Scientific American has an interesting article on the secret to raising smart kids that says that more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings. In particular, attributing poor performance to a lack of ability depresses motivation more than does the belief that lack of effort is to blame. One theory of what separates the two general classes of learners, helpless versus mastery-oriented, is that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different “theories” of intelligence. The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount. Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. Mastery-oriented children think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating offering opportunities to learn.
Hmmm… The last line could be straight out of my dissertation!!!!! ‘Active affections’ anyone? I talk about the way the contingency at the heart of problems is translated into the contingency of a challenge through the affirmation of active affections. Within modified-car culture, and other domains, this is often talked about in terms of ‘know how’. By maintaining the status of practice as essentially contingent, rather than simply saying problems are ‘solved’, the engagement with challenges is a way to think of how the processes of actualisation retain their open multiplicity, so both the practical state of affairs and the subject are transformed and yet the challenge remains problematic as such.