Tuesday, December 06, 2005
I read another article the other day about the latest trend in teaching math out here in the great Northwest. Basically the idea is this, which I'm sure is the same in most areas of our country where we have become to smart for our own good; We teach students to appreciate the concept of math. We don't teach them problem solving. We don't teach them basic principles like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. We teach them relationships between numbers, like they're some new social dynamic in need of counseling. We teach them to "feel good" about math. I may not be the smartest guy on my block, but it seems to me that I would feel good about math if I could actually succeed at it. I would feel good if I could actually get an answer right on a test. In this new version, there isn't necessarily a right and a wrong answer. It's a right and wrong concept. How does one grade an objective subject like math when everything is subject to the students interpretation and feelings. We no longer care if 2 plus 2 equal four, just as long as they feel good and whole as numbers themselves. After all, numbers have feelings too. I remember the Beatles first discovered that, particularly with the number one. In their interpretation, one was the loneliest number. There are plenty of studies out there that indicate that we exist at the bottom of the scale worldwide in our math scores, yet we're at the top in self-esteem. So, I gues we're generally ignorant, but we're sure happy about it so that's just fine with us. In the mean time, every time the register closes on some poor high school aged employee at McDonalds before telling them the exact change needed, another is manager is needed to figure out that I get 11 cents back from my five dollar bill. Talk about low self-esteem. They may be able to beat me bloody on an X-box, but I can out "change" them with both hands behind my back. So why is this a crisis? Why do I care if the next generation makes friends with mathmatics. We'll for one, think of the practical implications of the whole next generation not being capable of balancing their check books. I know, that's what overdraft protection is for and late fees and check fees and all the other fees that generate the income needed to keep the machine running. My greater issue is this. In our disdain for feelings at the expense of truth, we are willing to abandon truth. And in greater measure, it's a symptom of our abandoning the one who claimed to be "The Truth". In our culture it is not OK to claim truth even in long division. It's only OK to claim opinion and then only if it's a right opinion. At the risk of harming a lot of feelings, allow me to remind us of this bit of truth. None of us is OK. None of us is complete. None of us have it all together. The slippery slope that we're rapidly descending is the one where we place our value based on others who are also imperfect. Talk about lowering the bar. There is only one who can give us worth, value, self-esteem. There is only one who had "it all together". There is only one model. And interestingly enough, he was referred to as "The Truth". My hope this season is that many more of us can be OK with that.