Watching: Sheena Iyenger, professor at Columbia Business School “TED talk: On the Art of Choosing” (2014) (24:08)
Today in class, we evaluated, judged and chose a preferred pepper. (NB: yes, this is a history class. We just go about it in a slightly unconventional manner.) An interesting (and often hilarious) exercise, don’t you think?
In reality, we choose all the time. In order to choose, we discriminate (that’s the evaluation piece). First we decide if one thing(s) is different—and then better than another; then we decide which is our preference—and in this case, which was “the best.”
To “choose,” we judge one another, we judge fruits and veggies in a supermarket, trying to determine (the verdict) which one to purchase. We judge people by what they wear and how they smell; we judge what looks "good" when we try on clothes, we judge whether one school is better than another. And then we choose.
We too are judged. Others judge us. They size us up—that’s the discrimination part. They assess who we are and then they draw conclusions (that’s the judgment or the verdict part). Institutions judge us, law enforcement judges us, teachers judge us, our supervisors judge us, some believe that a God judges us. Many factors feed those judgments. Stereotypes play a role. So do preconceptions. So does compassion. So does objectivity. And if someone demands that we make a choice, based on these judgments, well, we usually do!
Judgment and choice imply a sense of ranking. Something is better than something else. Generally, judgment and choice involve a kind of opposition: this is good (or better), while this is bad (or not as good). Inevitably this is a kind of “othering”: the recognition that there is an “us” (usually good) and “them” (usually not-so-good….or bad).
Think about discrimination, judgment, and choice-making for a moment. Must we discriminate among things/people? Must we judge? What’s the point of judgment? Must we choose? Are these good or bad things or somewhere in between? Are there roles for choices in society? Are they essential to making society function?
Is it possible for a world to exist without discrimination? Without judgment?
Consider these myriad but interrelated issues and then write a thoughtful post taking a position on these questions. Be sure to respond to the comments of those who precede you in this discussion.And be certain to support what you say with some concrete examples and/or anecdotes, including an assessment of the exercise in class and the TED talk by Sheena Iyenger (the world’s so-called foremost expert on choices).