Friday, September 5, 2008

What constitutes a wrong answer?

In today's world, a lot of importance is given to being "politically correct". This definition is different from being "correct" or "right". In short the world is not a simple "yes or no", "black or white" place. Anyone who has watched the US political process can attest to this fact. Even if the moderator asked for a "yes or no", we would be entertained by a 5 min mini-speech at the end of which our heads would go... "so, is it yes or no?".

Compare this to our school life... every question had an answer and it was right or wrong. If you got it right, you got points, else no points. Some teachers would be lenient to award points for trying; but the rules were simple. Even in such an environment there were people who could tell a story without ever getting to an answer. The teacher, trying to get more things done, would eventually ask this student to sit down and continue.

My friends told me I could spin stories such as this. More than once, I have rambled on with my opinion and how it "could be", instead of answering a question straight. Very rarely have I even accepted that "I dont know".

So, you ask now... where is THIS going? You see, once during a laboratory exam, to an external examiner, no less, I admitted "I do not know". The internal counterpart, expecting far more from me, insisted that I should think deeply and come up with the answer. Alas, when you have skipped chapters during your study, no amount of thinking will get you the answer. When I told the examiners that I sincerely did not know, they wouldn't give up and persisted that I answer them. So, in desperation, I came up with a ridiculously simple and "correct" answer.

The question was "Tell us the 2 types of stepper motors". My answer was "Ones that go forward and ones that go reverse". Given time and the chance, I could have argued that this was also a "correct" answer. But having stunned both examiners and rendered them speechless, I politely stood up, mumbled thanks and left the lab.

Now, of course I know the answer they were expecting to hear... looking at
Permanent Magnet/ Variable Reluctance. But do you not think my answer was also one of the correct ones? Or was I just too savvy?

A concise Dilbert cartoon for us types... here. What type are YOU?

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