Episode 53: Embrace the Chaos - Study Guide for Middle School A lot of times, we avoid chaos or focus on cleaning up our messes. But an economist Tim Harford, tells us that mess can actually help us.

Episode 53: Embrace the Chaos - Study Guide for Middle School

Tim Harford thinks we should appreciate mess, instead of avoiding it PeopleImages/Getty Images hide caption

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Tim Harford thinks we should appreciate mess, instead of avoiding it

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The Wall Street Journal created a video about Brexit

Wall Street Journal YouTube

Many people hate the idea of mess: a messy room, a messy desk. Anything that is surprising or not organized drives them crazy! But Tim Harford – an economist and writer – thinks we're not appreciating mess. He talks about how embracing mess can help us come up with new ideas and approach problems in a totally different way.

Vox produced a video explaining Brexit

Vox YouTube

Note to Teacher: In this episode, we talk about Donald Trump's campaign and Brexit. Check if students are on the same page about Brexit, i.e. that they all have a basic understanding of what happened and how surprising it was. NPR wrote an article overviewing Brexit and why it's important.

 

Study Guide Questions

1. Tim Harford begins this interview with the story of a famous musician who had to perform a concert with a broken piano. This "messy" situation ended up resulting in beautiful music. This leads Harford to state that "very often we're faced with the unplayable piano and actually we produce something great out of it." Here, the unplayable piano is used as a metaphor.

What does the "unplayable piano" mean here? What is it a metaphor for?

2. Throughout this episode, we see that disappointments and surprises can sometimes lead to better results, even though we try to avoid these messy situations. Give some examples from the episode.

3. What would happen if someone who couldn't play the piano - or couldn't play very well - was put in the same situation as the musician with the broken piano?

4. Tim Harford describes a study about rules in offices about how people can decorate their desks. What did this study inspire Harford to do in his own life at home?

5. Harford talked to Brian Eno, a musician and producer who had an interesting strategy for creating new music. Why would music producer Brian Eno put musicians he worked with in stressful situations?

 

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