Problem solving

Problem solving an impossible maze

I read that a well know entrepreneur (I think it was Elon Musk) said that schools should teach problem solving. Well, schools nowadays teach some strange subjects and have moved away from the ‘old fashioned’ three R’s, so I’m sure it would fit in with the views of many progressive school principles. For instance, there was an idea that schools should teach resume writing. The reality is that if schools taught thinking skills, writing composition and correct spelling then not only would the students be good at writing resumes, they would also be good at doing any task that requires communication of ideas.

Elon Musk is probably frequently confronted with engineering problems. These problems are of a particular type but most people in their everyday life don’t deal with these sort of logical problems. Many problems have an emotional content. For instance, if you have argued with a partner the chances are that even if the problem had a logical appearance, the real problem was not logical at all. You can’t resolve an emotional problem with logic and rationality, but the sort of problems that Elon Musk is talking about are rational problems, not emotional problems. I’ve seen people in loveless marriages where there is little communication and the only conversations are arguments, but the fear of leaving is greater than the unhappiness of staying together. Although we can examine the issues that cause fear in a rational way, it rarely resolves the fear itself which is irrational.

Anyone who has gone through a relationship break up knows the feeling of mental turmoil that can ensue. There’s the feeling that if you think about it long enough you will discover a magic key that will unlock everything and all will become clear. You can’t resolve an emotional problem rationally. Time can heal emotional problems but you have to allow it to.

Philip Braham 11 June 2021



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