# The Quince Tree

## 15.6.12

### Homework Help

At school I was dreadful at maths.
I felt that a lot of the maths I was taught was pointless; calculus, quadratic equations, trigonometry and so on. I will never forget The Old Archaeologist Sat On His Coat And Hat but have yet to find a use for it*. Being able to increase quantities by 25% so that a recipe serves 5 instead of 4 has been of tremendous use however.
The thing with a maths problem though is that there is always a correct answer.

RE, on the other hand, is not so straightforward.
This was my 12 year old daughter's RE homework this week;
'Interview your parents and ask them to explain the meaning of life'.
Katie, bless her, had no idea of the utter ridiculousness of this question and sat pen in hand waiting for our answer. 'I've got to write at least half a page' she said.
'Well, '42'** isn't going to fill half a page' said Charlie.
' Katie, there is no meaning to life, it just is' I said.
'I can't write that, it isn't enough'
'Do you want me to write your teacher a note explaining that I can't explain the meaning of life because I was away when it was covered at school?'
'No, I'll get into trouble'
'Of course you won't, this is a completely unreasonable thing to ask'
'I'll copy Emily, she always writes loads.'
'let me know what the answer is won't you?'

I think we should smell the roses and get on with life instead of wasting time trying to explain it.

* handy mnemonic for remembering that Tan = Opposite over Adjacent etc
**The answer to life, the universe and everything from The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

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1. What a bizarre question for homework! I expect some of the other answers would be interesting. I don't think there is ever going to be an answer (although 42 is as valid as anything else) but agree with you - go and live it, don't try to explain it.
Best wishes
Ellie

2. Those who spend their time explaining it find that it has gone by without them noticing it. What a waste. x

3. Jenny Debeaux12:21 pm BST

How about living love and loving family and the outer world?

1. I'm afraid I cannot ascribe meaning to life, it's like saying 'what is the meaning of gravity?'. How you live your life is another matter altogether and I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments.

4. Oh dear God! (And no that's not my answer hehe.)

You are much kinder parents than us. I suspect that we would either have encouraged half a page on the impossibility of answering the question, or suggested a comparison of the legitimacy of the answers '42' and "The meaning of life can only be found at the bottom of a pasta bowl" (The Church of FSM/Pastafarianism).

1. I was tempted Annie. I'd be interested to know how many parents said 42. I must check out Pastafarianism -sounds like the perfect religion for Katie who loves pasta but also informed me the other day that she really likes 'rasta hats'.

5. Pati from London1:18 pm BST

That sounds more like a question a graduate would get on a Philosophy exam at Uni.... Oh dear!! xPati

6. What an unbelievable homework question. I can totally understand your answer and reaction. (I'd of said 42 as well!)

It was always 'Some Old Hairy Camels Are Hairier Than Others Are' for us!

S x

7. I just love maths, even the bits we rarely have a use for! We were taught to say 'sock-a-toe-a for SOH CAH TOA and also Some Old Hag Cracked All Her Teeth On Apples. I'm so sad, I'll do algebra or trigonometry for fun, hehe!

RE, on the other hand, was never going to agree with me and I mostly refused to do it! I decided when I was 6 that I thought most bible stories sounded highly implausible and couldn't generate any interest in the subject, even that young. What a question to set for homework! I'd love to hear some of the answers that come back.

8. Oh crikey it is obviously ridiculous RE homework week. Last night we had "Explain what Justice is?" Funnily enough after we'd tried and failed to come up with an appropriate explanation he said "Don't worry I'll just ask Tom what he wrote". Thank goodness for Emilys and Toms.

9. I can't wait for Emily's answer.
Please make sure you pass it on!

Jackie

10. Sounds like your daughter's teacher has either an immensley huge sense of humour, .....or a drink problem!

11. It was Old Andrew Threw All His Cares Over His Shoulder in my day and if there was a why/what for I never grasped it.
I'd be tempted to interview that teacher at the next parents' evening .. sounds like she has all the answers!

12. Anonymous2:23 pm BST

I think the least you could have done was refer Katie to the Monty Python sketch - maybe she could take a copy to school to share with the class!
I bet the teacher is wondering what she was thinking when she saw the answers.
LOL
Now maths, that's a different kettle of fish, but it helps me find my way around the non-fiction.
Happy week end Sue

13. I think she should just pop onto your blog and copy all the responses and say, "This generated a lot of discussion!". Job done. x

14. Poor teacher - do you think she/he's having a bad time and hoping somewhere in the 20 or so responses she/he'll find the answer - lol.
L.x.

15. Good question to generate a family discussion...I know that 42 is indeed the answer to everything- because I live at 42...

As for the meaning of life...turn it upside down & back to front- What is a life of meaning?

16. I'd love to know what the teacher thinks is a suitable answer - I think I'd have said I don't know - after 60 yrs I'm still trying to find out (it might be 42).

17. Sometimes, I am SO GLAD I withdrew from the place I was offered at teacher training college..... Tormenting hapless parents would not have been a pleasure.

18. Oh boy! Why would they make a child ponder that question. If we were meant to know the meaning of it all we would be born with the answers imprinted on our foreheads or something.

19. Pesky teachers. How about Katie writes a few sentences explaining that her parents charge a set fee for giving interviews, and they will be happy to answer questions upon receipt of that amount from the school?

20. It would be interesting to know what criteria the teacher would use for marking the homework - do you think there would be a right or wrong answer?!!! I sometimes wonder if this type of homework is set so that the teacher can form an opinion of the parents. What a joke. It took me a long time before I realised that I simply had to write to the teacher saying that my child couldn't complete the homework and I'm sure they didn't want it done by me! Love all the comments on the meaning of life.

21. Sue, you could suggest to the teacher that interviewing your parents about anything is paramount to asking your parents to do your homework, which is somewhat counter-productive to educating one's children.
[I do hope all the children given the asignment had parents to ask...so
many do not and it is a sensitive issue.]
Gracie

22. I don't want to offend anyone here, but am I really alone in feeling that this is actually a good exercise for a 12 year old, given that it was RE homework? I like Thrifty Household's take for a start - a life of meaning. You don't have to believe in God - what about Darwin's view? Life is about survival and beauty, the natural world and our human nature. Every species fights so hard to survive by adapting to their surroundings, learning to work together. So many angles to consider, and she only had to do half a page. Surely this question is designed to ferret out the thinkers!

1. But she wasn't being asked what she thought, she was being asked what I thought!

23. Anonymous10:06 pm BST

You have just highlighted one of the reasons I love maths. One right answer! Your marks aren't dependant on the opinions of a marker as to whether you covered all the relevant points or expressed yourself adequately. And my parents were never asked to answer the questions for me!

24. Oh dear, I hated both subjects at school and did poorly in them both. As for the question, what a silly subject, I don't suppose that any philosopher would have the answer either.

25. Winding Ways2:22 am BST

Some Old Hippie Caught Another Hippie Tripping On Acid. - That's what my daughter says she learned for trig.

26. I was taught: "Sailors Often Have Curly Auburn Hair 'Til Old Age" LOL
As for the question... well that really is a silly one. And yes, I got the 42 reference... I wonder what they were really trying to get? Perhaps you should have got out the dictionary and given a literal meaning of the word 'life' ;)

1. That did cross my mind -a literal scientific definition.

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