Dogme and Game Theory

May 17, 2012 § 19 Comments

“To see a world in a grain of sand,
and heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour.”
William Blake

I remember when I was young, play tig in the playground at school, I don’t know what you call it, it would be nice to find out, just the game where you’re “on” and you chase after the others till you catch one, then they’re on, and they chase after you, ahh, happy days, once while playing this I remember getting sucked into a vortex of infinity.

I was running away, towards and then behind the toilet block. Hidden from view, I could carry on running all the way round, hoping to outrun my chaser, but I realised the chaser could be clever, and veer off to the left to head me off at the other side as I reappeared, literally running into his arms and being caught. You know the situation, I’m sure. So you stop, don’t you, and double back. But they can be smart too, knowing you’ll do this, so they carry on in the original direction. So you better carry on too. Only they’ll work this out, and head you off. In another universe, I’m still stuck there, not knowing which way to run.

The science of trying to work out what your opponent will do in such situations, or “games”, and then using this knowledge to influence your own behaviour, is called Game Theory. It’s not just concerned with trivialities. Far from it; in fact, its theories are applied across all human endeavours. The nuclear arms race between the US and USSR was one such game where each kept on building up their arsenals far beyond the point of oblivion. Such colossal spending trying to keep up was a major factor in the collapse of communism.

In ELT, publishers operate in much the same way, grafting on every conceivable feature to their new coursebook, such that they have workbooks and ebooks and websites and cds and dvds. Teachers can get sucked into the game inadvertently, judging the quality of a resource simply by how many shopping trolleys they need to get between classrooms.

Scott says “Stop! Stop playing this foolish game.” The only winners are the arms manufacturers. In a recent post of his, F is for Fractal, we see the possibilities and joys of working with and exploring a short text.

Of course, if we are going to limit the amount of materials we use in class, the impact and resourcefulness of the ones we do choose should shine brightly.

That’s what Language Garden is committed to doing at

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought,
but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
Albert Einstein


§ 19 Responses to Dogme and Game Theory

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