I was asked to be a substitute teacher in a seventh grade biology class. The assignment was Chapter 2 in the student’s text. I had a chance to glance at the title, Classification, and then the bell rang! I had thirty young minds crowded into the room with some expectation focused toward me. I didn’t like the assignment the teacher had written on the board: “Read Chapter 2, write down Questions 1 to 10, answer them with complete sentences, and hand in your papers.”
Classification is a subject I have some strong feelings about and thought i would get them out first and then see what the author of the textbook had to say. “Before we read Chapter 2, I’d like us to think about classifications; we humans love to classify everything! What would you like to classify?”
“People,” the students quickly replied.
“OK, and what did you have in mind—height, weight, IQ, or what?”
“Color,” they stated and I said to myself that I had better be careful because the class was 80% black. I did some quick thinking and drew a line on the board right next to the teacher’s assignment. At one end I put 100% White and at the other end 100% Black.
“Now, everyone of you can be put on this line.”
“But we aren’t all black,” one lad volunteered. “We’re brown, anyway.”
“And they aren’t really white,” another student chimed in. “They are pink!”
“I like this class,” I said. “You are learning something important about classifications. We make definitions about the groupings when we make classifications. I can take a photometer reading of your skin and find out just where you belong on this black and white line, can’t I?. Now the question is where shall we divide the line between black and white?”
They quickly came up with 50/50 and I countered with 60/40 or 40/60. “You see, most of life is not really black or white. When we draw lines we very often ignore that life is not easily put into our boxes. We might do better to look at each individual as unique and special. I think that now you know something about classifications which most adults don’t know. Let’s see what the author of the text book says. Remember, we make the boxes of classifications!”
To my blog readers—keep in mind that life is infinite while we are finite. When we forget this, we create all sorts of significant errors.
My book, The Answer Is A Question, is my attempt to provide words to guide us as we live at the interface between the finite and the infinite.