T Nation

Ender's Game

I am in the middle of re-reading the book Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and wanted to hear from those of you that have read it, or any of the books in the series.

Aside from being a great book, it does pose some very interesting questions about the way society functions, or could potentially function.

One of the most interesting concepts that I am drawn to is the specialization of learning, in Ender’s case he is selected to train as an air-force pilot at the age of 6. In contemporary society, students learn about a broad spectrum of topics, and don’t even begin specialization until college, and even then you are still required to take a minimum amount of classes on other subjects and topics.

Do you think society would be more efficient if people started specializing at an earlier age? In concept it seems much more efficient to learn and train in what you are interested in, instead of being forced to learn a broad spectrum of topics of which you have little interest and most likely won’t utilize the information that you are forced to obtain.

I know there are those that have no idea what they want to do, and a more general path would be the best option. Also, there is the argument that you learn “life lessons” in college, but I feel that you would learn those equally well and maybe in a more applicable manner in a specialization program.

Would soldiers be better if they started training in middle school? Would investment bankers be more successful if focused solely on market related learning at the beginning of high-school?

Any thoughts on that, or any other facets of the book are more than welcome.

For those of you that have not read the book or series, or those that need a refresher, I have posted the Wikipedia page for Ender’s Game below:

no

[quote]jasmincar wrote:
no[/quote]

Your Canadian though, your opinion is not valid in regards to efficiency or education.

[quote]WestCoast7 wrote:

Do you think society would be more efficient if people started specializing at an earlier age? In concept it seems much more efficient to learn and train in what you are interested in, instead of being forced to learn a broad spectrum of topics of which you have little interest and most likely won’t utilize the information that you are forced to obtain.
[/quote]

Orson Scott Card is an excellent author and all the Ender books are great adventures.

The problem with your premise (at least comparing to Ender) is that Ender was bred specifically for the task he had to complete. He didn’t choose to be a soldier out of sheer interest. If you’ve read any of the following ‘Ender’ series novels, you know that he wasn’t proud of what happened (I’m trying to be vague for the people who haven’t read it), and he certainly would have loved to have spent his childhood as a ‘normal’ child-- playing, doing kid stuff, being a kid, not a soldier.

I think it’s rare that someone wants to specialize in most fields at a young age (obviously, things like “doctor”, “lawyer”, “pilot”, “athlete” are the common ones, but you don’t hear too many 8 year olds saying “I want to be a TELEMARKETER!” and devoting their childhoods to being the best G-Damned telemarketer ever.

Are you sure? I don’t recall him being a product of selective breeding.

On the question of whether education should be highly targeted: I think not. For example, some current article mentioned Einstein’s brain having a relatively unusual formation in it that is known to be acquired by those learning the violin at an early age that also has relation to mathematics. (And it has been observed before that musical training tends to improve mathematical ability.)

Rather generally it’s been shown that mental exercise of various kinds not necessarily obviously related to a given task can improve function, including in that task.

I suspect that highly specialized education would produce a mind of less capability to innovate than one that included not-obviously-related subjects.

One does have to turn to a fictional story to find an example of such specialized education producing such a wonder.

Card is a great writer: I particularly liked his Christopher Columbus book and also the one with a treasure chest and a main character named Fears (pronounced “Fierce.”) But all of them are good.

The Ender books did, for me, suffer somewhat from the (IMO) absurdity of the idea of turning to children of single-digit age to win an interstellar war due to the adults just not being smart enough and knowing that if you want real smarts, you’ve got to turn to a child of that age. I’m sorry but I just don’t buy it – and if Obama replaces McChrystal with a 6 year old I will say that he has lost it, and you should too.

But it’s fiction, and granting the premise allows enjoying some really good books.

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
Are you sure? I don’t recall him being a product of selective breeding.
[/quote]

He was a Third - his brother and sister had the rightish genes, his parents were allowed a third child with the hopes they would get it right.

Ender’s Game fucked my 10 year old world up. People lie!

That wasn’t selective breeding though, at least not in the ordinary sense. His parents were not selected to be put together, or at least I don’t think they were.

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
That wasn’t selective breeding though, at least not in the ordinary sense. His parents were not selected to be put together, or at least I don’t think they were.[/quote]

No, not to my knowledge (although I haven’t read every book in the series, so who knows). I’m just saying he was allowed to be born because of his potential genetics.

[quote]pushmepullme wrote:

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
Are you sure? I don’t recall him being a product of selective breeding.
[/quote]

He was a Third - his brother and sister had the rightish genes, his parents were allowed a third child with the hopes they would get it right.

Ender’s Game fucked my 10 year old world up. People lie![/quote]

Beat me to it. I didn’t mean ‘bred’ as in selectively bred, directly genetically derived or husbanded, but meant that because of the superior genes exhibited by his siblings he was “allowed” to be a third born. Maybe in a loose sense that’s “selective”-- if the government didn’t see the potential in the genes, they could have turned down his birth…

Even so, he was microchipped and monitored and was essentially manipulated at every stage of schooling/training to be the specialist he was.

In no way did he enthusiastically choose his childhood path or aspire to be what he became.

He was somewhat a product of selective breading, as his older brother was a violent individual, his older sister was a smart but compassionate individual, and the government allowed the family to have a “third” in an attempt to get a blend of the first two children.

I do agree that the brain learns advanced problem solving and intellectual capacity from completing and reasoning through a broad spectrum of problems, and think that could be one of the potential pit falls of specialized learning at a young age.

Also, I obviously didn’t mean that children would strive to become telemarketers at the age of 10, I meant more for jobs for the highly intellectual that require multiple levels of testing and years of training, such as a Navy fighter pilot, or an advanced level scientist.

I guess I just find the idea of early selection and training very intriguing. There are children who know what they want to do, and find strong passion at a very early age. I feel that if they were allowed to become a part of a specialized school, or advanced training program (as in Ender’s Game) that there would be far better results and far greater innovation.

Ender still experiences many of life’s trials and tribulations, the only difference is that he knows what he is going to be and focuses almost every facet of his academic life on becoming that. Should children that know what they want to be or are identified to be extremely gifted in a certain area be selected for more focused training? Would a doctor that started focusing on medicine at the age of 10 be better than one that started at 20?

[quote]pushmepullme wrote:

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
That wasn’t selective breeding though, at least not in the ordinary sense. His parents were not selected to be put together, or at least I don’t think they were.[/quote]

No, not to my knowledge (although I haven’t read every book in the series, so who knows). I’m just saying he was allowed to be born because of his potential genetics.[/quote]

Yes, that’s true.

It just doesn’t seem to me to fit with “bred specifically for the task he had to complete,” but if that’s what SteelyD meant by it, then yes.

But if a reader of that post had assumed that it meant that his parents were chosen or the breeding really controlled, then he would have misassumed the meaning and what is the case in the story.

Oops, when writing my post, the last I’d seen was pushmepullme’s.

Another sci-fi author chimes in:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert Heinlein

[quote]WestCoast7 wrote:

[quote]jasmincar wrote:
no[/quote]

Your Canadian though, your opinion is not valid in regards to efficiency or education.[/quote]

“You’re”

hehe

[quote]power_bulker wrote:

[quote]WestCoast7 wrote:

[quote]jasmincar wrote:
no[/quote]

Your Canadian though, your opinion is not valid in regards to efficiency or education.[/quote]

“You’re”

hehe[/quote]

Pwned, nice education brah.
Also, an opinion cannot be efficient.

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
That wasn’t selective breeding though, at least not in the ordinary sense. His parents were not selected to be put together, or at least I don’t think they were.[/quote]

I know you had no way of knowing unless your a Card addict like me but in OSC’s book " First Meetings" Card reveals that Ender’s parents were in fact selected and paired in a freakish/romantic kind of way by the International Fleet.

god i love that book

If we start letting little kids train at what they are interested in, before you know it, we will have a nation with a ridiculous surplus of cowboys, astronauts, pirates, and princesses.

So I want to say that I have read nearly all of OSC’s book. Many of which I have had to buy on my own because I could not get my hands on a copy in a library. The Ender series and the parallel ‘Shadow’ series about ‘Bean’ one of Ender’s Jeesh was superb.

I am all for agreeing on specialized training. Its not for everyone. Some one has to pick up the trash, be a janitor or other not as savory jobs. So I vote that only the top 10% of the children get the training. All these ‘genius’ children have their parents consent to give them the training.

[quote]anonym wrote:
If we start letting little kids train at what they are interested in, before you know it, we will have a nation with a ridiculous surplus of cowboys, astronauts, pirates, and princesses.[/quote]

The idea in OSC’s novels is that every child on earth is tested to find out if they have command potential. If this idea were to be brought forth realistically, what we would see is all children taking advanced testing to determine I.Q. and find other info on what the kids are good at. Courage, loyalty, and adaptability would all be measured. Then at different ages for different I.Q.'s we can begin providing the children with a more specialized education to point them in the right path if not set them right on the major highway to their profession.