Welcome to Liberrants, a blog dedicated to editorials, discussions, and studies of all things libertarian. Don't let the title mislead you; it's merely my attempt to be creative in describing myself as a "hopeful curmudgeon" who embraces the goal of the free, peaceful, economically vibrant society envisioned by America's founding fathers. Jump in! Contribute! Enjoy!

My Photo
Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States

A critically thinking curmudgeon whose goal, in addition to creatively venting about the imperfect world in which we live, is to induce critical thinking in others. The ultimate goal is to help bring about a peaceful world in which we can all live in freedom.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pathetic (But a Sign of Times to Come)

I had always thought that such claims were overstated, though given what I see around me every day I don’t know why. It is impossible, I always believed, for anyone who has sat through twelve years of formal classroom instruction to have learned so transparently little. The basics, the bare rudiments, simply have to have been picked up at some point, if only through osmosis.

I was wrong. Some, perhaps many more than I expected, learn absolutely nothing in twelve years of public school education that will ensure their survival in the real world. I met one such tragic young victim yesterday afternoon.

It happened when I stopped by a local gas station/convenience store down the road that is also home to an A&W fast food outlet. It was late in the afternoon, I had just picked up my grandson from school, and didn’t feel in the mood to cook anything for dinner. So, I decided to pick up some bacon double cheeseburgers for the wife, the kidlet, and me to nosh on while we watched the NLCS playoff game. I was greeted at the counter by a young lady of no more than eighteen, your stereotypical white suburban high school student. She took my order, which came to a total of $16.18. Needing to simplify the holdings of my wallet and unload some burdensome change, I promptly gave her $21.18 consisting of a twenty, a one, and change of a dime, a nickel, and three pennies. Expecting a five in return, I was instead greeted by a blank, confused stare.

"I can never figure out how this works when you guys do this,” came the plaintive reply.

“HUHHHH?” I wanted to exclaim. “COME AGAIN? What is it about this exercise in elementary arithmetic that you should have mastered, cold, in the third grade that you don’t understand?”

Quickly gathering my composure and realizing that this poor creature needed help and encouragement, not ridicule, I explained that the point was to receive change of an even, easily measurable amount, preferably in paper money. Using a simpler example, I said that if the total of my order had come to, say, $2.38 I might have given her three one dollar bills, in which case I would have received sixty-two cents back in change (or so I would hoped, assuming this wretched girl could count it out properly). However, because I did not want to be burdened with additional change, I might have instead decided to give her $5.38, consisting of a fiver, three dimes, a nickel, and three pennies. Simply subtracting the amount owed from the amount given would yield $3.00, meaning that I would be given three one-dollar bills in change and at the same time would have relieved myself of bulky coinage while providing the cashier’s till with desperately needed change. Simple, right?

Apparently not. The young lady returned the same confused look, clearly not understanding why anyone would undergo what in her underdeveloped intellect was an exercise in quantum abstraction. At this point I gave up, although I did convince her that I was not sticking my hands illegally into the till by having her give me a fiver in change from the original transaction. I wondered how many other customers she had interacted with who were both less honest and less patient and courteous with her as she fumbled her way through a simple transaction.

Dear readers, are your children like this poor, unfortunate young lady? Is this what you want to subject your children to by sending them to the State’s regimented enstupidation factories paid for by your stolen tax dollars? Can you look yourself in the mirror in the morning and say that you love your children and have their best interests and their future at heart when you allow them to become dumbed down by an institution wholly unconcerned with their education, but fixated totally on turning them into mindless, compliant State-worshipping robots? Worse still, are you not guilty of NEGLECT by allowing this to happen? Have you completely abdicated your responsibility for your children’s education by dumping the burden for their intellectual development into the lap of the State? If so, I feel no compunction in telling you that your children’s failure to develop intellectually is your fault, and your fault alone. What must be done to further prove to you that a public school education will destroy your children’s desire to learn, will wring from them the ability to think critically, will alienate them from the essential nurturing that comes from the family, and will poison their minds against the very values you instill in them at home? Have the last four decades of proven failure of America’s public schools not registered with you at all? What more must be done to drive the point home?

I genuinely suspect that for most parents the answer, though they will never admit it even to themselves, is that they simply do not consider their children’s education to be their number one priority. Oh, sure, they’ll pay lip service to the idea that their children’s education is the most important family goal and will attempt to convince themselves that nothing is too good for their little precious darlings. However, when the heat hits the pavement they simply are not prepared to sacrifice what must be sacrificed in order to ensure that their children are given the best opportunity possible to learn. I do not mean to imply that these parents must sacrifice big money in order to provide little Johnny with a premiere private school education, although this is often the most desirable option. What I mean by “sacrifice” is parents giving of their time and energy to ensure that, no matter where their children go to school, they are receiving an education in what they will need to survive in the real world, be this a combination of “the three ‘R’s” and certain core values practiced at home, or advanced subjects in which they are interested and for which they aspire to study in greater detail. How many of you parents spend quality time helping your children with homework, or answering their questions about subjects they’re studying that you might have at least a rudimentary knowledge of, or, most important of all, seriously probing your children about what they learned that day, what their teachers talked about in class, and how they interact with their classmates?

For all too many parents, their childrens’ education is a “fire and forget” process. It is one that involves nothing more than shoving the kids off to school in the morning and, assuming that Mom and/or Dad aren’t working 15-hour-plus days in order to enjoy the lives of yuppie suburbanites, picking them up at school in the afternoon and then leaving them free to do whatever they please. More often than not Mom and Dad don’t even drop off or pick up Johnny and his siblings, instead letting state-controlled yellow convict transports deliver them to and from school. They also provide the kids with a key to let themselves into and out of the house in the afternoon, since nobody is likely to be at home. Mom and Dad then just hope and pray that Johnny and siblings pick up at least a few tidbits of what passes for knowledge (again, mostly through osmosis) during the course of the day. After all, if the schools can’t force knowledge down the kids’ throats, then the schools aren’t doing their jobs and, damn it, that’s what tax dollars are supposed to pay for.

That’s probably what the young A&W worker’s parents thought too. Let’s hope she learns a lesson from her experiences with change making and looks for answers that will help her avoid future embarrassment. I sincerely hope and pray that she won’t look to the source of her failure for the fix.