I faced an ethical dilemma today. I won, meaning I did the unethical thing.

I take a math class at the public highschool here. (It’s called duel enrollment I am still homeschooled) We use a standard, confusing, boring textbook. This standard, confusing, boring textbook has the answers to all the odd-numbered problems listed at the back. I was absent of Friday, and I needed to figure out how to use this certain formula. I knew that if I looked in the back of the book I could figure out the problem and thus understand the math.

But we’re not supposed to look at the answers. So what should I do? Do I look in the book and figure out this formula, or do I abide by the rules and not figure out the problem, but get the answer wrong and learn how to do it on Monday? (That question was hypothetical, by the way.)

The school is denying me a resource that I could use to solve a problem that they gave me. Because above all else, one must obey the rules.

Yes, some rules are essential. But maybe the school has too many rules that it has become suffocating? (I know, how *dare* I suggest that!) There are rules about how to solve a math problem that have nothing to do with math, there are rules about how to read a book. (Elementary school; you read the first page, if there is one word you don’t know, the book is at the right level. More than three words mean the book is too hard, and if you know all the words the book is too easy.)

Are all these rules really helping to prepare people for the future? The fact that I hesitated to look at the answer to a problem, even thought I know from experience that looking at the answer and working backwards is the easiest way for me to understand math. That is an example of a rule that clearly shows how these rules are not being made to benefit the students, but to make sure everyone can get through the curriculum in 180 days the EXACT SAME WAY.

The schools are teaching, though example, that there is one way to solve a problem and it is the right way and everyone must do it. Shouldn’t we be encouraging creative thinking? Problem solving?

Once school is over, there isn’t one perfect way to do something. There isn’t one perfect way to get a job or hire someone. What is going to happen to all these people coming out of school expecting to find the one answer to all of their problems?

Thirteen years of finding the one answer. (That’s kindergarten through 12^{th} grade.) There is no career where you find the one answer. (If anyone can think of that career and I can’t find a reason why it doesn’t work I will send them homemade marzipan.) How is anyone going to become an entrepreneur (and I still can’t spell that word) if they don’t know how to think creatively? Or a doctor, um, I believe to be a doctor you have to be able figure out someone’s illness. And that requires creative thinking.

The public schools do try to get people to think, but the questions are something like, “In the book, Bob had to give up the things he loved for the good of humanity. Have you ever had to give up the things you love for the good of humanity?” Good try schools.

They also try to play the problem solving card. “A group wants to order a pizza, and they can get a twelve-inch diameter pizza for the same price as two eight inch diameter pizzas. Which should they buy?” The problem is; there is only one answer to this problem and only one way to find the answer. The 12” pizza is bigger, by the way.

Funny school story- I actually had to answer this problem when I was eleven, and there were only few people in the class who got the answer right. (Including me.) When we were asked how we got to the correct solution the other people said they didn’t know, they just guessed. I said something along the lines of, “Two reasons, first and most obviously, because of reverse psychology, the math book wants people to be excited to learn about circles, so they make the answer be something surprising that no one would guess. It seems like the two 8” pizzas would be bigger, but really the 12” pizza is bigger. It’s unexpected.” And I trailed off by saying, “Or you could just find the area of the pizzas…”

I saw right through those stupid math books. Reverse psychology was an answer to a lot of math problems.

All these rules are discouraging creativity. There is more than one way to learn something.

If I could add another flaw to the public school math system, what is all this rubbish about math being used in the real world? I don’t mean now to add and subtract, but what about the stuff after algebra? Unless you are going to be a math teacher, or do something involving psychics, or be an engineer, most jobs don’t require you to be able to find the tangent of 64 degrees or graph a parabola.

I don’t mean don’t teach math after algebra (or do I…) but I am so freaking tired of hearing that I will use this math in the real world. Guess what? Finding the speed of an elevator is not part of my career plan. And guess what else? You know the cool things we have now called fancy internet calculators for all sorts of different equations for any job? Please do not tell me that I will need to memorize the quadratic equation. Even if I will use it someday, I will have a computer. I don’t care if contractors have to calculate the cosine of 14 degrees, because guess what, they use computers. Everybody uses computers! And I do not want to see that little green box telling me that because some psychics genius uses this one weird equation I will need it for any job.

I hope you enjoyed that informative article followed by that angry rant. Feel free to comment on the informative article, but I must ask you to withhold your comments about the angry rant. They will get deleted. Thank you for your cooperation.

Sometimes breaking the rules is not the unethical thing to do. I think the rule is intended to facilitate learning math. If it is not working to do that and you break it to achieve the same goal, I am thinking that is not unethical. But you still broke the rule and in many instances breaking a rule will bring consequences even if it turns out to have been ethical to do so.

I totally agree with you….not to point fingers at public schools (well, yeah…sort of to), I do think they’re very suffocating! So happy I’m homeschooled! I absolutely loved your example of school’s getting people to ‘think’. So many times, people don’t go any deeper than they actually have to, or they go too deep and miss the original point!

Applying your theory strictly to information and education, Einstein had a good quote for you. “Never remember what you can look up.”

Not sure if he envisioned our Google society, and certainly this is not the best theory all of the time, but in relation to your dilemma, you’re in good company. :)

My apologies, “Never MEMORIZE what you can look up.”

You may enjoy this…

I did. :-)