In honor of Back-to-School season, here are some reminiscences from my brilliant high school career. So brilliant.
What’s the point of a D+? It’s like a punch in the face followed by an insincere thumbs up. That little plus sign does nothing to ease the crushing blow of the D that precedes it. Getting a D+ on a paper or test sends the message: “You’re almost failing, but at least you’re doing it with pizzazz.”
I have never had any problems with math-as long as I didn’t have to do it. In the first grade my strategy of avoidance was simple: when confronted by homework problems which required any effort I simply wrote on the paper “I don’t know,” and left it at that. I was content to remain aggressively unenlightened throughout my career as a math student, but things changed once I entered high school, where they made me take math classes in which we used calculators that were more sophisticated than I was, and sleeker too. They were the kind of calculators you found yourself apologizing to. I had the suspicion that pressing the right combination of buttons would give you access to classified secrets from the Pentagon. I became well acquainted with the D+ in my first two years of high school. Math test after test came back with the same grade: 69. It was almost funny. Okay, it was funny.
My math teachers tried to reach me. Really they did. I was practically notorious. The department saw me as a challenge. They had never seen anything like me before, and mistook my incompetence for defiance. I was a rebel without a clue. They knew deep down that I was hopeless, and yet couldn’t resist trying again and again to get through to me. But none could tame my wild and ignorant spirit.
Have you ever been the slowest one in a ‘slow’ class? I would say that everyone should have that experience at some point, except that they shouldn’t. The worst part is that when things are going really badly in class you catch yourself saying “Well, I’m dumb, but at least I’m not as dumb as…oh.” Because you’re it, baby. Perhaps my problem lies in the fact that math, in any form, has never struck me as particularly useful or relevant to my life. I’m more interested in the underlying sexual tension between Bob and Maria than in how many pieces they’ll have to cut the pizza into so that she gets three times as much as he does and one slice goes to the dog. My memory is also highly selective. It retains only information that it thinks I will someday have a use for, like all the words to every song in The Little Mermaid. I can recite episodes of the Simpsons word-for-word, but ask me how to find the radius of a circle and I’ll fix you with a glassy stare.
My school did not require more than two years of math, and I dropped it with glee in junior year. I was the only one who did, and I was alone in my freedom during math period every day, but I didn’t care. I was too busy doing a forty-minute victory dance. What did this experience teach me? If you can’t beat ‘em, give up. It’s not worth it. And if you’re going to be dumb, you may as well be really, really dumb, because at least that makes you special. Sort of.