Twenty-Five Or Six To Four

February 13, 2009 at 1:20 AM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
  I don’t know why I thought of this, but this a memory from high school.

  I was destined to take all four years of science offered in high school.  I chose Earth Science over Biology as a Freshman, then the track was pretty well laid out:  Physical Science, Chemistry, then Physics.  These coincided with the math needed, I guess.  Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, then PreCalc.  I know that nowadays lots of kids have the opportunity to take Calc in High school.  Good for you.  This was the early 80s, before calculus was invented…and who are you going to believe, anyway?
  In Physical Science, we did a variety of things that led up to physics and chemistry.  A lot of it was learning to measure, learning about tolerances, human error, accuracy versus precision, the metric system, and things like that.  Other than temperature, I’m pretty handy with the metric system.  For all things scientific since junior high, I’ve used it, so I’m pretty familiar with it.
  One day we had a simple enough experiment, and the whole class–about 24 of us–had our notebooks out and ready.  Mr Deason was our instructor.  Older guy, white shirt with collar and thin black tie.  Glasses, too.  He looked like your standard instructor that would show up on the slide projection tutorial with the pointer in his hand.  I really liked him, he was a great teacher.
  This was an old school building.  The newer part that we were in was built in the 50s.  The older part was built in the 1850s.  So this new, modern science lab had the tables that seated two, with drawers, and the gas burner outlet on top, and a small sink in the middle.  Standard.  We went back to the back of the room, and we were going to do a simple experiment in measurements.  Time.  The dreaded analog clock.
  As I thought about this afterwards, I know that he must have done this for a reason–otherwise it is a silly, redundant exercise.  I’m glad I could play my part, and teach the class a lesson, not only in measurements, but also in division and also peer pressure and politics.
  Mr Deason had us look at the clock, and for each of us to record what time it was.  We all recorded 9:17.  A little over a minute later, he had us record the time again.  Well, it was obviously 9:18.
  But it didn’t look that way to me.  It looked like 9:19.  I was going with 9:19.  We all recorded the measurements, and then took the average.  If we had all agreed, the experiment would have been futile and redundant.  But now we had 23 people saying it was 9:18, and one–me–saying it was 9:19.  Do that math, folks.
  The brainiacs and the linear thinking robots were disgusted with me for not towing the company line.  "You’re throwing off the average!"
  I said, "But I’m right!"  As I think about it, the giveaway was that Mr Deason did nothing to try to dissuade me.  Perhaps he chose this clock in the back of the room because he knew the minute hand was subject to interpretation.
  I wasn’t afraid of the extra work, the extra math, or the numbers that did not end in an orderly fashion after two decimal places.  Or, I now reflect, what they thought of me.  In the movie version of my life, in this scene, I would have said something to the class to persuade them to come around to my way of thinking, and then the jocks and brains alike would respect me, and the hot but brainy cheerleader would go out with me, and I would be the popular guy because I took a stand and was hereafter respected for it.
  Instead, they were just pissed at me.  I remember one cute chick that I liked working the math with a venomous expression on her face, pounding her notebook and hitting her calculator.  I’m not gettin in those drawers anytime soon.
  I have always been a rebel.

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