The Irascible Professor SM
Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."....  ...Yogi Berra.

Commentary of the Day - November 25, 2002:  Life's Equations.  Guest Commentary by Roberta Beach Jacobson.

I can't say I remember too much from Mr. Watson's high school algebra class.  In fact, I had no business being there at all. I wanted to take remedial math that year, but everyone was against it and pushed me toward those maddening college-prep algebraic equations.  Had that other course title been somewhat friendlier (perhaps refresher math), I probably would have been encouraged by my peers and parents to "brush up a little."

Mathematics has never been one of my strong points.  To this day (and this is three decades down the road), I can't discover any relationship between x and y, but I do carry with me one life-altering tidbit from Mr. Watson.  His tests always had a "none of the above" choice to drive us all batty.  He loved to make us struggle.

I love none of the above and have used it often and with much aplomb.  I remember interviewing for a job some years back and being told the openings were in Albany, Baltimore and Chicago.  It was October, about time to snow. "None of the above," I answered. "How about Honolulu?"

Needless to say, I didn't get the job.  But I've kept Mr. Watson's phrase handy.  I think it's ideal for voting. I mean, for some elections, don't you agree penning in "none of the above" wins the day?  None of the above is direct and hard-hitting. It's clearly not negotiable.

One recent Saturday my husband suggested we go out for dinner.  He asked if I'd prefer Chinese, Japanese or Thai cuisine.  "None of the above," I replied "Let's go for Italian."  Thank you, Mr. Watson!

Do I buy the navy blue, forest green or coal black coat?  None of the above.  Do I dye my hair brown, yellow or red?  None of the above.  Mr. Watson has made life's decisions elegantly simple.  He inched me toward assertiveness even before it was fashionable.

The bottom line is I just prefer words to numbers.  But they're all symbols, aren't they?  So language types can get along with math types.  I married a math type, in fact.  Opposites attract. I'm not even considering converting to being an algebra lover.  I'm sure my D from Mr. Watson was the right thing.  I earned it.

©2002, Roberta Beach Jacobson
Roberta Beach Jacobson is an algebra-challenged, freelance writer who resides on the remote Greek island of Karpathos.

The IP comments:  A "none of the above" choice certainly would have come in handy in the election this month here in California.  Those of us who bothered to vote for governor of the "golden state" were faced with choosing between two very unattractive candidates.  On the center left we had the choice of reelecting Gray Davis, a candidate who gives new meaning to the phrase "anal retentive".  Davis, who has touted himself as the education governor (every California governor in recent memory has claimed that title even though our K-12 system has been running on empty ever since Prop. 13 passed), has managed to spend the state into a $25+ billion deficit in the span of little more than a year.  On the far right we could have voted for Bill Simon, the nice - but not very bright - son of a former Secretary of the Treasury who feels that rich, neophyte politicians should start at the top.  Simon's main claim to fame seems to have been a "reverse Midas touch" that allowed him to bring several business to the brink of failure.  It sure would have felt good to have punched "none of the above" on that November ballot.


Return to main commentary.

© 2002 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.