Ice Cream Is a Zero Sum Game

2018-02-19 – Four adult human beings live in my house full time. And human beings can’t live too long without ice cream. So when we bring ice cream into the house, it’s a zero-sum game. If you think you can wait awhile to eat your portion, you’re out of luck. When they eat your share, there’s none left for you.

Not everything is a zero sum game—education, for example.

You can’t use up knowledge. If I learn calculus, I don’t exhaust the supply of calculus. You can learn it, too. And if you and I both know calculus, Jennie can still learn it. In fact, Jennie might actually have an easier time of it because you and I can help her. Once you and Jennie and I all know calculus, there’s still a full supply of calculus left so that anyone else can come along and learn it. You might say that the supply of calculus knowledge is infinite. As they would say in calculus: as the number of people who learn calculus (n) approaches infinity, the supply of calculus knowledge (C) remains equal to or greater than 1.

(I don’t know if I’m doing this right. I haven’t studied calculus for t=45 years. But it doesn’t matter because the equation doesn’t really represent anything I couldn’t say better in words. I just wanted to see how it would look.)

The reason I bring this up is that our education system operates as if it were a zero sum game. Letting poor kids or minorities enter the upper reaches of the system is believed to deprive wealthier and whiter kids. (Note the richest, whitest kids are never deprived. They don’t even enter into the equation.)

Why do we create false scarcity in our educational system? I can’t figure it out. You tell me.

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