A Short Parable

Three people were given a book, a basic arithmetic textbook.  After many years, one student was able to recite the book from start to finish.  Not only that, she could tell you the exact word at every position of every page of the book.  She could recite the book backwards, or tell you every other, every third, every fourth word!  She also discussed every book review ever mentioning her textbook.

Not to be outdone, the second student presented a full-length dissertation on the book, explaining that it discussed apples and oranges, Jimmy and Martha, various other objects and personalities.  Not only that, but in presenting such examples as, “Jimmy has four apples and six oranges.  Martha has seven apples and three oranges.  If they combine their possessions and divide them evenly, how many of each fruit will each of them have. And, will this be an even distribution?” the book hints at the political ideals of equal distribution of wealth, social justice and gender equality.  He also points out that the book can function, as well, as an historical treatise on quaint ideas of agriculture and botany.

The third student couldn’t remember a single word or theme of the text and didn’t remember a single problem.  However, she had developed great skill in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

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