Today I will welcome a guest contributor, my husband.
I am quite good at giving the wrong answers. Not the incorrect answers, the wrong answers. Businesses claim to appreciate “outside of the box” thinking (that’s a lie, business managers appreciate conformity) but relationships with individuals don’t tolerate non-conformity at all. Ask me a question and I’m likely to tell you how it is…or at least how I perceive it.
I could not possibly succeed as a loan officer at a bank. Customers come in wanting a “yes”, hoping not to get a “no” and get upset if you take a moment to teach them about Biblical financial stewardship. “Well, Mr. Jones, you certainly qualify for the automobile loan and I don’t doubt that you appear able to repay the loan but I don’t think it’s a very good idea for you. You would personally be better off taking the bus each day to work. While you are on the bus you could spend some time studying. That study time will help you work toward a promotion, enabling you to save even more money (which I would council you to do rather than just use your new earnings to borrow a larger sum to buy more car than you need (which, since you can ride the bus you obviously need no car at all!)). Further, you would increase the money supply by the amount of your loan, robbing purchasing power from all other savers. For your own benefit as well as that of mankind, I can’t give you the loan. Oh and by the way, you shouldn’t be saving in US dollars right now. Take all but $50 out of your accounts with us, go to the coin shop on 3rd street and ask about silver eagles.” I would be fired immediately.
There is little room for outside-of-the-box thinking in arithmatic.
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Math takes care of itself. Math defines itself. You HAVE to know it so you’ll HAVE to learn it. Resistance is futile. Want to measure a board, calculate your tip or count your collection of Beanie Babies? You need math and the more you need the more you will be forced to learn. You’ll never launch your space ship if you don’t finish your Trig. That’s a fact. So, to launch more space ships we need more people studying trig. We can accomplish this one of two ways. We can force kids to sit in a chair day after day for years at a time memorizing proofs, facts and theorems under threats of violence, loss of liberty, loss of future opportunity or simple social rejection. As you choose that option remember that Einstein said
Force always attracts men of low morality
Alternatively, we can inspire the kids to push their own learning forward into space. If we choose the latter we have less control over each individual student but we can go further faster with the ones who are ready to explore space. Will this work in the current public school paradigm? Nope. So what do we do with the masses of children out there needing to be educated? Who is this mysterious “we?” I don’t know what to do with other people’s children but I do know “we” are graduating an awful lot of children who can’t make change or read above a 5th grade level…and we are spending a terrifying amount of money to get it done. But we’ll save that for another day.
Back to the topic, I don’t see the world the way most people do. I don’t respond to the world the way most people do. I don’t suffer the same fears most people do. I am, in the words of my lovely bride, a freak and I always give the wrong answer to any given question…often not just the wrong answer but also an offensive answer.
So when a co-worker expresses her concern that her 3rd grader is behind on math in public school, my thoughts were not well received. I think she wanted me to sympathize and ask what they are doing to get him caught up…or something. I don’t know. I asked her why it was such a big deal. ”Who cares that your 3rd grader isn’t currently interested in math? Why on Earth would you punish him by forcing him to sit and work on math facts every evening instead of allowing him to play with friends, relax in front of the TV, play video games or otherwise participate in your family’s normal evening culture? Do you want him to grow up hating math? How do you, yourself, feel about math? Do you think your own personal hatred of math has in any way impacted your lack of career development? And now you wish that for your son? I mean, if book learnin’ is important to you, why haven’t you modeled it to him for the last 10 years?”
See? Wrong response.
Even leaving family culture out of the picture, do you need to master arithmatic before moving on to later math? Yup. Do some children progress at Math, reading or basketball faster or slower than other children? Yup. If so, how can you expect a class of 30 children to move along at the same pace? Since Jr. hasn’t mastered his multiplication tables he can’t start division. What is the school solution to this? He has been manufactured incorrectly and needs a little extra time on the assembly line. After all, no child shall be left behind!
Look, I’m not going to say that it’s time to retire compulsory public prison schools to the dustbin of history (much as I would like to) but maybe it is time we re-examined the paradigm. If we are truly concerned about the masses of underprivileged children out there who need an education shouldn’t we find an effective way to bring it to them? I can’t be the only square peg in the world.
If you think a lifetime of learning enjoyment is the path for your own children, model it for them at home. I have at least two books with me at all times, just in case I finish one. I read. I read out loud. I read to my kids. I read to my wife. We discuss what we read and ask the kids what they think. I check out real honest-to-goodness math books from the library from time to time to hone my book learnin’ and my problem solving skills. Be prepared for the consequences. Not only will your children be smarter than you, you’ll become a social misfit…at least until keeping up with the Joneses means you talk about reading Les Miserables around the water cooler rather than reliving the glories of the recent film adaptation.