I guess parents with school age children in any country have noticed that there is suddenly a point when the children stop asking for help with their homework – either because they have given up doing any homework at all, or because they know you won’t be any help even if they do ask.
I think we are reaching that point ‘chez nous’, especially in philosophy…
In France all lycée students have to study philosophy as part of their final year which is, I think, a good thing. It’s nice to see a bit of thinking going on for a change – until they start asking questions like ‘In what circumstances can conflict be resolved with dialogue?’ at the dinner table.
Other recent philosophy exam questions include ‘Does historical objectivity presuppose an impartial historian?’ and ‘Is it absurd to desire the impossible?‘ A little bit tougher than the ‘what’s on tv tonight? that we get through the school holidays…and wikipedia (every parent’s friend!) is no help at all.
Unfortunately hard as such questions are to answer, they are also equally hard to mark properly. In a recent experiment an answer paper was sent to lots of different exam markers. All were marking the exact same thing, and their results covered the complete spectrum from 6/20 – a failed exam – to 16/20 – an exceptionally high result for exams in France, so the whole philosophy exam is pretty much a lottery for candidates anyway.
(Slightly off subject but those interested in the French lycée system or with children at lycée in France might like to take a look at a recent report suggesting that long hours of study combined with very tough marking don’t necessarily lead to better results – see the report here.)
Meanwhile, I thought I could at least cope with our 14 year old daughters maths problems – but that is getting rapidly harder as well. Here was a tricky one this week, put down the sudoku and give it a try yourself.
Ignoring my poor photoshop abilities, the picture on the left is made of overlapping semi-circles drawn in a square. Each side of the square has length 2a.
All you have to do (!) is calculate the formula which gives the area coloured in black. I got there in the end but it took quite a while to get the brain cranked into gear first…