I learned that life is unfair from Mr. Washburn, my Calculus teacher at St. Andrew’s.

I struggled with Calculus. Mom had insisted I take the course. In order to do so, I skipped Trigonometry. Yeah, that harms one’s learning of Calculus. I was over my head all year.

At one point, Mr. Washburn told me that if I showed him one hour’s worth of homework daily, I would pass despite my grades. I worked hard to pass.

My friend Bret was similarly challenged in the course. We took solace in one another as the bottom of the class. I know we studied together. Looking back, that’s not smart given neither of us had a good handle on the material.

One time I recall we studied together. There were four questions on the test. When we received the tests back, I had missed three of the four. Yes folks, that’s a stunning 15 (I lost points on the fourth question). Woo hoo! Bret did even worse; a 5. We looked over our tests. Bret noticed that for one problem he had lost more points than I had even though we had solved it the same way (incorrectly). He asked if he could borrow my test to show Mr. Washburn. “The 10 points might make a difference some time,” Bret said.

We approached Mr. Washburn at his desk after class. Bret did all the talking. Bret presented both tests to him. After a couple moments, he said, “You took off 15 points on Bob’s test and 25 on mine. We did the work the same way.” He added, “That doesn’t seem fair.”

Mr. Washburn tossed the tests back across his desk and stood up. “No one said life would be fair. I never said this class would be either. Study young man. Earn your grade,” he said. And with that, Ducky walked out of the room.”

Lesson learned.

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As I reread this just now, there was another lesson I learned in Calculus that I guess pertains to life being unfair.

As I said above, I struggled all year with Calculus. There was a test in the spring at some point. While we were going over it, I sat incredulous. I had absolutely the correct answer, yet it was marked wrong.

After Ducky made his presentation, I raised my hand. I pointed out that I had the correct answer and it was marked incorrect.

Ducky asked me what class we were in. I stated Calculus. He said that I solved the problem using Algebra, not Calculus, thus it was wrong.

I retorted, “All year long I have asked when I would need such skills. Each time you told me that at work some time in the future my boss would ask me to find the volume of this or that and that is why I needed to know this. Well, when I am working for someone else, time is money. It takes me less time to solve this problem with Algebra than Calculus so my boss will be pleased.”

It was left as an incorrect answer. 🙁

And no boss has ever asked me to find the volume of anything in my career.