One of the most baffling aspects of the haters who post on my blog is their shameless admission that they can’t actually remember a single example of my misconduct in class, except to repeat that I was constantly disruptive and obnoxious. Common sense would dictate that if someone was carrying on so outrageously for a period of nine weeks running, there would be at least two or three conspicuous stories…but so far, nothing. No, that’s not exactly true: there is one very disturbing story on the record, told by Mrs. Cantor and embellished in the retelling by Martin Grainger, about how I virtually got right up in the face of the ASL translator and was screaming at her. But that story has since been debunked by no less than Mrs. Cantor, who admits that when she first witnessed the incident, she saw absolutely nothing wrong or mean-spirited in my behavior: on the contrary, she thought I was courteous and highly complimentary to the guest. She still hasn’t explained why she sent a letter to the Dean which conveyed exactly the opposite impression, and why she hasn’t since gone back to the University to apologize for her behavior and correct the damage she inflicted on me. But that’s not my topic for today.
The fact is that the haters, without realizing it, have actually hit the nail right on the head in terms of why I was kicked out of school. You can see it in the comments on my last blogpost: the most eloquent of my critics put it this way:
“YOU WERE FRICKEN DISRUPTIVE??? If you don't remember.... you have bigger problems than pending lawsuits.... You clearly couldnt gauge an audience and see that NO ONE wanted to listen to a word you had to say…The fact that you don't see HOW you were disruptive confirms the fact that you are on the spectrum....”
In case you aren’t up to date on the lingo, calling me “on the spectrum “ is the politically correct way of calling me a mental case. She then goes on:
I do not remember specific points/arguements/comments, I remember very often being frustrated that the class was not moving forward due to your lack of understanding and/or fighting what they were saying and trying to validate your point of view. No one agreed with anything you had to say and clearly you could not gauge an audience. Sometimes its best to sit there and shut up.
So Miss Fricken (let’s call her) finds the clearest evidence of my mental disorder to be that I didn’t have the sense to sit down and shut up when I anyone could clearly see that no one wanted to listen to a word I had to say. She finds no fault with what I was saying…she freely admits she wasn’t listening and can’t remember. Just the fact that I would disagree with (or even fail to understand!) the professor’s point was enough to brand me as a misfit.
I wonder if it ever occurred to her that whatever mental disorder I might be afflicted with pales in comparison with the enormous social disorder evident in a society where fifty students can sit passively in a class called “Philosophy of Education” while a professor tells them, for example, that “the purpose of education is so-and-so” and not a single voice raises a peep in objection.
I don’t care if the professor was right or wrong: that's hardly the point. But how can there be only one legitimate theory as to purpose of education? How can fifty wanna-be schoolteachers be so pliable and devoid of independent thought as to passively accept whatever the professor says? The fact is I was the only one of fifty student to propose a different theory of what I considered the “purpose of education”. I spent about 45 seconds explaining my point of view, and then yielded the floor. Professor Bell glared at me and picked up right where he had left off, completely ignoring what I had said.
Miss Fricken and her fellow haters were no-doubt clucking to themselves approvingly, having seen one more clear example of my mental condition. Couldn’t I see (and didn’t Professor Bell make it obvious) that no one was interested in anything I had to say?
Or what about the time when we watched Stand and Deliver, and afterward Professor Bell was talking about what methods Mr. Escalante used to motivate his students. “Was it internal or external motivation?”, he asked the class; and then without waiting for a response, he said: “It was internal, wasn’t it?” Of course this is the obvious answer because it’s much better if the student is internally motivated than externally motivated, and the point of the movie was that Mr. Escalante was an outstanding teacher.
But what does it mean to be internally or externally motivated? One disquieting aspect for me about the movie was its complete absence of any sense that the students loved math. It was all about the discipline of working hard to excel on the state-wide tests. I raised my hand and asked, “Wasn’t it external motivation, because he got his students pumped up over the idea of showing the anglo world what latinos were capable of?” Professor Bell shot back at me: “NO. It was internal motivation”. End of discussion. The sneer in his voice was palpable.
And the other students, the “good” students, quickly picked up on how they were supposed to deal with Marty Green. Later in the term there was a group presentation, and one of the students was talking about how you could explain compound words by breaking them up: “Like the word meta-cognition”, he explained: “meta means “big” and cognition means understanding, so metacognition means understanding of large concepts.”
I raised my hand and said that in my opinion, meta meant something like “the next level”, so metacognition actually meant “understanding about understanding”. And the student presenter, taking his cue straight from Professor Bell, snapped back immediately: “NO. That’s not what it means”. End of discussion.
Except that after class, a few other students came up to me with their iphones, to show me that they had googled metacognition and they wanted me to know that I was right! I was gratified, but I think it’s pretty significant that none of them were brave enough (or dumb enough!) to make this observation on my behalf in class, in front of the professor and the haters. But these were young people, well acclimatized to the contemporary social expectations. They weren’t about to jeopardized their careers by sticking their necks out.
But there was one exceptional incident. It was very near the end of the term, and by now everyone knew where things stood with me. But I still couldn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be able to participate openly in class discussions like any other student: just because they were always agreeing with the prof and my opinions were usually “unpopular”, what difference should that make?
So when Professor Bell said something about how you teach Bernoulli’s prinicple in grade 6 (?!?) to explain how an airplane works, I thought it was appropriate to point out something I’d learned about the traditional explanation that people ought to know: it’s simply wrong. The picture you see everywhere of those streamlines passing over the curved wing has nothing to do with how an airplane works. You’ve seen the picture: it’s everywhere:
I said, “I don’t want to interrupt, but this will take about ten seconds for me to draw,” and I rushed to the board. You could see Professor Bell rolling his eyes as he muttered under his breath “…this is what happens when you lose control of the class…”; and I drew the picture and said, “I’ve been in all kinds of physics board discussions on the internet about this, and anyone who knows anything about airplanes knows that you can’t fly a plane unless the wing is tilted.” And the pictures never show that. The plane in the picture could never fly.
When I sat down, something very unusual happened. Michelle Rosner spoke up from the back. “I just want to thank Marty for pointing that out, because if he hadn’t we’d never know that.” And Steve Whitmore added: “Yes, I’d also like to thank Marty.”
Now, normally it’s the professor who thanks a student for making a contribution. But by this time, it was so obvious that was never going to happen that Michelle took it upon herself to fill in the gap. It was a courageous and very suttle rebuke to Professor Bell and all the haters. But it wasn’t enough to stop them from getting me kicked out of school.