The Odds of Education Reform
There are lots of ideas out there about how to improve education. Some are wackier than others. This article in the New York Times reports on some students and a professor at Harvard who think kids should be encouraged to play poker starting in sixth grade. A student explains the benefits:
“I see poker as one tool to develop the kind of cognitive abilities that a lot of people don’t seem to be developing on their own, whether because those skills aren’t taught effectively in school or because they’re not learning it from their parents,” Mr. Woods said. So many of his Harvard Law classmates were or had been serious poker players, he said, “that I had to wonder what role poker played in all of us getting here.”
How does poker achieve this success, you might ask? The poker advocates note that the game is "probablility-based" and "requires risk assessment" (a fancy way of saying it’s a form of gambling). Don’t get me wrong I have no problem with teachers occaisonally using games of chance to demonstrate math concepts but these claims about poker sound far-fetched. I think Mr. Woods is confusing correlation and causation. I too knew lots of people in college who played poker, but I doubt it had much effect on their SATs. Poker is popular right now with young, upper-class people who go to private universities like Harvard. Thirty years ago it was bridge. Those games don’t cause students to do well. They’re just an indication of socio-economic status.