Shakespeare is Boring, Jefferson was a Rapist, & Pi is Useless.

I’m going to be dead honest just to clear the air on this one: I only have a vague idea what Pi does. I could google it right now but that would be cheating. I think pi * the diameter equals the circumference. And there’s some other way you can use pi to get the area but I forget how (Pi * radius squared?). But the point is, I’m not sure. I know Pi = 3.14 and another infinite number of digits after that.

But do you ever really need “pi” in life? Like does anyone ever bring you a circle and say, “quick! I need to know the perimeter of this circle?” And you say, “now hold on a second, let me just take pi and do some crap with it and all will be ok. JUST KEEP CALM.”

No.

That never happens.  You can’t even come up with a fantasy where you’re single and your pretty neighbor comes in and says, “you know, I was just thinking about you and if only I knew pi then I would probably have sex with you.” There’s no such fantasy on the history of the planet.

Entrepreneurs never need to know pi. I’ve started a billion different businesses and not one of them required pi. When I was interviewing transvestite hookers for a living at HBO I never once needed to know pi. Like, “if we just string that microphone wire in a perfect circumference I can probably do a better interview.” I never said that. I never needed to. It didn’t come up. The transvestites never asked about pi either. It never came up in their line of work.

Maybe you need pi to build things? I have no idea. I once asked someone, “why do you need pi AND imaginary numbers” and their reply (I can’t remember who it was I asked. Maybe it was God in a dream) was “you use imaginary numbers to build bridges?” Really? Like, I need to know the square root of negative numbers to build bridges?

Math is pathetic. What’s even worse I was in the “mathletes” club in high school. We used to stay after school and take harder and harder math tests. That sounds like a lot of fun, right?

I wish I had the time to pull my kids out of school. What are they learning “pi” for?  I think we outsource pi to China these days anyway. And why do they need to know what the “pistil” is in a flower. Or what cumulus clouds are? Shakespeare is the most boring writer in history. And we all take it as an obvious fact now that any history you learn in public school you have to completely relearn as an adult in order to get the real history. Not a single school teaches that most of Thomas Jefferson’s descendants share DNA with the slaves he raped. Or that the Revolutionary War was fought because tea smugglers here didn’t want to compete with the lower tariffs of the East India Company. I never learned in high school that Hitler was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1938 or that Roosevelt sent a boatload of Jews back to Germany to be exterminated or that we firebombed enough cities/civilians in Japan to make Hiroshima look like another walk in the park.

(a painting of Jefferson’s “friend”, Sally Hemmings)

And who was Charlemagne? I have a vague memory from AP European History but I can’t remember now unless I was to read a book on it. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? They were all pretty much bad guys back then anyway, right? Just like 500 years from now people will probably think our leaders were just as bad.

So I want to take my kids out of school. I know nothing at all about home schooling but here’s my ideal day for them. They wake up and do some exercise for about 2 hours. Then they either draw, read books, or watch movies for the rest of the day, mixed in with fun physical activities. What books or movies should they read/watch/draw? Anything they want. I don’t care.

The only things I ever remember are the things I was passionate about. I can remember everything about Greek mythology (I was passionate about it in First Grade) but pretty much next to nothing about birds or butterflies. Or pi.

How do you find things to be passionate about? You keep reading books and watching movies and doing things or going to museums/places or playing games or sports or whatever and you narrow in closer and closer on those passions. If you’re forced to read things that are boring to you, you won’t be able to narrow in on the things that really excite you. And the more you read boring things, the more turned off you will be on reading things that actually interest you. I didn’t start REAL reading until I was about 6 years out of high school.

(a painting of Romeo and Juliet by someone named Grumm)

Somehow the government has become a big babysitter for our kids. And if the kids don’t “test well” then the schools get less money and we get taxed more. And then once the kids turn 18 and they start going to college then now they become in debt to the government, limiting their choices later to, basically, government-approved jobs where they can pay their loans back.

Well, how would they get social experiences? I have no idea. I’m assuming other people who have home schooled their kids have figured that stuff out. Or maybe kids don’t need social experiences. Did I need to get beaten up every day of 7th grade? Or pine every day of 10th grade for the girls who ignored me? Was it so great to have social experiences then so I could learn later the hierarchy of whose cool and whose not and how that works in the world?

I’m not being bitter. I want the best for my kids. Learning “pi” is not the best for them. Reading plays written in the 1500s is BORING. Even reading a play written last year is boring. Reading comics is fun. Have my kids ever been assigned a comic book to read in school? No. How about “Maus” or “Barefoot Gen”, two classics (comics) in World War II literature that should be must-reads for kids? Never.

Well, you can say, not everyone is self-motivated to learn things on their own. So? Do you think force-feeding those kids Shakespeare will improve their lives? I’d rather my kids watch Spanish soap operas on TV all day. And throw a Frisbee around.

Someone emailed me a math equation and said it was amazing. She said, “  ‘e^pi*i  – 1 = 0’ is the closest thing she’s ever seen to proof that God exists.”

Good luck with that.

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16 Responses to “Shakespeare is Boring, Jefferson was a Rapist, & Pi is Useless.”

1. sally says:

“There’s no such fantasy on the history of the planet.”

There are a lot of fantasies out there. I’ve not had one about pi, but I have had them about other fully nerdical things (proper comma use, I’m ashamed-amused to say).

Use and useless are in the eye of the beholder, and there is no accounting for taste. Yes, all those things are boring, they are also fascinating and beautiful. Boredom is clarifying or stagnating depending on one’s approach.

• Yeah, maybe.

• Michelle says:

An ex of mine had a fantasy about pi. He would memorize the digits of pi to improve his memory and was so obsessive about it, it was almost a fetish. "Help me memorize pi up to the 500th digit!" This was said on our way for vacation. It does not make for a fun car ride. So yes, some people do fantasize about pi. Whats he ever going to use it for? Hell if I know…

2. Michele says:

I hear honesty, not bitterness. It would do a whole lotta good if people would get honest. Public school is warehousing for children. It is a machine churning out human commodities for the future. Duh. (Secular Homeschoolers UNITE!)

3. Kate says:

And that is why I love homeschooling. Their interests lead us. They learn the real history and I do force them to learn to read, write, and do math. But then, they take the reins and we run into all sorts of fascinating places. It is an amazing experience every day.

• elaine says:

4. elaine says:

I think there is a lot of real life value in learning how to suck it up and do the boring stuff. To learn how to complete things despite not finding them interesting.

5. Jenn says:

When my son tries the"when will I use this, its boring" routine, I tell him that the reason it's being offered in the public school curriculum is that a group of people (society) does find it interesting and valuable. Math and puzzles are fun, shakesphere is interesting (witches, treachery, murder, forbidden love). History is a bunch of really cool stories that people pass down.

The WAY we educate can be taxing. School size, educator status and support, one size fits all curriculum, these are the conversations we should be having. Home schooling, smaller schooling, independent learning plans are all great options. Fix the method and the excitement comes back!

• I agree Jenn. I wish there was even incremental improvement towards these goals instead of constant focus on "testing for dollars".

6. yogiclarebear says:

I guess I considered my schooling, both public and parochial, not as forcing me to study stuff that I didn't like or that was useless, but as exposure. Did I think math would be useless to me in a "job" setting? I likely did, but I use it extensively as a hobby cooking and formulating recipes in the kitchen! Pi? Not really, but it was a cute name for my cat.

It seems like that "pointless" stuff they teach, as far as you've outlined, are more like possibilities and springboards into the question, "What is out there for me to know, learn, discover?" Curiosity.

7. midwalsh says:

PS See my EJ post this morning for a riff on Shakespeare and yoga :>)
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/if-shakesp

8. […] For all intents and purposes, you’ve never had to calculate anything that requires more than a basic understanding of fractions, multiplication or percentages. And you never will. While the vast majority of us at one time or another has had to negotiate a “30% off” rack at an outlet store, a scant few of us have had to calculate a new search algorithm for Google. […]

9. Dicey says:

Hell yeh,dogg. And not only is Shakespeare boring, he's a bad influence. Why the fuck would you make little kids read about stupid kids who KILL THEMSELVES because they can't be together? That shit ain't romantic. It's fuckin horrifying & morbid.

10. Ben_Ralston says:

I think that James's point is that not all that goes on in schools under the guise of 'learning' is, actually, learning.
For example, most kids in school hate Shakespeare. Fact. As you say, some like it (it's true – I was one of them). But most don't, just like most aren't interested in Math.
Why do we force parents to force children to go to school where they are forced to learn stuff that mostly they aren't interested in.
Best years of our lives? No. My best years are now, as I undo the damage that was done by my 'education'.

By the way, Annie – your judgements miss the mark I'm afraid. I don't know James personally, but I'm pretty sure that he's neither angry nor bitter. And there's a find line between negativity and realism, and I reckon he's on the right side of it.

11. Thanks Ben, you hit it dead on and said it better than I did.