Friday, March 14, 2008

This Is Not A Test...

Yesterday as I was listening to the radio on the way to work, I heard a notion that really struck a chord in me. There I was, cruising down the road, listening to (shameless plug for the folks who have unknowlingly been part of my daily life for years now) KMTT, 103.7 on my FM dial. Remember when there used to be dials? Anyway, between songs they were talking about standardized testing (it's that time of year) for students. I'm opposed to them, always have been. I don't think they prove a thing. I'm a prime example - as smart as I am, I never did well on those things. At one point, a 15 year old girl called in to comment. Marty, the DJ, asked how she was faring on the tests. Her reply, "Okay, but I'm a creative person, and I don't like doing things that have only one answer."

"Comrade!" I hollered in astonishment. Never have I understood myself so well in a single sentence. The fact that it came from a 15 year old made it doubly profound. Sure, she's being home-schooled, which means she's probably allowed more independent thinking and critical thought than the average high school drone (which means there may be a modicum of hope for the future). But still.

Marty went on to say that girls seem to have some kind of stigma about math, or being perceived as being good at math. Really? I guess I've never thought about that, or even noticed it. I've always been good at math and I've always loved it. I've never even considered trying to squelch my latent inner-geek. I know, that flies in the face of not liking things with only one answer. But for me, math is all about the puzzling out of things, and there are infinite ways to arrive at the solution to most puzzles. Therein lies the creativity in math. Besides, it's an essential skill for people like me who do creative things that require measuring - cooking, quilting, card making. I used to work in a fabric store, and I was always the egghead who got called upon when someone couldn't figure out how much yardage they needed. "Ok, so she's going to need enough for 52 3X3 inch squares and a 4 inch border strip... how much..." And I'd rattle off an answer. To me it seemed simple. Obvious even. I guess I'm an odd balance of right brain / left brain principles.

"I don't like doing things that have only one answer." I love that. It really captures the spirit of the creative mind. It's what takes some of us off the beaten path and down into hollows that no one else has seen before. It, at least partially, answers the questions I get asked so often. "How do you do that? How do you come up with this stuff?" It requires a hefty helping of non-linear thinking. In short, it requires having a childlike mind that says, "What if... what if the sky were lime green?" And then suddenly horses are pink and grazing amid upside-down blue trees and... and somebody's asking you, "How did you come up with that?" Now I can shrug and say, "Guess I just wanted a different answer."

"We are all of us in the gutter,
but some of us are looking at the stars."
~Pretenders, Message of Love

PS Hey Marty, if you're reading this... rock on, Dude! By the way, (apropos of a comment you made last week) this 46 year old gypsy girl most definitely likes good guitar riffs and plays some wicked air guitar.


  1. a piece 21" x 91" if it's a square with just 4" border in total i.e 2" all round but I think not so it's
    33" x 143" and no I didn't use a calculator or even a piece of paper I used my slightly addled brain..
    Yeah I didn't get the "testing" when I was at school either.
    1,3,4,5,9,7,16,9,25,11,36.... next 2 numbers in sequence:P

  2. this got me thinking about a conversation i had the other day with a coworker. seems he is VERY religious, and was HORRIFIED that i do not attend church. our conversation goes as follows
    "i cant believe you don't go to church. do you even believe in god?"
    "yes" i replied "but i don't think church is for EVERYONE"
    "YES IT IS!" he fiercely replied "you are going to go to hell"
    "for what?" i asked "for not going and listening to someone TELL me what to believe. TELL me what to do? i would rather sit in my living room listening to some gospel tunes and believe the way I want to"
    and still, to this day, he thinks that since i don't RUSH out and go to church so someone can TELL me how to worship, that i, am condemned, to hell.
    some people just don't see more than they want to I guess..
    anywhoo. your post got me 'a thinking...........

  3. Gordon, of course you're good at math... you're not a girl. *cue sarcastic smirk*

    Robin, good on ya for sayin' it like it is. I must have missed the passage in the Bible that said, "Unless ye darken the doors of a religious institution, ye shall surely burn." Ask him to show you where it is...


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