ABSTRACT

Mathematicians hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out everything that is not an elephant, and catching one of whatever is left ... Professors of mathematics will prove the existence of at least one unique elephant and then leave the detection and capture of an actual elephant as an exercise for their graduate students ... Computer scientists hunt elephants by exercising algorithm A: 1. Go to Africa. 2. Start at the Cape of Good Hope. 3. Work northward in an orderly manner, traversing the continent alternately east and west. 4. During each traverse a. Catch an animal seen. b. Compare each animal caught to a known elephant. c. Stop when a match is detected ... Economists don't hunt elephants, but they believe that if elephants are paid enough, they will hunt themselves. Statisticians hunt the first animal they see N times and call it an elephant ... Senior managers set broad elephant hunting policy based on the assumption that elephants are just like field mice, but with deeper voices. (Peter Theobald, National Center for Software Technology, Bombay, India, 1991)

I've got a lot of respect for my colleagues in Math and Science, but it's all going in straight rows and straight arrows and straight answers to everything. (Social Studies teacher)

The expectation that different professions carry with them different ways of thinking, of looking at and understanding the world, is a familiar concept in the sociological and anthropologicalliteratures, and also in common sense. It is the stuff of stereotypes, and of telling jokes. 'How was the operation doctor?' 'The operation was a success, but the patient died', allows us to acknowledge, in a humorous way,

our expectation that doctors see the world, and even life and death, in a particular, and to the laity strangely detached, way. Professions have their own vocabularies, whether the Latinate terms of medicine or the arcane defInitions oflaw, they set different priorities, and they engender different arrangements, even when dealing with the same task. We expect the doctor's office to look quite different from the lawyer's, although both are the sites for consultation with clients. That they are different gives us reason to make the jokes; that they differ in predictable ways lets the jokes make sense - even across national boundaries. So Peter Theobald (1991), a computer programmer in India, can suggest, in a slightly satirical article, 'a bold new proposal for matching high-technology people and professions' by sending candidates to Africa to hunt e1ephants, and comparing their behavior to the above classifIcation-scheme (p. 46).