16 December 2009

Are You Serious?

Filed under: Culture, Reflections — ktismatics @ 8:29 am

Why do you suppose this strikes me as funny?

It’s finals week at our daughter’s high school. Yesterday was the math test — “IB Elementary Functions” is the official name of the course. Our daughter thinks she did okay on the exam, but the girl sitting next to her apparently didn’t, attempting to answer only about half the problems. While the kid — call her Alice — was disappointed, it seems that she has reconciled herself to mediocrity in this particular class. So have her parents. Things were tougher earlier in the semester, when Alice’s parents grounded her for an extended interval after she received some bad scores on math tests. So Alice wasn’t allowed to socialize outside of school, right? No, that wasn’t it. She could only hang around with other Asian kids. In the opinion of Alice’s parents, Anglo kids aren’t “serious” enough.

Alice thought it was funny too.



  1. Well I’m Anglo, and arguably I’m not very serious. And Margaret Cho might not be very helpful with math. But that’s a small sample size, possibly outliers. Anyway what’s funny I think is these particular Asians rushing headlong into their own stereotype; it’s a classic mirror trap, a veritable funhouse of robotic thinking, so it engages the ‘category error – humans acting like automata’ humor response.

    Maybe I am serious ’cause I think I just sucked all the fun right out of the question.


    Comment by Carl — 16 December 2009 @ 9:15 am

  2. It’s okay Carl, you can be serious if you like.

    When our daughter attended school in France, the greatest accolade from a teacher was to be called “serious.” “Smart” or “creative” or “talented” are the high-praise words in American schools. “Serious” is almost a compensatory adjective, as if there’s an unstated preface to the compliment: “She’s not very bright, but she’s serious.” If you’re truly gifted you shouldn’t have to work that hard.


    Comment by john doyle — 16 December 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  3. I think it’s funny because of the Bell Curve. I’m a universal racist, so that evens everything out, and that’s why northanger and I are Bosom Buddies. I once heard from a drunken WASP that the only thing not covered by the word ‘ethnic’ was ‘WASPDOM’, but I didn’t agree, and said well, aren’t French, at least, also ‘non-ethnic? She said ‘Well, not technically speaking’.


    Comment by ray fuller — 16 December 2009 @ 5:09 pm

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