Training Wheels Don’t Work


While it may seem counterintuitive, training wheels don’t teach a sense of balance. They may make you feel you are riding a bicycle but, in fact, they fail to build the muscle memory needed to ride the bike correctly without them. That is why we as parents may feel good watching our children ride around with training wheels, but they simply do not work. We shouldn’t use them … ever.

It is interesting to see how quickly children or adults can learn to ride a bike if you take the pedals off and just let them learn to coast for a few feet at a time. They will learn to ride within minutes. That is how fast your body learns balance … but you have to take the pedals off or they get in the way of learning. I think this has many applications in other areas where we need to learn balance.

We have many other training wheels we use in life. We start children out with simple ideas that for a time seem to be helpful … until they backfire later in life. We do this in religious training, math, science, and the list goes on. We think we are building skills when in fact we are simply conditioning children to “spit back” what they have memorized rather than what they have truly learned. Worse yet, we may poison the well of reasoning and learning in life as children become disappointed with just how poorly their training wheels prepared them for life.

As a result, we raise a population that has probably been fed inadequate and unhealthy bits of information that people cling to as if they were absolute truth. Then, as we face the really tough adult choices we must make as a society, we are lost in a seemingly irreconcilable battle of ideologies, dogmas, doctrines, and politics riddled with soundbite answers to truly deep questions.

When are we going to stop the nonsense and correct all this? I think we need to heed Albert Einstein’s famous line: “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.” Unfortunately, we are living with the consequence of Henry Louis Mencken quotes: “For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.”

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