Friday, May 13, 2005

MATH = LAME? DISCUSS

From time to time, I've been known to tussle with the big dogs. In fact, it was only last week that I delivered a little bit of that old-fashioned fury and wrath to the doorstep of a Mr. Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times. Watch yoself, Tom!! It was like I was God and he was Job. The only difference was that God finally relented in His punishment, while I pressed on without mercy. Also, whereas Job was aware of God's provocations, Tom Friedman probably isn't one of the nine people who reads this blog. Presumably, the man has much better things to do with his time (at least I hope so).

With that said, the Friedman I know and love (the most unflichingly optimistic, gullible, apologetic, understanding, patient, and senseless journalist I know) writes a fantastic column in today's Times that not only completely validates every point about Friedman I was trying to (perhaps unsuccessfully) parody in my previous post but is also about, you guessed it, how the Indians and Chinee are going to steal all of our jobs. His point hinges on the fact that Americans are getting lazy. Specifically, he worries students here in the states aren't getting quality educations in math and science. In the man's own words:

Earlier this week, a special report on the Indiana University High School Survey of Student Engagement, which covered 90,000 high school students in 26 states, was published. The study noted that 18 percent of college-track seniors did not take a math course in their last year in high school - and that "more than a fifth (22 percent) of first-year college students require remediation in math." Just 56 percent of the students surveyed said they put a great deal of effort into schoolwork; only 43 percent said they worked harder than they had expected.

Tom, Tom, Tom. I hate to point out the obvious, but as is so often the case with your columns, I feel as though it's necessary. To be blunt, math is fucking lame. Well, maybe not the idea of math. But certainly math-related jobs are. Let me break it down for you, Tom. It's been awhile since I dropped some serious knowledge, and damn if it don't feel good to get back into the groove. Holla.

See, TF, we're a rich country. And when you're rich, you do what you want. Have you ever seen a CEO's son enroll at Devry to get his electrical engineering degree? Didn't think so. He's off getting a double major in music theory and sociology at Florida State. He's also getting his pole smooched on a weekly basis. You think the Chinese guy at Devry with the Huffy bike is getting his pole smooched? Puh-leaze. Rich people do cool stuff. Poor people who work too hard for too little credit go to Devry. This is the crux of your column. The only thing is, you're not satisfied until you've guilt-tripped us all into thinking that our economy is doomed because we'd rather do something cool than chill with our Texas Instruments all day.

And Tom, believe me, I've got room to talk. As a matter of fact, I'd go toe to toe with any one of you assholes when it comes to pure natural mathematical ability. And guess what? I've squandered it all completely. I've actively and completely atrophied that half of my brain into a raisin-sized nugget of improperly calculated geometric proofs and senseless algorithms. Why? Cause fuck math. That's why. Maybe you don't understand that, Tom, but there it is. Fuck math. Fuck you, fuck Devry, fuck sin waves, and fuck math. You really think the kids of today are going to choose to study math when they could possibly get an internship at Comedy Central or work as a lackey in advertising? Tom, you're more out of touch than I thought.

At all costs, under all circumstances, and in every rest stop bathroom in America, our youngsters have said repeatedly: fuck math. Until you get it through your head that America is completely satisfied farming its math homework out to the hardworking but smelly Asian kids at the end of the block, your points aren't going to mean a damn thing.

"So," you may ask yourself, "if it's not math that is awesome and totally sweet, then what is it, oh oracle of the internet, oh wise and truthful soothesayer, oh prophet divine? Tell us, what deserves our attention? What pleasures may I indulge myself in this weekend that will not only make me more rad but also potentially get my pole smooched?" Dear readers, please see below:

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is coming out this weekend on DVD. Buy it. It's not the best movie ever made, but if you don't like this movie, there's something wrong with you. Oh, I know what it is. It's that you're an asshole.

Kicking and Screaming is in theaters tonight. I like pretensious German New Wave films from the 70's as much or (actually, I'm sure of it) more than the next guy, but do you know what else I like? Laughter. Can't get enough of it. This movie has big-time promise in that department.

Crack open your dusty old CD case and put on that old Spain CD. Goddamn. Seriously. Goddamn. If in the presence of a lady, pole-smooching is guaranteed.

Read something this weekend longer than a blog post. Something...I don't know. Like a book. Won't kill ya. I'm reading Judy Budnitz's collection of short stories and they are titties McGee. Also, I just finished Tobias Wolff's newest novel, Old School. Grade-A stuff again, Toby. I still owe you a beer. Highly recommend picking up any of his stuff.

That's all for now, loves. Keep in touch. Also, stay sweet; never change.

8 comments:

King Koopa said...

(Blogger just gobbled up my response, so this is a re-write, AARG!)

While I suspect you were conscious of the fact that this post would bait me into a retort, I’ll take the bait and deal with the hook later.

Let me start by saying, you’re SO far off…It’s laughable, man. Really. I suspect you are only partially sincere in this provocation, so I’ll play your game and try to match your partial sincerity. I can’t let this aggression stand. This aggression against math will not stand, man.

Take “The Apprentice”, for example. After last night’s show, it’s become painfully obvious who is most qualified to work for the Donald (yet they’ve stretched it into 3 shows, blast it!). It’s the one who can talk numbers and can get down to the nuts and bolts of the issue at hand. It’s the one who understand math well enough to get beyond “manager-speak” and understand the root of a problem. It’s the one who went to college and got the high level, balanced education.

Once you get a handle on mathematical concepts, it's like Neo understanding the Matrix. I had 5 semesters of advanced calculus in college and it wasn't until the last two semesters that I figured out why I was taking it in the first place. I've reached the light at the end of the calculus tunnel, and it is a glorious place.

“But, I thought we were entering into the age of the ‘idea economy’?”, you may reply. That’s the mantra of the same people who are shipping our technical jobs to India and Asia. Don’t believe the hype. Math and math-related jobs are the foundation of any successful society. Liberal arts are necessary to sustain a culture, but are they capable of sustaining a successful society? Nope. The Greeks were top shelf philosophers and artists but they were also theorem-writing-freaks, aka mathematicians. Pythagorean theorem, anyone? Egyptians and Romans? Same thing. They had a balance of artists and ground-breaking mathematicians/scientists. America is the next in line of those preeminent societies, don’t believe for a second that we can farm out our technical expertise and not pay a price for the imbalance.

AM, you wanna go toe to toe? Fa sho, fa sho! Let’s get mathletic.

Mathis said...

So says the civil engineer who wants to be a record producer!!

LIKE LOL!

Mathis said...

Ahem. Excuse me. ahem.

Ok, so, anyway, sorry about that Koopa, I just couldn't let such low-hanging fruit dangle so close to the ground without taking a tomahawk to it.

I guess my point is not that math itself is lame, but rather that people don't want to train to have occupations in math-related fields because it's not "cool". This is symptomatic of living in a wealthy and materialistic society. Your current situation in life basically completely proves my point, because though you have a good job as an engineer, you're bored and want to want to do something "cool".

Parting words of advice/love: Hate the game, Koop. Don't hate the player.

Awbnid said...

I know all about surfing sin waves. The drugs are what I miss most.

King Koopa said...

By making it personal, you concede rhetorical defeat, am I wrong?...But, I knowingly took the bait, I got the hook, and I know how the game works...

Dude, if you're still worried about having a "cool" job, you've been out in LA-LA-land too long. But, please enlighten us, what is a "cool" job, Mr. Fanzarelli?

I'm interested in doing what I'm good at and/or/combined-with what I love. I'm good at math/civil engineering and I love music, go figure..."Cool" is a state of mind, shoot, I thought you knew.

Wanna sip of my ice cold haterade, Fanzi?

--Ralph Malph

Mathis said...

I ain't got nothing but love for you, Koopa. Truth be told, this was a pretty lame post. Looking back on it, I think I just wanted an excuse to type "Fuck Devry". I don't why, but it felt good. Real good.

Also, I was making more of a comment on our society than on you specifically. You already know what I want to do with my life: live in your chicken coop. This is, of course, the antithesis of cool, so don't bring your Judgment to my door.

Holmes.

King Koopa said...

After reading all this over a second time, I see the point you were trying to make: Americans, especially rich, already lazy ones, think math is boring & lame. What's to argue, right? Rather pointless of me to debate perception, eh?

If you would someday still like to inhabit the Koop Group's Chicken Coop, you might want to chain yourself to it now and bring some spare batteries for your megaphone. Demolition of said coop is still in the planning stages, but more or less inevitable. The only thing still in that coop are the ghosts of dinners past and some boxes of old soccer trophies. But, if you don't mind fending off some rats to create some space to sleep, you're still welcome to it until it's long gone, (like our country's technical jobs! Haha, couldn't help myself!)

--Pete, the Prickly Pear

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