Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Everything I needed to know I learned at NCSSM

By popular request, I wanted to share some of the "keeper" quotes from my favorite instructors from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathemetics. The school made a tremendous impact on my life, not only for the environment and the peers, but also because I had teachers who were wise as well as knowledgeable.

JOHN DAVIS, Intro. to College Mathematics

"There will always be people better than you, and there will always be people not as good as you. The trick is to find your place, and be happy with it. Find your niche."

"You might see someone who is better than you, and think, 'Yeah, but I bet he can't play baseball as well as me,' or 'I bet he can't get a date.' But you'd be surprised . . . sometimes he can play baseball better than you, and his girlfriend is prettier than yours. There is such a thing as the Basically Better Person. Get used to it."

"Because there will always be someone just as good as you, you need to find something that differentiates you, some spark that sets you apart. No degree of specialization can ever overcome the need for diversity . . . unless you happen to be the best."

"All real learning starts within confusion. So when you get confused, for God's sake don't put your pencil down. Stay with it; stay with the confusion. Come out the other side."

"Start by stating the problem. Then state what you know. If you can't solve the problem, try solving an easier problem that's like this one."

"Tell me why you've been studying mathematics for the last ten years. And don't tell me, 'It'll make me a better person.' "


"True, but irrelevant."
(Kolena taught in rather a Socratic fashion, which meant that he was saying this often. )

"When you know absolutely nothing else, you can always write down 'F=ma'."


"Kissin' somebody is just like spittin' in their eye."
(In either case, it's an exchange of bodily fluids. By her own admission, Ms. Baker was a wild in her youth, and she didn't mind dashing a few illusions, in a good-natured way.)

DEAN THE REVEREND DR. MR. WILSON, Religion & Philosophy

"Go in peace . . . but go."
(I guess you'd have to have some experience with the Catholic/Episcopal/Methodist tradition to appreciate this . . . the standard church liturgy concludes with some variation of "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!" Dr. Wilson's dismissal from class was a great twist on the traditional formulation.)

(And that's just what I can remember now, at the end of a frazzling Easter weekend with extended family . . . I'm sure more will come to me.)


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