Thursday, February 8, 2007

I'm With Stupid

A couple of months ago I took pity on my husband and his overwhelming work load. I volunteered to type his Advanced Placement Biology semester exam for him. It isn't as selfless as it sounds, trust me. Watching him hunt and peck his way around the keyboard and hearing the,, click of his typing drives me crazy. (How he made it through high school, college, and graduate school without knowing how to type is beyond me.) So it goes a lot faster if I just do it. As I was zooming along through the questions and multiple choice answers I started to realize that not only did I not have a guess as to what the answers should be, I didn't even know what some of the questions were asking. For example.....

What best explains the observation of substrate specificity?
A. There is a precise compatibility between an enzyme’s active site and the substrate molecule.
B. Specificity refers to the action of the enzyme, such as hydrolysis, and relatively few molecules can be hydrolyzed.
C. Reaction-specific enzymes, such as hydrolases, assume a fit by folding around the most numerous substrate molecules.
D. Molecules and active sites vary in size; only properly sized molecules can fit.
E. Polarity compatibilities; active sites contain electronegative atoms while substrates tend to carry slight positive charges.

Which of the following is a difference between active transport (AT) and facilitated diffusion (FD)?
A. AT involves transport proteins, and FD does not.
B. FD can move solutes against a concentration gradient, and AT cannot.
C. FD requires energy from ATP, and AT does not
D. FD involves transport proteins, and AT does not.
E. AT requires energy from ATP, and FD does not.

Am I really that stupid? I was an A student all through high school and college. There are 16 year olds out there that are smarter than I am? Then I came across a couple of questions that I did know the answers to. For example....

Which of the following would not be capable of performing photosynthesis?
A. bacterium
B. pine tree
C. mushroom
D. seaweed
E. algae

Energy is observed in two basic forms: potential and kinetic. Which of the following is an example of potential energy?
A. waves crashing against the shoreline
B. a hot cup of coffee
C. a bowling ball placed on the top shelf of a closet
D. the mercury rising within a thermometer
E. a car rolling down hill

I also realized that it has been 14 years since I had a biology class, and it wasn't AP Biology, and it has been 12 years since I have had any kind of science instruction at all. (Even then it was Fun with Physics or something really tough and demanding like that.) So I cut myself a little slack. Plus, science isn't really my thing anyway. I"m more of a languages person. I know that I ended the sentence in italics above with a preposition and I'd like to see a 16 year old at Greenville High School read a Spanish novel like I can. But, can I still read a Spanish novel? After all, I haven't used Spanish on a daily basis for 6 years now. I had to know. Unable to find one of my Spanish novels, I started reading a research paper on El Cid that I had written, in Spanish of couse, 11 years ago. I couldn't even read it all! There were words that I didn't recognize! These were words that in college I not only knew the definitions of but how to correctly conjugate them and use them in a sentence. I am stupid!

Apparently all the recent years of reality TV, cartoons (the title of this blog even comes from an episode of Spongebob Squarepants), and mystery novels have taken their toll on my brain cells. I've got to get back in to the swing of things mentally if I am ever going to re-enter the work force and not get fired. How far downhill have I gone? Could I pass high school now if I tried? Will I be able to reverse the damage? I know it sounds dramatic, but I was very concerned. Then something happened that made me feel a little bit better. Brian's students challenged him to do a Sudoku puzzle. He didn't have time so he gave it to me to do. He explained the rules to me. All the vertical columns have to contain the numbers 1-9 with no repeats and no omissions and the horizontal columns must do the same. So I started to work. It took me three hours to do the first puzzle. When I got done I started looking at it and realized that all of the 9 square squares also had only the numbers 1-9 in them. Yes, Brian forgot to tell me that rule. So I did the puzzle on the reverse side in about 5 mins. When Brian told his students what had happened they said, "Wow, that must have been really hard." Yeah, no kidding! But I did it! And I am not a math person at all. I'm probably even worse at math than I am at science. So I started thinking that if I can do a Sudoku puzzle without knowing all of the rules then I must not be too stupid.

But, obviously I have some work to do. I need to start reading some really intellectual writing (I'm getting ready to start War and Peace) and watching Spanish television. (Of course, most Spanish television is soap operas so it won't be particularily stimulating but at least I'll be practicing my Spanish.) Brian is greatly opposed to the latter but he has to realize that it is for my own good. I haven't given up Lost! or Survivor though. After all trying to figure out what is going to happen exercises the brain, doesn't it? Maybe at the end of the semester I'll volunteer to type the Spanish teacher's exam and see how I do.

P.S. If you would like to know the answers to the above questions see the next blog. I'll have to ask Brian and get back to you later.


Jill Tilley said...

I loved reading all your new posts.

I, too, am getting back into the intellectual world (reading books about the canon of scripture and educational theory, actually paying attention to the news and discussing it...), and it feels so nice to be thinking about "smart" things again. I was with a group of mom friends a while back, and they were talking about "mommy brain" - the degradation of the brain that comes from having kids. They said they felt they just couldn't function at the same level they could before kiddos (smarts-wise). That was just one more motivation for me to prove to myself that I could.

Rob's been after me to read "War and Peace" for quite a while, but I've never done it. Maybe I'll read it along with you and we can discuss it.

Christina M said...

Oh, I've always wanted to read War and Peace but I've never had time. I love the Napoleanic Wars. You will have to tell me what you think of it when you finish.

I hope all of you in Greenville are doing well!


Jennifer said...

I know exactly what episode you are talking about. Yes, I'm suffering from Mommy stupidity. I have been trying to catch up on the news lately because I'm completely out of it. I don't think I could tackle War and Peace, but if you go for another book later... I MIGHT try.

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