Lots of luck, kids — you’re going to need it

Great cartoons and most appropriate for this time of year.

My favorite is the last one.

bluebird of bitterness

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3 thoughts on “Lots of luck, kids — you’re going to need it

  1. My experiences with a 15-year-old high school freshman I informally hired this month for a few errands:
    Me: “You just carried five trays of bottles into the kitchen. Each tray has 24, so how many bottles are in the kitchen now?”
    He: “Oh, man, I’m terrible at math.”
    Me: “This isn’t too tough. How much is 5 times 24?”
    He: (long pause) “Can I use a calculator?”
    Me: “Let’s try this a different way. How much is 10 times 24?”
    He: “I’m really bad at math.”
    Me: “Well, when you multiply something by ten, you just add a zero on the end, right?”
    He: (long pause) “Uh … two-sixty?”
    Me: “Think about it. Add a zero to 24.”
    He: (pause, then brightening but still uncertain) “240?”
    Me: “Good. Now we took five trays, not ten, so what’s half of 240?”
    He: (fairly quickly) “140!”
    Me: “Think about it. What is one-half of 240?”
    He: (long pause) “One … twenty, maybe?”
    Me: “Good! And one of the trays was missing a bottle, so how many are in the kitchen now?”
    He: (long pause, concerned and intent expression as he worked it out) “One … nineteen?”

    This young man is fifteen, and came to visit with a biology textbook under his arm. Since biology has long been an interest of mine, I asked him a few questions about basic concepts and terms. I could find nothing that he had a clue about. Nothing at all. Forget Krebs cycles and photsynthesis; basic chemistry and descriptive terms for parts of cells, or even what a cell was, were unknown territories.

    A few minutes after the bottles-to-the-kitchen exercise, he was to help me in my filing in my home office. (There’s a lot of this: I have seven four-drawer lateral file cabinets in my home office, and a similar number in a storage unit.) I had written instructions for him, with pictures.

    Slowly, laboriously, I followed him through the first one. Eventually, with hints, he had the right drawer, had a space in the files, and was looking intently at the folder, then the drawer. Back and forth. I watched, and said nothing.

    Then he spoke. “Uh … does M come before N?”

    I encouraged him to see if he could figure it out. After a pause, I could see him mouthing the song, slowly: “A B C D E F G …”

    I wish this situation were unique to the individual, an example of an unfortunate developmental challenge perhaps. But as I have met his contemporaries, my concern about the commonness of his condition has grown.

    As you suggested, Citizen Tom, students today who are products of the current US educational system will need lots of luck to survive.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


    1. Thanks for sharing that story.

      My wife and I are hardly wealthy, but we made a concerted effort to send our children to private schools. That worked out.

      We now have a few grandchildren through one of my daughters. She is homeschooling. So it is that just this afternoon, when my wife and I were visiting, I had the pleasure of drilling my six year old granddaughter on the fine art of addition and subtraction with flash cards. She did well, and there is no reason the same teaching method would not have worked for that young man. As it is, he still needs such drilling, but now it has become remedial education.

      BTW, my grand daughter also knows how to read. She loves to read because her parents and grand parents enjoyed reading to her.

      That’s the scary thing about our lousy government-run education system. Because that young man has been so poorly taught, it will take an enormous effort to make certain that any children he has do not remain also ignorant.

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