I love this quote from the TV show “The West Wing.” Based on a real Mars landing gone awry, CJ Cregg implores the President to still do a live TV broadcast with scientists and school children even though the spaceship has crashed due to a mistake in the math that caused it to be off by 120 feet or so (actually happened) and it smashed into the ground on Mars:

“We have at our disposal a captive audience of school children. Some of them don’t go to the blackboard or raise their hand cause they think they’re going to be wrong. I think you should say to these kids, ‘You think you get it wrong sometimes, you should come down here and see how the big boys do it’. I think you should tell them you haven’t given up hope, and that it may turn up, but in the meantime, you want NASA to put its best people in the room, and you want them to start building Galileo VI. Some of them will laugh and most of them won’t care but for some they might honestly see that it’s about going to the blackboard and raising your hand.”

Learning is messy!

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6 thoughts on “Transparency

  1. Great story!

    It makes me think about our math and science instruction. We tend to teach students that there are right answers and wrong ones. But in real world “math” and “science” it’s all about exploration, hypothesis and multiple attempts. And that does involve mistakes.

    What if we taught our students to be mathematicians, scientists, historians, etc. instead of just teaching them subjects?

  2. Hello I am in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I read your quote and the first thing that came to my mind was every time the teacher asked students to volunteer to go to the board and work a math problem no one would get up because they were in fear they would have the wrong answer and be laughed at. People make mistakes granted the one that happen with the landing was a big one… People learn from their mistakes and gain more knowledge that way. If you don’t make mistakes in life then what fun would that be. Learning is a part of everyday life nothing can be perfect. Looking forward to more blog posting from you.

  3. Hello. My name is Michelle French. I’m a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I enjoyed reading the quote in your post. People make mistakes, but you can always take that mistake and use it to not repeat it. Kids think that they make a lot of mistakes, but some professionals still make mistakes too. There is also the fact about learning math versus real world application of math. Math seems to become more complicated than when you are learning it. Thank you for posting this quote. I will be commenting on another one of your posts in a few weeks, and then I will be posting a summary of those posts and my thoughts on them to my blog by Sunday, March 6th.