In the past five days I have experienced something I find alarming.

First, I heard a story of a gentleman who ordered a half-dozen chicken nuggets at a Neosho fast-food restaurant. The clerk said to him, “We don’t have that. We have six pieces, 10 pieces, etc.”

Three adults in line looked at each other and the gentleman said, “Fine, I’ll take six pieces.”

A day later I ordered 4 of something that was 75 cents each. Being handed the four items I asked, “How much will that be?”

The clerk put her hands on the desk and began arranging her fingers and said, “Two dollars and twenty five cents.”

“No it isn’t,” I replied.

I told her to give me a piece of scrap paper and I wrote down the problem as .75 X 4. I multiplied the five times four, placed the zero and carried the two.

“Now how much is four times seven?”

Not a clue! Young person had not learned the multiplication tables.

Today I went to a drive-thru and ordered two large salads and was told it would be fourteen dollars. When I drove up to the window, I said,  “If I give you a twenty, How much will I get in return?”

The clerk started to push the cash register key and I said, “No, figure it out yourself.”

Clerk said, “I will have to use my fingers,” and she did and came up with “SEVEN.”

I said that is not correct so she pushed the button and the cash-to-return answered “six.”

If a bond issue for schools was on the ballot this day, I for the first time ever would vote NO! We already have school 4 and a half days a week and there is talk of only four days if budgets get tight.

I had said to the last clerk, “I guess you go to Neosho High School” and the reply was “I am not in school now.” MY reply was, “Maybe you should think about going back.”

I know that in Shawnee Mission Indian Creek elementary schools they had stopped requiring multiplication tables in the 1980’s. That was a jolt. The teacher told me the kids had calculators. Now all clerks have calculators in their ordering screens and cash registers. And some fast-food shops have all that out on the floor and a whole transaction can happen without a person.

I for one object to machines replacing people’s jobs. But I also object to people not being educated in the most simple of mathematics: multiplication tables. I think texting has replaced spelling. Could it be that school can be cut back in days because there is nothing to teach? Cursive writing was cut out but enough hue and cry went up that it is now reinstated.

Perhaps if some of us from the “old school” would ask clerks to verbally give us their answers, perhaps another hue and cry would go up if we learn the information is not at the ready.

Realizing that research is showing the USA ranks 26th in the world with student scores, a TIME INC researcher set out to find out how that could happen. She interviewed American students who had studied abroad. She wanted to know in what ways were the foreign systems different from here at home.

The interview showed three points basic to all responses:

1. The foreign students knew their futures depended on their school work and they took it seriously.

2. The parents knew their child’s school work depended on their future and they took it seriously.

3. The students and parents saw sports as a hobby and NOT a possible career.

What are you asking your children and grandchildren?

Heaven help us all if the electric grid goes down and we have to deal with each other, read a recipe, raise a garden, or write a letter to the editor.

(Sycamore Smith lives in Neosho.)


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