Measure Theory, Sunday School and Correlation

Every so often, when I teach a course, I get the strange idea that students really ought to see something that, were it not for me, they will probably never encounter (this of course is probably some kind of conceit). This idea almost always involves me writing some text or part of a text. And it is almost always a mistake. It is a mistake because my perspective is usually faulty.

The students don’t need this knowledge, it’s not life altering, and it is often too deep or just plain confusing for the level they are presently at. Courses have usually evolved into what they are for good psychological or pedagogical reasons, usually. But this thing seems to be something like pregnancy. Women seem to forget the awful stuff after a couple of years. And the urge to try it again takes over. Then they sometimes wonder why it did when it’s too late.

But I’ve done it again. No I’m not pregnant with a baby. Not possible. Just another obsession. For years I have had the idea that no mathematics major should escape from a university without at least seeing a bit of “measure theory.” So much of modern mathematics depends on the idea that it finally took me over – the innocents must be educated. I guess I sort of feel like the devil. So I’m going to persecute 25 juniors/seniors next year with the 30 pages of single-spaced notes I dashed off last summer off the top of my head, just for them. I know they will hate it. It’s too sophisticated for their logically immature brains.

On the other hand, won’t being exposed to these magnificent ideas make them more capable of comprehending deep and complex argument? No. They will merely be frustrated with my dense symbolic prose. But I will go ahead with it, because I’m pregnant. With an idea. But on the other hand, maybe this is good. Because their pain will cause me to give up that idea and any other budding errors in my skull for at least another 3 or 4 years.

Now, I’ve sometimes been tempted with the same sort of notions when teaching in Church. How much to give that Gospel Doctrine or priesthood class? Won’t it be good for them to know some of the humanity behind the people that are manual stick-figures? Or that many of the stories that have been passed around Church manuals and classrooms for the last 50 to 80 years are really Job-like exaggerations/fabrications? Or the things that really motivated this or that revelation? Or the details of this or that text? How about the use of seer stones and similar objects? Or the evolution of meanings that have rotated history to fiction. The list goes on. But the fact is that when I have taught Church classes, I get lots of attendees. People from other wards sneaking in. It’s precisely the opposite of what happens at work.

But I can see the wisdom of my current bishop not letting me near a classroom. Heh heh. Correlation. In his mind, I know, danger lurks in my heart. He surely feels that what I would communicate in the Church classroom is not ultimately useful. And the potential for offense seems high for him and that’s a dealbreaker right there.[1] And I suppose this means I’m never going to get my chance at the Conference Center Pulpit. Dang.

————————
[1] But I love my current Church assignment. I copy the Sunday program. Magnifying this calling is wonderful! I typeset it in latex and fool around trying to save paper. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. I have toyed with the idea of acrostics or maybe buried references to obscure movies or something. I also typeset the announcements. There’s real potential there which I have not begun to abuse. (Bishop, if you happen by some impossible circumstance to read this, I’m joking. Really.)

Comments

  1. “I typeset it in latex ”

    EPIC WIN.

  2. I’ve often wondered how much time I would spend trying to make each bulletin look perfect. Letting a perfectionist typography geek do the bulletin is a recipe for disaster… disaster and beauty.

  3. Admittedly I don’t typeset it in LaTeX (although I did do that for all of the homework in a math class I took last semester), but my calling in my singles ward went from copying and folding the bulletins; to making, copying, and folding the bulletins; to making the bulletins, and sending them to the Bishop to copy because he has access to a good color printer and copier. I’m currently the entirety of the Communications Committee for my ward, and although I think I’d love teaching, I wouldn’t trade my calling for anything.

    Although, being a huge doctrine nerd, one thing I had trouble with on my mission was staying entirely focused and to-the-point with the lessons, and being fairly ADD it’s something my companions had to kind of drag me back into on a regular basis; so there is probably some wisdom behind my not being called to be a Sunday School or Priesthood teacher.

  4. So what’s measure theory in a nutty shell? Great post.

  5. #4: Measure twice___cut once.

  6. Advanced gospel minutiae/theory/speculation is evidently more innately interesting than advanced mathematical theory. Maybe because we can all play along.

  7. Measure Theory: Can you extend the notion of length to sets which are not line segments? How far can you push this? Does every subset of the real line have a length? Questions that would be addressed in measure theory. The answers are surprising and almost immediately bump up against fundamental questions of logic and set theory. But the real bonus of measure theory is that it allows a very utilitarian approach to many other fields, like partial differential equations.

  8. My husband has requested your style sheet. He does the program in our ward and hasn’t gotten around to making his own yet. If you could email that to me (starfoxy at gmail) then that would be great.
    More on topic I do understand the urge to teach things that otherwise might not be taught. In my case, I teach primary, and I remember what I was taught as a kid. I also know all the misconceptions I had to unlearn as an adult. I also team teach so I know what the other teacher is teaching them. So I try to teach the other half of that. It’s nothing way out in left field- but it is things that often get left out- and lead to some serious misconceptions.

  9. I’m also interested in the latex style sheet. Could you either post a link or send me an email? onion.avenger at gmail

  10. Heh. Almost could have written this myself, it’s just how I feel! Minus the pregnancy and physics, of course. (My Bishop, btw, made me the Sunday School President, but then he got released. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc?

  11. SSP. hehe. My problem is I like to teach the scriptures. This is not really the point now. Call me dinosaur.

    Is there really something called the communications committee?

    You guys should like next Sunday’s post. Home Teaching. Fun times.

  12. I typeset it in latex
    \textbf{\emph{Nerd!}}

    It’s precisely the opposite of what happens at work.
    I imagine some of that is related to Gospel Doctrine class being repeated rather than a developmental step. On the fourth time through the same undergrad probability class, boredom would be scarier than any Borel sigma algebra.

  13. WVS, I know that deep down inside, you are really a Princeton Symbologist. Now, I know that this isn’t quite as accomplished as being a Harvard Symbologist. Still I can only image what mysteries are embedded in your programs. Perhaps that Johnson’s army was really sent to transfer to Brigham Young Salomon’s treasure, which currently resides in a vault beneath the Salt Lake Temple.

  14. But … do you email the image of the bulletin the night before? Electronic bulletins are the ultimate papersaver…

  15. When I read comment #3 I first thought it said “excommunications committee”

  16. Stapley: HaVarD syBolOGistS are educated at Princeton.

    queuno: We do email it. But a significant portion of our ward is technophobic. So I do hardcopy too.

  17. This post is brilliant almost everywhere.

  18. RE: #7 (“Measure Theory: Can you extend the notion of length to sets which are not line segments? How far can you push this? Does every subset of the real line have a length? . . .”)

    Can this be translated into English, or is it something only math geeks can possibly comprehend in any language?

    No matter, really, since the post itself was brilliant and relevant to all, I thought!

  19. I have a feeling I get asked to substitute teach in RS and SS just so they don’t have to worry about me heckling the sub.

  20. I just realized Bill will be the only one who will get my joke in #17. That was measure theory humor.

  21. I used to point out flaws of logic and history in GD and RS lessons. I finally realized that members don’t attend church classes to learn. They attend to have their beliefs affirmed. And current lesson manuals fill that need.

  22. When I was in charge of the ward bulletin, I would occasionally bold letters so that, when linked together, they would spell out messages like “Utah beat BYU.” At least one member of the bishopric got busted trying to solve the problem during PEC.

  23. harpchil: Excellent.

  24. Shannon Flynn says:

    Re: #21
    I had a break through a few weeks ago that has helped me feel so much better about going to Church. The whole thing has evolved into a great Group Therapy session. All of the manuals and talks just facilitate group sessions of various sizes. We break up into more and more homogeneous groups as the block progresses. Nothing is taught, we share our thoughts and feelings about a given subject. In group, there are no wrong answers. Never say anything that would challenge, hurt or offend anyone else is the group. (Joseph Smith had multiple wives? – just make that go away) We now use the therapy words. Oh, Brother White, thanks for sharing. or, “may I share a story?” It is such a hoot now to watch this happy little train go round and round.

  25. I’ve just started writing my own style sheet for the Sunday Program. Any chance at having a look at yours for ideas? brian at amosfamily.net

  26. WVC and BAmos, I’m also interested in a style sheet for Sunday Programs. Send some help my way too.

  27. Re: style. Here’s the header and stuff for a recent program. Nothing fancy, just pdf’s two columns which you can cut after copying (I copy two-sided with a bishop message on the back of each half-sheet). The garbage stuff beginning with % is hanging around because I was too lazy to just erase.

    \documentclass[landscape,twocolumn,letterpaper,12pt]{article}
    \usepackage{amsmath}
    \usepackage{amssymb}
    \usepackage{theorem}
    \usepackage{latexsym}
    \usepackage{graphicx}
    \usepackage{ledmac}
    \usepackage{footnote}
    \usepackage{soul}
    \usepackage{ulem}
    \usepackage{tipa}
    %\usepackage{multicol}
    \setlength{\columnsep}{1.5in}
    \addtolength{\voffset}{-20pt}
    \addtolength{\footskip}{40pt}
    \usepackage[pdftex]{geometry}
    \geometry{headsep=3em,hscale=0.9}
    %\linenummargin{right}
    %\setlength{\ledlsnotewidth}{20em}
    %\begin{multicols}{2}{
    %\title{Canyon View 10th Ward\\ 14 June 2009}
    %\author{}
    %\date{}

    \begin{document}
    \thispagestyle{empty}
    \begin{center}\begin{large}\textbf{Canyon View 10th Ward\\ November 28, 2010}\end{large}\end{center}
    \noindent Presiding ———————————–Name\\
    Conducting——————————–Name\\
    Music Director—————————————–Name\\
    Organist——————————————–Name\\\\
    Opening Hymn———————————————\#93
    \begin{center}“\textit{Prayer of Thanksgiving}” \end{center}
    Invocation——————————————–Name\\\\
    Ordinances/Organizational/Administrative matters\\\\
    Sacrament Hymn——————————————\#181
    \begin{center}“\textit{Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King}” \end{center}
    Administration of the Sacrament\\\\
    Speaker————————————Name\\\\
    Ward Choir: “What Child is This” / “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”\\\\
    Speaker—————————————-Name\\\\
    Closing Hymn———————————————–\#213
    \begin{center}“\textit{The First Noel}”\end{center}
    Benediction————————————Name

    \pagebreak
    \vspace{15pt}
    \begin{center}\begin{large}\textbf{Canyon View 10th Ward\\ November 28, 2010}\end{large}\end{center}
    \noindent Presiding ———————————–Name\\
    Conducting——————————–Name\\
    Music Director—————————————–Name\\
    Organist—————————————–Name\\\\
    Opening Hymn———————————————\#93
    \begin{center}“\textit{Prayer of Thanksgiving}” \end{center}
    Invocation——————————————–Name\\\\
    Ordinances/Organizational/Administrative matters\\\\
    Sacrament Hymn——————————————\#181
    \begin{center}“\textit{Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King}” \end{center}
    Administration of the Sacrament\\\\
    Speaker————————————Name\\\\
    Ward Choir: “What Child is This” / “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”\\\\
    Speaker—————————————–Name\\\\
    Closing Hymn———————————————–\#213
    \begin{center}“\textit{The First Noel}”\end{center}
    Benediction————————————Name

    %\end{multicols}
    \end{document}

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