Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dumbing Down America

I was dismayed twice last week, filling me with questions about our nation’s education system. Here’s the scenario.
I’m in line at a large craft store, waiting to check out. There is a woman in front of me, trying to pay for her merchandise. One item was 40% off the retail price of $11.75. The cashier is looking through several sheets, on which is printed prices, discounts, and resulting sale prices. She can’t find this particular combination of $11.75 and 40% off. The woman trying to check out asks if there is some problem. “No”, says the sales girl, as she turns to another cashier, asking for a calculator. She is handed a calculator and begins fumbling with it. After a minute or say, with no visible progress, the woman asks if she can help. The sales girl gives up and says, “I don’t know how to do it.” “It” in this instance is taking a 40% discount off the $11.75 price. Huh, I think to myself? She cannot discount, using a calculator that would require her to multiply 11.75 times 0.6 to arrive at the new sale price (she could have done it the hard way also by taking the 40% off the price and then subtracting that from the retail price). Outside, I spoke with the woman who had checked out. She was as stunned as me. “Wouldn’t you imagine that they might have checked her basic math ability before hiring her?” Yeah, you’d think, huh?
By the way, this math problem could be solved by most competent fourth graders.
So, then, the next day, I am filling up the gas tank in my car, when a young woman walks up and says that as a thank you, she is going to clean my wind screen. Nice, I think. So, she is trying to engage me in conversation. “So, are you doing anything fun today” she says.
“Why yes” I say, “ my wife and I are going to the symphony tonight.”
Blank look.
She says, “What’s that?”
Not understanding the cause of question, I say again, “We’re going to the symphony in Charlotte.”
“What’s that” she says again.
“You know, a musical performance by a symphony orchestra?”
Evincing no clue, she says, “So, have you been before?”
“Why yes, we subscribe for the season.”
“Oh, well that’s why you’re going again.”
So, I’m thinking, this 25 year-old non-Hispanic, Caucasian woman has never heard of the term, “the symphony.”
Wow! And we think we can resolve the unemployment rate, with candidates like these?
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