Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The birth-order thing

I just caught about ten minutes of Michael Sandel on the Diane Rehm show. (As an irrelevant aside, I'm not a particular fan of Diane Rehm. As another irrelevant aside, I'm also not one of those people who would walk across a blazing desert or stand for three hours in the rain to hear Sandel, although he's obviously both smart and a gifted teacher.)

A caller asked Sandel what message he leaves his students with at the end of his "Justice" course, and Sandel replied that, in order to get students to question the extent to which they are personally responsible for their success, he asks all the first-borns to raise their hands. About 75 to 80 percent of the hands go up, Sandel said, illustrating his point about the random (or morally arbitrary) components of 'desert' and confirming the prevailing wisdom that first-borns are more striving (at least partly because they are more conformist, presumably, though Sandel didn't mention that).

I am skeptical about the whole birth-order thing. But since I haven't read Born to Rebel and know next to nothing about the scientific debate on the subject, I suppose I should exercise a heroic degree of self-restraint and refrain from further comment.

P.s. A long article appeared last month on Sandel and his course
in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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