28 December 2010

Another perfect fit...

Yesterday I was reading a short introduction to Nassim Taleb's book The Bed of Procrustes, and was introduced to the title character, an innkeeper from Greek mythology who would fit all guests into the same iron bed-- either by chopping off tall people's legs or by stretching short people.  Think of Procrustes as Goldilocks meets Sweeney Todd.  Generalizing the story, Wikipedia notes:
"In general, when something is Procrustean, different lengths or sizes or properties are fitted to an arbitrary standard."
Taleb goes on to comment that a fitting example of a Procrustean bed in modern times is our tendency to medicate schoolchildren rather than change the curriculum.  As a former educator-- one who can attest that about one-third of high school students are on some sort of behavioral medication-- this point struck home.

(The one-page resume, the five paragraph essay,  and many licensing programs are further examples.  I'm sure you can think of more.)

Taleb, the author of "The Black Swan" (the economics book, not the Portman ballet film) has apparently filled his latest effort with aphorisms, like a 21st century Poor Richard's or Art of War.  Might be worth a read, but certainly worth some thought.

No comments: