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Friday, April 25, 2008

Patterns of Thought

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the teachers (I knew this teacher, but never had a class under him) in my High School liked to run little play-acting scenarios to help his students understand the right way to do things. This of course depended on both sides acting in accord with the script for the situation.

One of these scenarios used "Star Trek". The Klingons were approaching the border, and the Federation obviously should do all it could to avoid war. So the Federation met the Klingons at the border, and decided to demonstrate that they did not want to use force by backing up. Thus the Klingons would be in range of the Federation guns, and would stop before they actually crossed the border. The Federation's threat of force if the Klingons crossed the border would avoid having the situation escalate, and by backing up the Federation would reach a point where its guns would only affect the Klingons if they crossed the border, thus demonstrating that the Federation would defend its territory. The Klingons, of course, would realize that the Federation was not impinging on Klingon territory and would accept the invitation to talk.

That was the script, of course.

The reality was that the students running the Klingons realized that there was a big advantage in shooting first.

It was a bad day for the Federation, and a bad day for teaching correct patterns of thought. The teacher could explain to the students that what the Klingons SHOULD have done was accept the Federation offer to talk, but what the students saw was that the Klingons won by use of force because the Federation failed to draw a line and say "if you come into range, we will fire", thereby leaving themselves completely open to the attack.