Subject-ivity

File:Ambiguity.gif

This type of image is called, fittingly enough, an ambigram. I know because I googled “what are those upside down words pictures called”.

The world is shrouded in ambiguity.  There are few things that are absolutely definite.  One of those things is math.  Now there are things about math that are subject to opinion.  For example, if asked if they enjoyed math, many high school students would reply with a resounding “no, it is the bane of my existence”, while others would say that math is their best or favorite subject.  Still others, such as myself, would describe their fondness of math as a love-hate relationship.  But math itself (most of it anyway) is clearly defined.  All the answers are in the back of the book, and there’s a methodical approach to solving for that elusive x.

So let’s say, hypothetically, that your English teacher offered extra credit to anyone who could write a good blog post about math.  We all know that the definition of good is relative.  And, hypothetically of course, in this case, good was described as better than a certain example.  So how are you supposed to find the x factor?  Or more appropriately in my poorly executed metaphor, how am I supposed to find the x variable?

Well there’s no formula to solve this problem, obviously because 1) I’m solving for an unknown in a sea of unknown, and that’s just too many variables for me to compute and 2) This particular standard of success is defined by the opinion of my teacher.  Now who’s to say that my attempt to analyze math philosophically is any better than another person’s effortless explanation of the Pythagorean theorem?  It’s completely up to the reader.

So it looks to me that math isn’t so crystal clear when seen through the eyes of an English teacher.  Then let’s consider something else.  How is an English class supposed to be graded in the same way as Math class?  Math almost always has a definite answer, while English does not.  If you ask for the range of answers for an English function, I’ll simply have to say, “the limit does not exist”.  So it really frustrates me when people act as if a piece of literature can only mean one thing, and then insist upon grading responses to that specific.  Sure grades are one thing, but there’s something else that bothers me even more – being “right”.  How can one assign a degree of correctness to something that is supposed to be freely interpreted?  When the CST (which will soon be changed to Common Core or something…) asks me what I think the message of the story was, they’re not really asking me what I thought the message of the story was.  They’re asking what I think they think the message of the story was.  And that’s just ridiculously contradictory, now isn’t it?  How many times have people said to you, “You can’t expect me to read your mind”?  I understand that the multiple choice is supposed to offer the most noticeable themes in the text, but that is still open to interpretation.  And many well-versed writers will write in a way that allows dual meaning or several possibilities without a definite answer.  The text can be as opened ended as the test questions that follow it because that is what makes reading comprehension so awesomely complex.  No one wants a cookie cutter, straight forward story.  Everything from Doctor Seuss books to The Great Gatsby is stuffed with hidden meanings, allusions, and symbolism.

And even with all that possibility, no one knows for sure.  Not even the author.  Because not even the author has the authoritative power to say “That is what I wrote, and this is what it means.”  If they did, what would be the point of reading?  You read for yourself, not the author, and certainly not for your English teacher.

All this being said, I absolutely adore English and Math.  Maybe for the reasons you think, and maybe not.  But it doesn’t really matter.  Because it’s just my opinion.  And I strongly believe in the right (should I say write? or is it getting old?) for you to have yours.

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I don’t mean to offend anyone by this post, but it shouldn’t because it’s just the opinion of some fifteen year old girl in front of her laptop.  And if you didn’t like this post, although I sincerely hoped it provoked some thought or agreement or oh-so-characteristic teenage angst, at least I ended it with a Mean Girls gif.  I also tried to sprinkle crossovers between Math and English throughout this because I do believe they complement each other.  Just not word problems.  Ugh.

Thanks for reading all the way down to the bottom it really means a lot to me that you don’t mind me being so verbose – love,

Celine

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2 thoughts on “Subject-ivity

  1. This post is so great! I love the connections between Math & English and the different ways of interpreting both. You bring such lively ideas into everything and lay them out in such a brilliantly refreshing manner. basicallyiloveyousomuch. xxxxx

    Like

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