though said by an awkward nerdy guy instead of THE Augustus Waters.)

Why I’m wary to write on education

Even though I read on education every chance I get, I have rarely, if ever, officially written about it. And even though I’m a student who is living and has been living through the so-called system for more than a decade, I don’t feel qualified enough to say anything. Even though I may sincerely believe that my views may be THE best opinion on religion/education, often times, they may be misguided or outright incorrect. (I feel like I’m falling into the mindset that prevents people from actually doing anything. Bleh.) Everyone has their own opinions on what the ideal school would be like, and adding mine in would be like, say, offering my views on religion to the internet/world/whatever.

Speaking of religion, a Paul Graham essay I read a while ago targets what makes topics like politics and religion generate such heated discussions. Sometimes I feel like education could fit under this umbrella. [See: The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do.]

 I finally realized today why politics and religion yield such uniquely useless discussions.

As a rule, any mention of religion on an online forum degenerates into a religious argument. Why? Why does this happen with religion and not with Javascript or baking or other topics people talk about on forums?

What’s different about religion is that people don’t feel they need to have any particular expertise to have opinions about it. All they need is strongly held beliefs, and anyone can have those. No thread about Javascript will grow as fast as one about religion, because people feel they have to be over some threshold of expertise to post comments about that. But on religion everyone’s an expert.

Then it struck me: this is the problem with politics too. Politics, like religion, is a topic where there’s no threshold of expertise for expressing an opinion. All you need is strong convictions.

Keep Your Identity Small, Paul Graham

In the case of education, in addition to having strong beliefs, practically everyone in America can claim that they were a student at one point, supposedly adding to their credibility. However, if almost everyone’s credibility is based off of being a student, then that’s not saying much anymore because credibility is relative. Ugh.


Other Thought Clusters

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