Friday, August 9, 2013

The Basics Must Be Taught and Learned in School and At Home

During this week, my wife and I shared similar experiences when making a purchase in two different parts of the country and with two different types of retailers. One was with an outdoor frozen dessert stand and the other at a major electronics retailer. One in Virginia and the other in New Jersey. Both purchases were serviced by someone late in their teen years such as eighteen or nineteen or very early twenties.

My wife purchased an Italian Ice which cost $4.42. She gave the young man $10.02 with the expectation of receiving an even amount of change of $5.60. He was clueless as to how to make the change when given the two pennies extra. He could not figure out the math or what my wife was attempting to do. She literally had to walk him through the process and she was still unsure when she walked away if he understood the concept. This was Tuesday, August 6th in Virginia.

Fast forward to today, August 9th in New Jersey, where I had a similar experience in a major electronics retailer where I purchased the DVD "42" the story of Jackie Robinson.  The cost of the DVD was $19.99. I gave the young lady $20.00. She mistakenly rang up on the cash register the $20.00 and it read back to her that $1.40 was due (the sales tax).  I gave her the additional $2.00 and she was clueless as to how much change I was to receive back because she had already entered the $20.00 and the cash register was not telling her how much change to return to me.  I explained to her in multiple ways that with the addition of the $2.00, she now had a total of $22.00 from me to cover the total purchase price of $21.39. She could not perform the mental math in her head to figure out that she owed me $.61 cents. She was baffled even when I explained to her the concept in various ways.

Now folks, this is ridiculous. In a recent post I was lambasted because of my expectation for someone to be able to read cursive writing. I was told (even though I know it as an educator) by multiple people that cursive writing is not taught in school. My response was, "It should be and that it was another basic skill  that we have lost." Well folks the art of simple arithmetic and reading is also lost because of the reliance on calculators, purchased educational programs and computers. It's one thing to be able to use these tools once you know how to calculate or read manually; it is totally another thing to not be able to calculate because you have only performed calculations on the computer, calculator or cash register. In both instances, these young people had no idea as to how to figure out the difference between the total amount they were given and the change that was to be given back.

Multiplication tables, blends, phonics, penmanship, cursive writing, etc. etc. etc. have fallen by the wayside to program upon program sold by educational vendors to school districts across the country and in the meantime the skills of our youth are getting weaker and weaker. We must teach the basics and the basics must be learned. They must be taught both in school and at home.

I can remember sitting at the kitchen table and crying while trying to learn/remember my four times tables and my father saying to me that he did not care how much I cried, I was going to learn my times tables, and you know what?  I did. To this day I can calculate and I remember my times tables at least through the twelve times tables. Our children cannot perform basic tasks because they have not been taught or have not learned the skills that are the foundation for using tools such as calculators, computers, the Internet, etc. etc.

As an educator, these two experiences really have me wondering what are we doing? In both instances, these young people are someone's employees............... Something to critically think about. I invite your commentary in the comment section of the blog as well as invite you to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

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