The idea for my own blog grew out of the realization that I frequently have late night ponderings that were being denied birth into this world of information and opinion. I was sure I would never lack for material…until I actually sat down to write. Somehow, this first ever blog post took on increased significance and I could feel the pressure to write something meaningful, even though my current audience of one (two, if I count myself!) feels that I am pretty meaningful already.
After considering and discarding several ideas, a tidbit from our local paper motivated me to action! But as usual, motherhood took precedence and in the ensuing two hour hiatus between inspiration and action, my only blog reader “adopted” my idea for his own!
But hey – it’s a big blog world out here. And since one of my goals for 2007 is to look more on the positive side of life’s little annoyances (for example – the upside to a sunroom carpet caked with mud and discarded muddy boots is that they DID remember to remove them before coming into the house!), I will make lemonade from this particular batch of lemons and THANK my blog predecessor for preserving me from the tedium of restating the situation. (Read his post here for background: http://staff.bbhcsd.org/schinkerj/archives/2007/01/03/bad-math-hits-home/)
My first reaction to this turnpike article was a dramatic eye roll and an “it figures” comment. Perhaps it comes from my background as high school newspaper editor, but I have a much lower opinion of our local paper that the other blogger. A few months ago, the paper joyfully announced that it was converting the local weekly into a semi-weekly (that’s twice a week, to save you the hassle of looking it up). In my eyes, it went from a “weakly” to a “weakly that should be run over by a semi,” but I digress…
Upon further consideration, I was truly horrified and saddened. The Verizon story was truly frightening to listen to at length, but at least it could be rationalized as an isolated incident. However, bad math is apparently like cockroaches: if you see one, there are many, many more hiding in the walls.
This brings me to Mr. Vaughn Leigh – high school math teacher extraordinaire from the late 1980′s. In high school, I did not like math and I did not like Mr. Leigh for a long while, either. He was a true rebel, instantly evident from the biker jackets, full sized cardboard cut-out of Elvira, and collection of withered apples with razor blades in them adorning his office (no kidding!). Bizarre though he may have been, he did teach me two things that I have never forgotten.
First, he taught me that math is like a toolbox; the more tools you put into it, the more versatile and useful it becomes. Translation: the more ways you know how to approach a problem, the greater your chance of solving it correctly and confidently. This is now referred to as “new math” at the public elementary school my kids attend so Mr. Leigh must have been decades ahead of his time.
Second, he impressed upon us all the critical importance of decimals. When we argued for partial credit because, “the number is right except for the decimal,” I distinctly remember him vowing to hunt us all down later in life and block our admission into any engineering school. He said that based on our demonstrable lack respect for the decimal point, any bridges we built would be catastrophic losses of human life waiting to happen.
When people you would assume to be at least moderately well educated – like a customer service supervisor or a regional newspaper editor – argue that .002 cents is the same thing as .002 dollars, or that .037 cents is the same as 37 cents, we are apparently dealing with some of President Bush’s kids that got left behind.
Perhaps the solution is to PAY these people .002 or .037 cents per hour, since they probably wouldn’t know the difference.