Is too much choice making us unhappy?

Level: B2, C1Language focus: modal auxiliaries, expressing opinions, questions
Exercise: Discussion questions in the postMedia: video

As a parent, I find I am sometimes in a sad little loop of not feeling good enough, looking for parenting advice, then trying that advice and being exhausted by the amount of energy it takes to be that good version of myself and returning to square one.

One example of this is the choice paradox. Many parenting books will tell you it’s a good practice to give your children choices rather than always dictating. Like when kids are picky eaters, give them a choice of vegetables. Or when they put up a fuss to get their winter clothes on, give them a choice of mittens, scarves and hats. The premise is that children resist because they need to have freedom (or the illusion of it). If you have tried this parenting method, you know that it will only take you so far before you are exhausted and your kids figure out that the options don’t really interest them.

Retail and marketing also leverage this concept as a key selling point. Seemingly attractive retailers are often those who offer choices, variety and options. But is this making our lives easier or more complicated? Are we making ourselves exhausted with the number of choices and like our children coming to the conclusion that many options just don’t interest us that much? Barry Schwartz’s Ted Talk questions whether we, like our children, are just under the illusion of freedom when in reality we are simply more confused and eventually disengaged.

Warm up

I suggest you start the lesson by torturing your students with these Would you Rather statements. Perhaps pair them up and have them discuss their choices. Then, mix it up a bit and ask the other person to choose for you. Did you like letting someone choose? Did you agree?

The video: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

I suggest you watch this in small snippets and do short Tell Backs along the way.

What concepts stand out in Schwartz’s talk?

What are the advantages of choice?

What are the two negative effects?

Why do we need experts?

What do you think Schwartz is telling us with the way he is dressed?

What are some of the events in his life that led to this conclusion?

Can you think of events in your life where you would have preferred to have less choice?

What are questions you have that you would prefer someone make a decision for you?

Talk about a choice you made that may have been ‘not good enough’ . What consequences did it have on your life?

How do you separate fact from fiction?

Fake news is the term “du jour.” How sharp do you think you are at spotting fake news?

What if you were a journalist? If your livelihood depended on your ability to detect fact from fiction? In Markham Nolan’s TED talk “How to separate fact from fiction online” we see how the digital dimension affects this decision.

WarmUp

  • How good are you at detecting fake news?
  • What is your criteria? How can you tell?
  • Do a Mind Map of the elements/criteria that can help separate fact from fiction.

The video: TED Markham Nolan: How to separate fact from fiction

  • Watch the video and gather some of Nolan’s debunking tools.
  • Compare your list with the mind map you did previously.
  • What elements in the digital information era make fact checking easier? What makes them harder?
  • Which anecdotes in Nolan’s talk stick with you? Why?
0
0
0
0
2