For people who want to learn or teach mathematics on the basis of reason …
A Different Stone
Comedy in Three Acts
Dedicated to Her Excellency
Doctor Delta Vee, Vee Pee,
A True Leader in Academic Affairs.
(But leading where?)
In order of appearances:
Doctor Delta Vee
Mentioned but unseen:
Assorted deans, sub-deans, super-deans, etc.
The office of the Thematics department. The furniture is disposed in a peculiar way: Two feet from the door, a filing cabinet partially blocks the entrance; right behind the cabinet, the desk. As the curtain rises, Jacletson, recently elected Baron of the Thematics department, is sitting behind the desk and can be heard muttering as he is looking at a report.
Jacletson The Screamer says that he developed the Different Stone because the question is either to stone differently or not to stone at all. He whimpers. But I don't want to have to learn to stone differently. I want to stone the way I stoned when I was in college even though I didn't inhale it! I mean it was just a bunch of recipes and all you had to do was to memorize them. Now he wants me to inhale it! I would rather most students didn't stone at all than inhale it! Hopefully. But maybe this report from the Institute of Official Quest comparing the outcomes of the two stone sequences ... He reads.
Of those attempting the first course in each sequence, 12.5% finished the three-semester, ten credit, traditional stone sequence while 48.3% finished the two-semester, eight credit, different stone sequence, revealing a definite association between the different stone and completion (c2(1) = 82.14, p < .001).
This is horrible! Recovering a bit. But, surely, those who stoned differently must crash when they try to stone integrally. He reads on.
If the additional requirement of passing Integral Stone is added, 27 (5.0%) of the 538 students in the traditional sequence completed all courses while 6 (5.2%) of the 116 different stone students did likewise.
Practically in tears, What can I do? As long as the Screamer ... He mumbles. Suddenly, I must call Cleutus. He is the only one the Screamer is afraid of.
He makes a phone call. After a while, Cleutus enters. He bumps into the filing cabinet.
Cleutus Rubbing his elbow. Why do you have to barricade yourself like this?
Jacletson Nervously. You never know. Students, you know. You never know.
Cleutus What's the matter?
Jacletson We must get rid of the Different Stone. It makes us look, er ... , different. Can you imagine? Almost four years and, in spite of all we did, it's still alive! And now there is this report from the Institute of Official Quest.
Cleutus What does it say?
Jacletson It says that the completion rate in the Different Stone is four times that in the Conventional Stone.
Cleutus Really? I didn't know it was that high. He catches himself. Did you talk to Doctor Murky or Doctor Marmalade? They sure don't like anything the Screamer does.
Jacletson What for?
Cleutus You've got a point there! But what are you going to do to get Vice-President Delta Vee to ax him? Annoyed. After all, that's why I made you Baron of this department. To take care of that sort of things! Impatient. Can't you create some kind of controversy about these numbers? Some kind of data analysis, you know, the kind of fudging you are so good at?
Jacletson Good idea! No problem.
He starts writing. After a while, he leans back with a grin.
Jacletson. Listen to this. I think that I did a pretty slick job of it. Aside. I have got to stop using that word. Next thing I know, they will all be calling me Slick Danny. He reads to Cleutus what he has just written.
There might be inaccuracies in the report. Students who ... might not ... Now, let me speculate a little... This might account for ... But let us assume that the remaining ... This would then give an adjusted pass rate in the traditional stone ... This would seem a bit high, but if we suppose in addition that ... [Cleutus dozes off without Jacletson noticing.] Specific numbers for ... cannot be given ..., but if we assume ..., we have without a doubt that .... This may show that ..., even if some of these students probably ... In any case, this clearly establishes that the different stone is certainly no better than the traditional stone and probably worse.
Slick, isn't it?
Cleutus Waking up with a start. Oh yeah, real slick, Danny. Jacletson winces. Won't anyone be able to read this, let alone argue with it, what with all these assumptions and what not.
Jacletson With a sly look. But what will remain, of course, is that the numbers will have been questioned. Vee Pee Delta Vee will love it. He chuckles. I can just hear her: "Oh yes, the report. But isn't there a big controversy about these numbers?"
Cleutus Yeah, brilliant, but so what? Someone who thinks she can convince the Federal Government that Remedial Arithmetic is a full-fledged college-level course just by saying we have always given college credits for it? Anyway, what do you want me to do?
Jacletson Can't you just do, like, ah, ...? Like last time with ... ? Er ... You know, make him, ah ... quit? Those others who like the Different Stone, without him, you know, they won't ...
Cleutus Yeah. But it's hard. He is right you know. I keep catching myself using stuff from the Different Stone when I teach the traditional one. Isn't it silly? Wonderingly. Why do I want to get rid of the Different Stone anyway?
Jacletson Because you hate him. That's why.
Cleutus Fervently. You got that right. Relaxing. But, sometimes, I almost forget.
Jacletson Curious. Why are you so mad at him?
Cleutus Because I hate people who are right. It weighs on my freedom. And he always seems to be right? He corrects himself ? I mean, to take the high road. Suddenly determined. OK. Let's go.
A conference room. Many sub-deans, a couple of Super-Deans, many vee-pees, one prez. Vee Pee Delta Vee is on the podium. A lone, stray faculty has just asked her a question.
Delta Vee Oh yes, the report. Effulgent. But isn't there a big controversy about these numbers? Thundering applause.
The office of an advisor. The advisor is admonishing a student. She is defensive but still game.
Advisor Sharply. If you do not take Basic Algebra, you will be cutting yourself off from careers in science and technology.
Student But that's just why I want to take the Different Stone. To get into science and technology.
Advisor Irritated. And I am telling you that you don't want to take Different Stone: You want Basic Algebra.
Student But why? I already took Remedial Algebra!
Advisor Excellent. Then you are ready for Basic Algebra.
Student But what's Basic Algebra?
Advisor Algebra. Same as in Remedial Algebra!
Student But I got an A in Remedial Algebra! Can't I skip Basic Algebra?
Advisor Guardedly. That's what the catalogue says. Firm again. What I say is that you need Basic Algebra.
Student But why? Aren't they about the same?
Advisor Beaming. Yes, but with Basic Algebra maybe you can skip Intermediate Algebra and go directly into Pre-Stone I.
Student What's Pre-Stone I?
Advisor College Algebra.
Student What's College Algebra?
Advisor Algebra. Same as in Intermediate Algebra, same as in Basic Algebra, same as in Remedial Algebra. Just plain algebra! And algebra is what you need!
Student Bewildered. But why do I have to take the same thing three times?
Advisor Sternly. See? You can't even count. You have to take algebra four times! Not three. How many times do I have to tell you? Because that's what you need. Cajoling. Then, after Pre-stone I, you might be able to take Pre-Stone II and then ... Almost tenderly, ... and then you will be ready for Traditional Stone I.
Student Desperate. But my friend told me that with an A in Remedial Algebra I could go directly into Different Stone I and then, after Different Stone II, I would be done. She says that's the same as passing Traditional Stone I.
Advisor Very reluctantly. That's what the catalogue says.
Student Hopeful. And then she says that Pre-Stone I - Pre-Stone II doesn't transfer to Parthenon University but that Different Stone I -- II does.
Advisor Rallying. So does Traditional Stone I - Traditional Stone II.
Student Discouraged. But that's one semester of stone more than I need! The program I am in requires only one semester of stone.
Advisor Firmly. That's their problem.
Student Imploring. But the traditional way takes twice as long as the different way.
Advisor Warming up. Of course it takes twice as long! That's because it is twice as long! And that's why it's twice as good. And that's why it's so much better for you. Exulting. Don't you see?
Student Making a last stand. My friend told me that four times as many students get through Different Stone I and II than go through Pre-Stone I - II and Traditional Stone I.
Advisor Just shows you how much "they" have watered down the Different Stone! Triumphant, slams his big trump. Anyway, there's a big controversy about these numbers!
Student But she says that the students out of Different Stone are doing just as good in Traditional Stone II as those out of Traditional Stone I.
Advisor Waving his hand dismissingly. The Vee Pee for Academic Affairs is questioning these numbers. Vaguely threatening. Anyway, you wouldn't be the type to cut corners, would you? Final. I am signing you up for Basic Algebra. Thud of a body hitting the floor outside the office. He looks out. Then, returning to his desk, with a grin, to the staring, horrified student. That's it. No more Different Stone! She bolts. He pauses. Looks again at the corpse outside. Pensive now. Peace and quiet again! And no more uppity students wanting to inhale more math than I ever took! But getting them to take algebra four times isn't going to be much of a challenge anymore. Sighs.
 The dedication was suggested by W. Wood, late poet, and accomplice in Equal Opportunity Offending.