Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Do you remember this game? If you're under 35, probably not, as it's been banned by the government since 1988. But for many people it was a good alternative to horseshoes, as it didn't gouge up your lawn. Bob Lawson notes that the game was great fun (for me too!):
I've used this example in class to highlight the trade-off between safety and other values (i.e., fun!). Somewhat shockingly I ask my students, "Ok, we have a game that provides millions of hours of fun and enjoyment for hundreds of thousands of people. Unfortunately, a few kids get maimed and maybe even killed. That's a price I'm willing to pay!" If they recoil in horror at my inhumanity, as they often do, I remind them that this isn't that different from saying, "Ok, we have this device that provides us with the incredible ability to get from place to place quickly. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of us will get killed and many more injured each year using it. I'm talking about cars. How many of you want to ban cars?" The issue is that we have to make trade-offs.
I also had a BB gun as a kid, and luckily my name is not Ralphie. In his case, his parents got to make the trade-off. We also had a dart board. But not for the lawn dart any more do we trust parents to make that decision.

My friends play bocce, which has some similarities to both jarts and horseshoes, but for some reason I find it unsatisfying. Ever been hit with one of those balls? Ouch! Call the CPSC!

(I'm sure John will now bring up curling.)

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