Getting The Immoral Of The Lesson

| FL, USA | Learning | June 13, 2016

(I teach freshman-level algebra. One test day, a student has a problem with one of the questions I’ve written.)

Student #1: “Mr. [My Name], I can’t answer question #6. It’s immoral.”

(I feel like banging my head on my desk. This is far from the first time she’s held up class by saying something is immoral.)

Me: “You don’t have to answer it, Miss [Student #1], but that will be five points you won’t be adding to your score.”

Student #1: “No, I think you were wrong to put an immoral question on this test, and I shouldn’t have to suffer because you were wrong.”

(The outburst is causing other students to stop working on their papers and look up.)

Student #2: “Hey, can I not answer that one too and still get credit for it?”

Student #3: “Can I answer none of the questions and get 100% if I think all the questions are immoral?”

Me: “I have not yet BEGUN to be immoral to you two comedians. Eyes on your papers or you can take zeros and the rest of the day in the discipline office.”

(They mutter mutinously but go back to doing the test. The female student who started this, however, is glaring at me with her arms folded.)

Me: “I said, eyes on your paper, Miss [Student #1].”

Student #1: “No. This question is immoral. I don’t have to answer an immoral question.”

Me: “Come up here to my desk.”

(She gets up and takes the test paper with her.)

Me: “What exactly do you find immoral about question #6?”

Student: *reading the question out loud* “Assume that Bobby is five years older than twice Jake’s age, and that Susan is fourteen years younger than three times Jake’s age. If the sum of their ages is 27, how old is each child?”

Me: “Yes?”

Student: “It says ‘assume’! That’s immoral!”

Me: *deadpan* “Assuming facts in a math question is immoral.”

Student: “When you assume things, that’s being prejudiced and that hurts people’s feelings!”

Me: “Well, seeing as how the people in question are fictional, I don’t think they’ll mind.”

Student: “Assuming is always wrong!”

Student #2: “Do you know that for a fact, or are you just assuming it?”

(The entire class burst into laughter. It took me a few minutes to get them calmed down again and get the female student back in her seat. She ended up leaving the question blank on her test. I marked it wrong.)

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