Madsen Pirie endorses Richard Sykes' call for more youngsters to learn science at school. He's right, but I've an even better idea - children should be taught gambling. Here's why:
1. For younger children, it's a fun way to introduce them to basic maths. Working out the pay-out on a yankee is surely more interesting than all that guff about radiuses - and a fine preparation for adult life too.
2. Gambling is like science - a way of testing beliefs against evidence. Young people must be taught how to do this - to ask: "what would show that I'm wrong in this belief?" In learning this, of course, they learn that their beliefs should be weakly held, and challengeable against the facts.
If we only teach kids how to express themselves, without regard to the evidence, we are merely preparing them to work for the Guardian.
3. Gambling teaches kids about probabilities. And almost all evidence - or at least all interesting evidence - in the social sciences is probabilistic. Teaching probabilities therefore introduces youngsters to how to think about political questions. It also shows them that so-called experts can be wrong.
This matters enormously, because schools inculcate into kids a very pernicious belief. Because teachers are authority figures, kids are led to believe that truth and authority are more identical than they really are. Showing that experts can be wrong demonstrates that they are different things.
4. If we teach kids about probability, we prepare them to ask: how are estimates of probability formed? And this leads them to understand cognitive biases and Bayesianism.
Teaching gambling, then, is a good way to teach people how to think clearly. And this, surely, is the most important lesson a school can impart.