Letters from a Calculus Class

Dear Newton,

C’mon, dude. You already get credit for the laws of motion, that cool apple story, and the tasty fig cookies. Let me have this.



Dear Student,

I know it stings to fail a test that badly. But hey, silver lining: you’re so far into the area below the curve that you’re practically an integral.



Dear Student,

I’ll put it this way: You don’t seem to understand me yet, but you keep getting closer.


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“Dead Poets Society” for Skeptics (or, How to Inspire Your Way into a Godawful Mess)

“This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls.”
–Mr. Keating

Last Friday, after a long day walking around London, we ordered curries and sought a little cinematic comfort food. We settled eventually on the quintessential Inspirational Teacher film: Dead Poets Society.

I remembered the movie as fun but philosophically naïve. As guiding principles go, “carpe diem” seems to have all the intellectual heft of a Dos Equis commercial. I mean, I’d love to seize every moment, but when am I supposed to fit in laundry, groceries, and thank-you notes?

As a teacher, I’ve found my work nourishing, and occasionally magical, but never terribly heroic. It’s a quiet, daily grind. So where does Hollywood conjure up these human motivational posters? Isn’t the inspirational teacher just soothing movie gibberish, like talking animal sidekicks, or One True Love? Continue reading

Art Museum in Utopia

Visitor: Hi, excuse me. I’m sorry. But I was wondering if you have any better art.

Tour Guide: Better art?

Visitor: I mean, take that sculpture over there. The happy, fit, attractive person depicted in a totally positive and humanizing light.

Tour Guide: Which one?

Visitor: Exactly! All the sculptures are like that. Or look at that painting of people just napping, while the others give each other backrubs and prepare salads.

Tour Guide: You mean “The Serenity of Having No Problems”? Is there something wrong with it?

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