• September 24, 2021
 Op-Ed: The Paralysis of Choice

Op-Ed: The Paralysis of Choice

CBS Sunday Morning once had an interesting segment about how we are paralyzed by the enormous amount of choices that we face each day, from buying a car to picking a mate, to choosing a snow cone flavor at Bahama Bucks.

Essentially, the piece said that the way around this paralysis-by-choices is to just jump into the process and stop thinking about it.

“For a long time people have said that the best way to make a decision is to be rational,” science writer Johah Lehrer said. “And yet, in recent years, scientists have discovered that the rational brain can only take in a few bits of information at any given moment. So, you start giving it too much information and it starts to short-circuit and sputter.”

We see this everyday, with 24/7 news cycles from 30 different news channels, 300 channels on our cable, and 50 million tracks in our Apple Music subscription.

To eliminate sputtering when faced with complex decisions – buying a car, computer, or even a house – Lehrer says stop all that thinking … just go for it!

We certainly see that in education. Lots of choices, form textbooks, to technology, to even the way we teach students. Should we use PBL? Active Learning? Constructivism? Lecture? Should we use Macs or PCs? Office 365 or Google? Pencil or pen? I think that perhaps we need to let teachers know to just “jump in” as the CBS piece says:

“Americans certainly love choice more than anywhere else in the world,” said Columbia University professor Sheena Lyengar, who says her experience as a blind person gives her a different take on all those choices. Her book, “The Art of Choosing,” argues more isn’t always better.

“Certainly, in theory, the more choices I have out there, the more likely I am to find that perfect dress, or that perfect ring, or that perfect food item that I want to eat, or that perfect job,” Iyengar said.

But, she said, “For the most part, we don’t have the resources to find it. I mean, we get overwhelmed.”

So maybe we need to just tell teachers to “Go for it” damn the consequences, and just jump in. Stop worrying about which site or which blog or which pedagogy to use. But we have to provide an environment that allows for failure and experimentation without fear.

As long as you have one. As long as you are trying. Maybe that is just good enough.


Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Tim Holt


Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

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