Friday, August 20, 2010

Education and the Good Life -

The missus came back from younger son's school open-house with a long face.
"Bad, huh?" I asked.

She didn't answer. Just sat down on the sofa and buried her face in her hands.

I understood. Her worst fears had come true. "He did well in the tests?" I asked.

She mutely nodded her head and proffered a sheet of paper which simply said "Algebra-40/40. Geometry - 40/40".

I realise that you, dear reader, might have developed a slight throbbing feeling around the temples upon reading such drivel. Feeling sad when your child score full marks, forsooth!

But bear with me. When you are au courant with the background, I am sure the light of enlightenment will dispel the darkness enveloping your consciousness.  Hmm. Perhaps I shouldn't read so much Deepak Chopra. Anyway, here's the background.

Younger son is smart, quick on the uptake, and used to be the bee's knees academically speaking till he realized that he could get by without actually studying at all, based on his ability to "creatively answer" question papers.

Creative answering involves (according to younger son)  rewriting the question in your own words, and making it 2x to 3x longer, which then easily passes off for the answer. This technique works admirably for subjects like the languages or history (he's been maxing them as much as they can be maxed) but tends to have disastrous results when applied to algebra or geometry. Younger son finds this unfortunate, but does not seem to feel that a change in methodology is merited.

Missus, on the other hand, has been despairing most vociferously. "You have spoiled him" is the major thrust of her arguments and "if you ever took even one hundredth of the interest in his studies as you take in twittering-gittering, he would stand first with his eyes closed". The missus, as you might have gathered, has a low opinion of Web 2.0.

I've been advocating motivation, mainly by promising various goodies, but the missus belongs to the management by punishment school of thought. She announces all kinds of penalties for milestones not achieved. Such as "No TV for a week". Or "No touching the computer". Or "No playing football". And so on.

Unfortunately for her,  a lad of our younger son's resourcefullness finds this the equivalent of a slow full toss. Easily despatched to the boundary. "No net? No sweat" is his slogan, because he easily gets on to the internet when missus is watching one of her soaps. Even the "No more football" rule is easily bypassed by getting one of his mates to plead with missus to allow him to play "a most important match, auntie, please, pretty please" whereupon she has to agree or risk being labelled "dragon auntie" by the kids in the building.

This time, however, we were determined to drill some sense into his head. We locked up all the computers in the house. The key was carefully hidden in  secret locations known only to the missus and the location changed daily. It resulted in operational problems for scatterbrains like me. I often forget to take my clothes into the bathroom when I go to bathe and this policy meant  have to spend several anxious minutes waiting for the missus to rescue me from death by pneumonia. But the objective of denying him access to the internet was achieved. I was assigned the task of telling all his friends that he wouldn't be coming to play football for the whole week. And things would certainly change. Or so we thought.

He defiantly stuck to his policy of studiously avoiding all study and managed to get by on the strength of his "creative answering" in the languages and in history. Our only hope was that he would plug his algebra or geometry, or atleast score badly in them, giving us much needed leverage over the lad.

As you know, that was not to be. How he achieved this is a mystery to us. I voiced the optimistic opinion that he was a Ramanujan kind of math genius, to which the missus gave a hollow laugh and said that he had either managed to procure a copy of the test papers in advance or copied wholesale from someone.

And younger son? He seems very happy with the result, thank you very  much, and has resolved to let his winning methods continue.

-Update: It turns out that the lad actually cracked both Algebra and Geometry and is quite gifted at math in general. I am astounded! He must get it from his mother.


parthicle said...

cool post!
btw did you notice; second time am I the first to comment on your posts?
small victory this!

narendra shenoy said...

@parthicle - Thanks and that's very sweet of you! I'm flattered!

payoshni said...

Can you belive; in some Boards (the study boards, not the corporate ones ;) ), 'maxing' the answers is is sure-shot way of scoring weel, espcially,a s u rightly pointed out in subjects such as Languages & History ka mysetry ...ask any UP board passout :D

Hilarious post as usual, especially the 'Dragon Auntie' bit..poor women, we us :(

Scattered Thoughts... said...

Oh I thought you were trying to teach him.. didnt you mention that in one of your earlier posts or I am high on something? If so, all credit should go to you!! isnt it?

Scattered Thoughts... said...

and yes.. like Payoshni said.. dragon aunty bit.. that takes the cake :)

Scattered Thoughts... said...

oh again me.. sorry about the comment in bits and part but tell me honestly if you made up that dragon aunty thing or its real

Scattered Thoughts... said...

oh again me.. sorry about the comment in bits and part but tell me honestly if you made up that dragon aunty thing or its real

Anonymous said...

Good one....discovered your blog just today ..having indulged in it myself on several occasions ..I can totally relate to that creative answering bit..:))

azaxacavabanama said...

Maybe you should read more #DeepakChopraExplained instead :)

Srivardhan said...

haha! nice post! :)
reading ur blog's always a pleasant way to start the weekend! :)

Spaz Kumari said...

i have never been able to copy during exams, and this has more to do with self-consciousness and awkwardness than anything else. Over the years I have carefully disguised my copying-incompetence as 'ethics'. Ahem. :)

so if your son has copied so well that he has a perfect score, well i, for one, am in awe.

narendra shenoy said...

@payoshni - Thanks!

@scatteredthoughts - LOL! Just made up the dragon aunty bit, actually :)

@srikal - :) thanks!

@azaxa - :) i know i should

@srivardhan - Thanks!

@spaz -Actually, it turns out that the lad IS gifted at math. He genuinely cracked both algebra and geometry. I'm quite astounded.

Saumya said...

Oh...I know. this could be directly related to the fact that you started helping him ...right? right?

Sharatchandra Bhargav said...

Congratulations! Good to know your son has cracked math! A strong future seems to augur for the lad. Keep those Goa Sausages and Black Label flowing!

Gargi said...

Excellent Post. Reminds me of the first time I scored good marks in Maths and sent my parents into a frenzy of excitement.

hegde said...

Believe me, let be. He will start studying when there is a need. Until then you relax