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A Tangible Orwellian Math Lesson.

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    There are some excellent teachers, there are some not so excellent instructors and there are some horrible social constructs of the educational system.   We learn a lot in school, but it is also important to learn outside of school as well.   Some of the most powerful lessons are not in the teacher's answer book and some teachers operate by the book, at right angles, making no adjustments for the humanity of their students.   Like most people who are interested in history I dreaded math and algebra and may have found an interest in history out of my disdain and fear of division and multiplication.

    I remember the first time I learned how to add.   I thought I had tackled the math thing then and there.   I also remember the first time I was frozen in front of the class unable to do long division on the chalkboard.   And yet the main mathematical lesson I have used the most since its revelation to me and the one I remember most distinctly turned out to be more than a mathematical lesson.   Today one would have to remove all electronic devices with a calculator to teach this lesson.  

    An elder was grilling a friend and I on our multiplication tables.   He grew up in a country where lies by the government were commonplace and exposed after the Berlin wall fell.   After a while he paused and said, "Let me think of a hard one"alright what is eight times seven?"

    Well my friend and I deliberated and answered, "Fifty-six."

    "Wrong.   Think again."

    Well we checked and double checked our arithmetic.

    "Fifty-six."

    "No."

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    "It's fifty-six, I think."

    "You're wrong, it's fifty-eight."

    "I think it's fifty-six."

    "Wrong it's fifty-eight."

     We held our guns, but finally capitulated to his insistence that he held the correct answer because he was the authority figure.  

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    "Ok fifty-eight."

    When we gave in he explained the lesson; never submit to false answers that authorities are bound to distribute to support whatever motivations they have to lie.   Never believe authorities when you know you have the answer.   Never submit to lies and distortions when you yourself have a mind which can compute math tricks as well as political gimmicks, both constants in institutional operations.       

    This lesson is huge part of George Orwell's novels 1984 and Animal Farm.   The removal and replacement of whole vast segments of language is part of the backdrop of 1984.   In Animal Farm the written rules change and the powers that be state everything is unchanged.   In 1984 the state dictionary shrinks, events change or are removed altogether.   And the real world is full of such occurrences of removal and replacement of information, insertion of euphemisms or dysphemisms used to steer not only people's decision making, but the very subjects considered as well.

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About Ethan Indigo Smith:


Activist, author and Tai Chi teacher Ethan Indigo Smith was born on a farm in Maine and lived in Manhattan for a number of years before migrating west to Mendocino, California. Guided by a keen sense of integrity and humanity, Ethan's work is both deeply connected and extremely insightful, blending philosophy, politics, activism, spirituality, meditation and a unique sense of humor.

The events of September 11, 2001 inspired him to write his first book, The Complete Patriot's Guide to Oligarchical Collectivism, an insightful exploration of history, philosophy and contemporary politics. His more recent publications include:

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

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