Disclaimer: I usually claim to be knowledgeable in what I blog about, but this time I do not claim to be. If you’re an expert, feel free to correct me, since I’ll probably be wrong most of the time.

Generally, when I write a handout on something, I’ll have two things: theorems, and problems. Theorems used were usually proved very long ago, and problems can easily be sourced as “2018/AMC 10A/25,” though (unfortunately) people don’t do the best job at citing and leave it as “2018 AMC 10,” which makes it take a while to find the problem.

Let’s take a look at what MLA has to say about citing your sources.

So, MLA, there’s this very helpful book for aspiring mathematicians. It is called, “the Art of Problem Solving: Volume 2.” Those of you who don’t know this are probably going on and searching it up, in which case it would be a good citation, since I made it easy to find.

Take for example, this imaginary quote from an imaginary chapter of my imaginary book.

A History of Logarithms

Chapter 1 – What is a Logarithm?

To understand the history of logarithms and their uses, we must first understand what exactly a logarithm is. For this task, I turn to Chapter 1 of “the Art of Problem Solving: Volume 2” for the definition of the logarithm and the six most important properties.

[insert definition]

[insert properties]

Now let’s let the MLA do this for us!

A History of Logarithms

Chapter 1 – What is a Logarithm?

To understand the history of logarithms and their uses, we must first understand what exactly a logarithm is.

[insert definition]

[insert properties]

Then, you get to flip to the end of the book, find the bibliography (this is much more annoying the further in you get), and it will say this following:

Works Cited

Rusczyk, Richard, and Sandor Lehoczky. The Art of Problem Solving. AoPS Inc., 2013.

Insert source here.

Hanging indents suck.

Here’s my initial reaction to this:

When did you use this source? Which AoPS book is this? What counts as a citation? What section did you use? What is wrong with you?

After I calm down, my thought-out and reasonable response would be this: “You can go screw yourself.”

(Note: The original draft of this post had an endnote, and a rant on why footnotes are far superior. Then I remembered that many people will simply put “Bibliography” and have no reasonable way aside from guessing to know where each reference fits in, making it even more annoying.)

How to Fix MLA

I’m not an English/History teacher or professor. If my peers did this, I would be extremely annoyed, but they don’t. Ideally, English teachers would have other English teachers to tell them that they need to stop making their citations so lengthy, effort-requiring, yet worthless. This should mean that I don’t care about MLA citations, since it’s not my place and they don’t affect me.

However, due to the dreadful government institution that serves barely-edible food, has people stand in an orderly grid-ish fashion to take rollcall, has iron gates as a security feature, has officers that patrol the campus, is filled with zero-tolerance policies, and has a schedule strictly to the minute, this becomes my business. (And for those of you wondering whether this is school or prison, this is school. Prison inmates don’t have to write English essays, which may be the only difference.)

The true fault does not lie with the MLA. The fault lies with English and History teachers around the country. If they’d let me write my papers the way I write them, while actually demanding a satisfactory result (i.e. don’t give me 100% for sucking up in the entire essay), I wouldn’t complain about the actions of a far-off organization. When they make me adhere to the standards of a far-off organization, I expose the sheer stupidity of said standards.

TL;DR: Stop making kids do MLA citations!


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