Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't Know Derp About Nothin' or Sure is Beta in Here

So yes, I recognize I posted today already, but technically that was my one for 9/26.  My goal is to do 1-2 a day, a commitment like a songwriter makes to write a new song every week and by the end you'll have a decent body of work with good bits filtering out and being refined.  Thankfully writing a few paragraphs of what's on my mind is easier.  It might be harder when I'm researching things.  Also, I'm still not completely satisfied with layout and look so things might/will continue to change until I get it super spiffy and cute and herpa derp to my satisfaction.  Any comments and critiques of the format are welcome.

Well, here's what has rustled my jimmies.  Friday night I went to a neighborhood party and met a woman about my age who's new to the complex.  In the course of introductions she mentioned she is a middle school history teacher.  If there's one thing I'm passionate about it's education.  I'm a nerd through and through and I love learning, I love facts, and I love science.  Of course, as many of my nerd brethren have experienced, when talking about our passions we forget ourselves and get a bit too enthusiastic.  My voice didn't crack or anything but there was gesticulating and the phrase "you know?!" was thrown about a bit too much.  As a history teacher I asked her about education standards and about historical misconceptions and changes made my school districts. Specifically I mentioned the issue in Texas where a school board is redoing their textbooks and making some changes like renaming slavery "Atlantic triangular trade" ( read more here).  I started going on about how the standards for textbooks are crap and how Texas and California basically wittingly or un- manipulate what the rest of the country gets to learn in their books in school.  I plan on writing a whole separate article on that later.  All in all I probably freaked her out by caring too much about education, sadfrog.jpg.

Later I was looking through bookmarks for things to inspire me and the first thing that caught my eye was a link to Eratosthenes, a Greek mathematician who calculated not only that Earth was curved, but it's circumference and axial tilt with a reasonable degree of accuracy, especially considering the time and tools.  Here's an even more interesting factoid:
His detractors, however, mocked Eratosthenes as a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. They called him Beta, because he came in second in every category (source Wired).
I'm sure there are a few people out there (wink wink) who will appreciate the nature of the highlighted.  Anyway, Eratosthenes was a smart guy and he calculated all these things using math and logic (read the source article above for more info and a handy picture that shows his method which involved measuring shadows) but who discovered the roundness of the Earth according to my history lessons as a child?  Christopher Columbus.  I don't know why this story gets the press it does, maybe it's just a better story: 
Christopher Columbus discovered the Earth was round AND AMERICA! That's right little Derpy, the country where you live!  He discovered it because he had a DREAM and IDEAS but he had GUTS and DETERMINATION and LOTS OF MONEY.  Remember Derpy, that's what AMERICA stands for.  That and the rape and destruction of many unique and interesting cultures through the spread of disease, war, and clashing theocracy! OH GOD PLEASE FORGET I SAID THAT, WH...WHAT?!  PRINCIPAL CHAMBLISS PLEASE DON'T!  I NEED THIS JOB!
Or maybe it's just easier
All right kids, who's ready for history?  Now I don't want to hear any groaning.  You're all 6 now, so you have to act like big boys and girls.  Today we'll be talking about trigonometry, geometry, and calculus.  Get out your graphing calculators and sextants.  HEY SHUT UP DERPY! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR YOUR SASS...AND THAT JOKE WAS WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE, WHERE'D YOU LEARN THAT WORD?!
No, it's probably just momentum.  People have a tendency to remember information the way it's given, especially if they trust the source and it conforms to their belief structure.  This is why it's so important for the education system to remain balanced and impartial.  Believe it or not, students trust that teachers have the answers and are right.

Just imagine you are conversing with someone and they mention Columbus discovering the Earth is round.  You smile and nod and let it slip, you are a very bad person.  Alternately imagine correcting them
Um, well you may not know this but the Earth was known to be a sphere as far back a the 2nd century B.C.E.  A Greek mathematician named Eratosthenes...
This is when your conversation partner would interrupt you and say, "Yeah, well bub I learned this in school okay?  I think I know what I'm talking about here."  And then you just end up looking like a huge asshole trying to act "all smart and crap."
Era who?  Shut up and give me your fries.
As I've gotten older I've learned that "adults" don't always have the answers and that much of what I learned in school was inaccurate.  When I got the book Don't Know Much About History (which you can find on Amazon here) by Kenneth C. Davis, I learned all kinds of things that got skipped in class.  Sure, it's about American history, but as an American I was so glad to have a history lesson that cut through the mythology of our past.  Just like how people like to forget the facts, they like to gloss over the past and imagine it with fondness as some idyllic fantasy. All of his books are really great and well researched and highly recommended.


  1. I might need to get this book, I have always felt that school has been inaccurate or completely useless to me. I seriously am considering getting it now.

    Thank you for this post, I need to go look for this book right now.

  2. I love how you write. And I'm sure that she was like "Holy crap if he's this passionate when talking he must be super good at 'the sex'"

    I remember when I learned that the ions (I think that's right) don't orbit the nuculus of an atom... and all I could think was "Why would you lie to me!?"