Two Big Philosophical Mistakes: Education For Grades And Sports For Winning

Ford Pinto - making cars to make money, as opposed to making money to make cars, was the big philosophical error made by Ford management at that time (1976).

Ford Pinto – making cars to make money, as opposed to making money to make cars, was the big philosophical error made by Ford management at that time (1976).

Ayn Rand“In order to live, man must act; in order to act, he must make choices; in order to make choices, he must define a code of values; in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is – i.e. he must know his own nature (including his means of knowledge) and the nature of the universe in which he acts – i.e. he needs metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, which means: philosophy. He cannot escape from this need; his only alternative is whether the philosophy guiding him is to be chosen by his mind or by chance.” Ayn Rand

Hi folks, welcome to my thoughts for the day!

I decided to create the FitOldDog club, while its objectives were still pretty vague in my mind, until today. I think that the goal of this ‘club’ should be to fight a battle, the necessity of which can only be properly perceived later in life, when one has lived the long-term consequences of actions undertaken and choices made earlier in life.

A common comment I receive from my peers concerning sports is, “I used to run, but I damaged my knees, so I can’t do it anymore.” If you undertake a sport solely to win at all cost you will pay the ultimate price, permanent injury. Why not finish in the middle or back of the pack and be able to pursue the sport for life?

From left to right, FitOldDog's Gyrokinesis, Feldenkrais, and Continuum instructors

From left to right, FitOldDog’s Gyrokinesis, Feldenkrais, and Continuum instructors, Tara, Karen and Rebecca, respectively.

When it comes to sports, the goal in our society appears to be to win at all costthis is a major philosophical error, in my opinion. People ask me if I’ve qualified for the Hawaii Ironman, and when I reply that I have come close, but not yet made it, they look at me as though I’ve failed. They are completely missing the point of why I undertake this great sport – I don’t race to go to Hawaii, I race to train. I love to be fit. My goal for every Ironman race I undertake is to finish with a smile, uninjured, preferably hungry and healthy, and with the best time I can achieve within such constraints. I’m 70 years old, for heaven’s sake. I’ve been beaten by other septuagenarians who spent the subsequent night in the hospital – you call that winning? I don’t! Study body awareness, and train safely, that’s my advice!

Photo of FitOldDog's son, Nigel, after the Los Cabos Ironman

Here’s my kid smiling after completing the Los Cabos Ironman.

When it comes to sports, the FitOldDog club will promote physical training for a healthy life, not just for winning, even though winning is nice. Risking long-term health for winning is a really bad idea.

Listen up parents, and be good to the coach who promotes this philosophy – don’t fire him/her because the team isn’t winning – the question you should ask yourself is, “Is my kid’s team smiling?”

A common comment I hear from parents concerning education is, “My son/daughter got an A in Math/Biology/whatever, he/she is really good at it.” If you think you know a subject because you achieved an A in high school/undergrad/post-grad/post-doc/or a 40-year career, don’t fool yourself, you only scratched the surface of the subject, whatever it was.

einstein, aneurysm, abdominal aortic aneurysm, history, therapy

I understand that this guy didn’t even get an A, he failed math in high school – what a dummy!

In my late 50s I undertook the task of learning mathematics. My last two graduate students at UNC CH were mathematicians, so it behooved me to comprehend what we were researching together. After 5 years of working problems from high school math, including algebra and trig, through differential and integral calculus, and that magic puzzle, linear algebra, I met my Waterloo – Topology. I could go no further. Did I fail? No! I learned at a deep level that mathematics is a vast field of study, far beyond the ability of one human mind to comprehend the whole. So, what does an A in math/Biology/whatever mean – it means you have lots more exciting things to learn, which applies to any subject you choose to name.

I love to see my grandson's love of learning Japanese.

I love to see my eldest grandson’s love of learning; he’s into Japanese.

When it comes to education, the FitOldDog club will promote learning for a healthy mind, not just for grades, even though A’s are nice. Risking long-term enjoyment of learning for good grades is a really bad idea.

Listen up parents, and be good to the teacher who promotes this philosophy – don’t fire him/her because your kid isn’t getting straight A’s – the question you should ask yourself is, “Does my kid love learning?”

Do you want them to look back on a life of broken knees and a broken spirit? Or a life of continual enjoyment of active sports and a love of endless academic adventure? They’ll do well if you choose the latter, don’t you worry.

I can hear the counterarguments – what’s the point of doing a sport if you don’t win? My kid needs straight A’s to go to college. Remember, Ford Management said, “What’s the point of making cars if we don’t make money?” The result – Ford Pinto.

-k @FitOldDog


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.