Math, Language Arts, and the Strange Concept of “Personal Truth”

You’ve heard me rant over the last few days about various annoying habits of some speakers and writers, such as the use of non-words, the inappropriate use of a noun as a verb or vice versa, bad grammar, poor syntax, etc. Imagine what it must have been like for my children.

One of my sons had such bad handwriting, spelling, grammar, and syntax that it was nearly impossible to decipher anything he had written, and yet he consistently brought home papers from school with passing grades on them. I kept after him about neatness, grammar, word choice, and so on, but he kept saying that it didn’t matter to his teacher, so why should it matter to me (or to him)? Seeking an answer to this question, I requested a conference with his language arts teacher.

She, oddly enough, took his side on this issue. “It has been shown,” she told me rather snootily, “that the important thing is to get them to put their ideas down on paper. It only gets in the way to be needlessly picky about such matters as outdated rules about ‘grammar’ or ‘spelling.’”

I asked her if she would accept a math paper from him, if he put the answer for 2 + 2 as 5.

I swear to you I am not making this up! 

“I would explain to him that that is his truth, and that his truth is as valid as anyone else’s truth,” she said with every appearance of being dead serious (and oh-so-superior), “but that it might not be as widely accepted as other truths, and that it might be in his best interest to adopt a more widely accepted truth.” This from an eighth-grade language arts teacher!

“So, you wouldn’t say he was wrong?” I asked. She jerked her head back as though I had slapped her.

“We do not use that word in this classroom!” she said.

No wonder Johnny can’t read or write (or do math, for that matter).

By the way:

Elva Zona Heaster was found dead on this date in 1897 in West Virginia. Her husband was tried for murder, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison. But the odd part is that the "testimony" of his dead wife’s "ghost" was admitted in the trial!

By the other way:

I am pleased to announce the imminent availability of my second book, the novel “Cursing the Cougar,” which should be out by mid-February. See my website at for a short excerpt.

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