We’ve all run into those righteous people. You know the ones who are so unpleasant, insist they are right, and believe that unless you agree with them you are going to Hell, or at the very least purgatory, and you can’t wait to escape them as soon as possible. Or the ones who act as if you are stupid because you disagree with them.
Well, the other day, while volunteering at my daughter’s school, I was one of them. I didn’t mean to be. I’d like to blame it on the insomnia that’s hounded me lately, but honestly, I can’t. Just as I won’t allow my daughter to blame poor behavior on being tired (even if it’s true in her case, but no excuses please), I won’t let myself do that either. Yup, yesterday, I turned into one of those nasty people because someone dared to disagree with my assessment of how they teach math in schools these days. With my wet hair pulled tightly back in a pseudo bun, I am sure I resembled that graphic, except my hair isn’t gray, I’m not as old, nor do my boobs sag. (They might if I had more, but I don’t, so they don’t.) Perhaps as unpleasant, but certainly not as old or saggy.
The scene went something like this:
Me: “My daughter brought home a math test the other day. This whole time change has been a rough transition on her. She’s been so tired. She usually gets 20/20, but this one was 13/20.” (This whole time change is another rant, but I doubt I’ll be able to change that.)
The mom nods in sympathy. She doesn’t see it yet, but soon I’ll turn into a raging righteous person. Poor woman!
Me: “Her teacher sent home a blank version of the test so we could go over it together. There was one problem that didn’t belong on there. It was something like this:
“There are 10 bowling balls. Jerry knocks down three with his ball. His friend Peter knocks down more. How many total do Jerry and Peter knock down?
________ + ___________ = ____________
“Now, there are four possible solutions to this problem. How the hell can you expect a 6 year old to get that when they are just learning math? My daughter asked me, ‘Mommy, am I supposed to guess?’”
The mom murmurs an agreement, but then makes a fatal mistake by saying, “Well, as an adult, I would assume that you’d take the 10 and delete the 3, and there’s your answer. Perhaps that is what they were wanting the kids to do.”
Perhaps that is what they were wanting the kids to do? Perhaps? Where the hell does “perhaps” factor into math? And the unpleasant righteous person rose in my breast, breathing fire to get out. It overcame all common sense, and I couldn’t help myself. I pounced. How dare she disagree with me? I am right! I am always right. No one should be allowed to live who doesn’t agree with me on this subject! To hell with you, stupid woman! (No, I didn’t say any of this, but I am sure my face spoke volumes.)
Me: “Except you don’t make assumptions in math. And teaching kids to make assumptions in math will only lead to problems.” I tried to say this in a pleasant voice. I don’t think I succeeded.
The other mother: “I don’t really think it’s that big of deal, and I am sure they don’t mean it that way.”
Me: “Well, I don’t know. I don’t think I’d feel very comfortable if my brother or sister-in-law who are aerospace engineers made an assumption when designing a missile.”
The other mother, disdain dripping from her voice: “There is a big difference between a six year old and an aerospace engineer.”
In my head, I’m thinking, but someday she could become one and this is what they are teaching? Me: “Well, I grew up in a family of engineers. My grandfather was an engineer, my father was an engineer, my uncle was an engineer, as is my brother. I almost became an engineer, so I was taught in no uncertain terms that assumptions in math are not acceptable.”
The look on her face finally registered in my frenzied brain. (sigh) I had alienated a mother, and rightly so.
I tried to back pedal, but it was too late. Do I still disagree with her? Yes. I firmly believe you begin with teaching children how you intend for them to go on. It’s much harder to unteach something that is wrong than to just start them with the right way from the beginning. I mean, seriously, think about it. (And away we go. I will do my best not to preach, but I have a feeling I’m going to do it anyway. People who know me know to just nod and agree with me when I get like this. grin Advice: Just nod and agree. ;) ) Do you wait until your children are teenagers to teach them manners? Because that’s what some idiot expert advised parents to do a few years back. Since a small child doesn’t understand what saying, “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” mean, it’s best to wait until they can. The same goes with “sorry.” (snort) And how successful is that strategy?