Thats what I told Lily today.

My class sat with their notebooks open at the first page waiting for me to say or write something they could write down. I was trying to engate their brains but some of them had their pens in their hands and were just sitting quietly letting me do the strange Mzungu teacher bit and waiting for the real stuff to start.

So I told them that I ‘d read the prayer on the blackboard last term. I recited it, in fact, as I have committed it to memory. Then I asked them if that was what they wanted: to “download”. Lily said she did and I made my rude comment. Lucklily they laughed.

Later this morning I was trying to tell them about objects (in the object oriented sense) and started by asking them if various things in the room were objects:
“This desk, is it an object?”
“it is”
“What about that pen?”
“What about Loise, is she an object?”
Embarrassed silence while christine looked at Loise as if assessing whether or not she was an object. Or possibly whether or not she could get away with calling her one.
“Be careful”, I added, “she’s sitting close enough to hit you”.
Then finaly I moved on to more difficult things. After telling them that I have a brother and a sister whom I love very much, I asked them if my love for my brother is an object.
“No”, Christine told me, “because you can’t touch it.”
“You can touch Loise”, I pointed out, and went over and put my hand on her shoulder to illustrate my point. The jury seemed to be still out on whether Louse was or was not an object.
“What day is it? Thursday. OK, so its rice for lunch. What about the rice I am going to eat for lunch today. Is that an object?”
This is a tough one, for a couple of reasons:
1. Rice is a sort of* uncountable continuum rather than a discrete thing.
2. The portion that will become my lunch doesn’t really exist as such yet. It might be possible to go see the big sufiria in which Pios, the cook, is preparing it, but hard to identify which grains will end up on my plate.
Even **I** was having trouble making up my mind about this.

Then I realised what an excelent opportunity this was. There is no correct answer! Nothing to recite, memorise or download!

I made them all raise their hands to choose wither they thought it was or was not an object. I told them it was important to consider this question and to make this choice precisely **because** there is no correct answer.
“There is no correct answer”, I told them, “and yet life goes on. But you have a choice, you can choose to treat my lunch as an object or not. Having made that choice you can move on and make other observations about it. you can do this in the exams too, even when you are unsure of the answer. You can make an assumption and state it: ‘I have chosen to treat Mark’s lunch as an object and thus…’.”

They probably just thing I’m mad. But it seemed very important at the time.

Comments are closed.