Monday, June 27, 2011

The Right Answer

Dear Internet,

As a math major, I find that many of my mathie friends are resistant to the idea that I would choose to take an English course as an elective instead of, perhaps, a class that does not require the writing of essays.

I questioned my choice, too, nearer to the beginning of the term and particularly when I was writing the first essay due in the course. It seemed like a lot of work to choose to have on top of some demanding major courses; not to mention the fact that you can never find "the right answer" in an English class!

I found that frustrating nearer to the beginning of the term. Class time consists mostly of superficially fruitless discussion. By the end of class, there is never a conclusion to be drawn about the text we read as a whole. What the hell is the point?

I discovered that point today, and it is really quite elegant. We discuss the stories to help each other think more deeply about them, and then - and this is the best, most beautiful part - we find our own "right answer." And each person's "right answer" can be different from each other person's "right answer!" And that is perfectly fine! In fact, it's encouraged! For the first time in a long time, perhaps for the first time in my life, I feel that I am being taught how to think for myself instead of the "right way" to think.

I do not, however, find this to be contrary at all to my love of math. I love to find "the right answer." I love to be told that I have found "the right answer." I love solving the puzzles presented to my by my professors. This leads me to propose that, fundamentally, there are but three differences between math class and English class:

1. Math class presents puzzles in the form of logic and mathematics, whereas English class presents puzzles in the form of stories and essays.

2. Math professors have "the right answer" to the puzzles. English professors do not.

3. In math, you are graded by the correctness of your answer. In English, you are graded by how well you can argue that your answer is right.

It is because of this I argue that every math student should take English classes and vice versa. Math teaches you to always search for the truth. English teaches you that, sometimes, the truth is what you make it.

Some people will disagree with this. Perhaps your truth is simply different from mine.



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