My first exposure to scandal and corruption came when I was very young.
I was a young and eager student learning basic arithmetic. We went through several examples of addition and subtraction when one eager young student asked:
What is 2 minus 3?
The teacher told him that you can not subtract 3 from 2 as it is mathematically impossible. But I new this was incorrect and so I told the teacher and the student that in fact the answer was “minus 1”.
Our teacher tried to bluff her way out and told that I was wrong.
But un-be-known to the teacher I was on to her. I had been learning maths from my mum and my dad for many years and I knew some strange secrets that others might not have learned yet. For example I already knew that:
1 + 1 usually = 2 …. but not always.
In fact, if 1 drop of water is added to 1 drop of water = the you get 1 drop. So in this case 1 + 1 = 1.
I spared the teacher this advanced maths in since she already seemed to be struggling with the concept of negative numbers. But I persisted with my argument that you can take 3 away from 2, sometimes:
Teacher – think about it James. If you have only two apples, you can not give me three.
Me – no, but if I had $2 in the bank I could take out $3 and then have –$1 in the bank.
The teacher told me I was wrong, which was quite confronting for an eager (5 or 6 year old) student of science.
I went home and told my dad about how awful it was that they had someone teaching us maths when she didn’t even understand negative numbers.
My father revealed to me that my teacher might not have been slow witted as I feared – because sometimes teachers don’t reveal the whole truth to the class.
He alleged that this is because “it might confuse the class” but I was smart enough to know this was a convenient way of saying they lie to the class.
From that moment I always suspected that I could not trust my teachers … and particularly the nice but dim seeming ones.
Had there been an internet and a wiki-leaks I could have warned my fellow (still naive) students. But alas I had no way to distribute my warning to other sufferers of scientific obfuscation.
And the few children I did talk to were dubious of my discovery.
So I finally felt vindicated years later when someone broke the news that we did not in fact have 9 planets in our solar system (a core fact my teachers had alleged).
I watched with glee as some commentators tried to reconcile the new evidence (ie that they were wrong) with ways of redefining what we mean by planet to make us right. Surely even a young scientist knows that when the evidence disproves a theory then it is the theory that should change and not the evidence.
Recently I heard that the big bang might actually be “one of many big bangs”. In other words it might not have been the very beginning of everything, but rather another step along the way. Of course the theory is already being challenged by other scientists but it is an intriguing idea.
I seem to remember talking to another student years ago (probably when I was around 14) when we agreed that it would be really interesting to know what happened before the big bang, when our teacher told us that there was no such thing.
In the same class another student and I discussed how if we don’t know much about atoms then maybe at a sub-atomic level the universe is actually random. Nope, said the teacher, it is all predictable if you could study it closely enough …. but of course a few lessons later he told us a little bit about quantum mechanics and I was left there wondering once again if he was dim or dodgy.
Now I have discovered that even the periodic table is wrong. So even the corner stone of our (alleged) understanding of chemistry is incorrect.
Well – apparently it is not “incorrect” just “inaccurate sometimes”. So once again the school teachers are trying to create wriggle room for clearly misguiding generations of keen young minds.
But maybe it is not the poor maligned CEO’s who are creating a credibility issue in our society (well, admittedly they are rich maligned CEOs but you get my point). Maybe it is those innocent acting teachers who try to keep the real truth from their eager young students.
Maybe if our kids learn to hold authority figures to account then they will come out of school demanding good leadership from their managers and politicians rather than accepting the behaviour we seem to think is inevitable.
Maybe it is time we stopped the cover-ups and created a teacher-leaks site that allows students to reveal the truth to the world when they are given “convenient” answers, rather than the truth.