Posted on August 17, 2007
Have you ever tried to check out in a grocery store or fast food restaurant when the computers malfunctioned and wouldn’t tell the clerk how much change to give? I had this happen twice in the past week and the results might have been comical except for the fact that they speak volumes about what children are being taught in school today. One incident occurred at the grocery store near my home and the other at a fast food restaurant across town.
I felt sorry for the young lady in the grocery story when after scanning my few items, which came to a total of $23.47, the computer hung up without telling her how much change to give me from the two twenties I handed her. She pressed a button next to the register to summon a supervisor and shortly thereafter a young man that appeared to be in his mid twenties came over to help. The two of them discussed the problem, but couldn’t seem to get the register to work. I told them I was in a hurry and asked if they could just give me my change and work on the register after I was gone.
This is where things got comical. When the young lady asked the supervisor how much change to give me, he told her to wait a minute and he ran over to the office to get a calculator. When he returned, it took him three tries to come up with $16.53 as my change. At this point, I asked if they would allow me to show them a simple way to make change if the problem came up again. What I showed them, I think I learned in elementary school, but evidently it isn’t being taught today.
I explained that I had given the clerk $40.00 so I should get back a total of $40.00 in merchandise and money. Since my items came to $23.47, I took the change they had computed using the calculator and showed them how the three pennies made the total $23.50, then the two quarters brought it to $24.00, the one dollar bill made it $25.00, the five dollar bill added up to $30.00 and the ten dollar bill brought the total of merchandise and money to $40.00, which is what I had given the clerk.
“Wow, that’s neat,” the supervisor said.
“Yeah,” said the clerk, “That’s really a simple way of doing it. Where’d you learn to do that?”
“I think I learned it in elementary school about fifty years ago,” I replied. “Did your teachers not teach you how to do that?” Both said they had never seen anyone figure change that way; that all they were taught was how to use the calculator.
A similar incident occurred the next day when I stopped by a fast food restaurant to grab a quick lunch. The computers were down when I arrived and customers were being served by two cashiers using pocket calculators to make change. My order came to $5.61 and I gave the cashier a $10.00 bill. He punched some numbers into his calculator and then handed me $5.39 in change. When I told him he had given me a dollar too much, he punched it into his calculator again, took a look and thanked me for catching the error.
I did the same thing I had done at the grocery store and asked if I could show him a quicker, and probably more accurate, way to make change. He watched as I showed him how to start with the amount of the purchase and then add money to it to make up the total amount I had given him. Like the store clerk and her supervisor, he had never seen anyone make change that way and was fascinated by it. When I took my food over to a nearby table and sat down to eat, I noticed he was making change for others the way I had showed him. The strangest part of this incident was when his supervisor saw what was going on she made him stop and told him to use the calculator so he wouldn’t make mistakes. I just chuckled and kept eating.
We’ve all had occurrences like these with young people unable to function without help from the computer, but the fact that I experienced two of them on back to back days got me thinking. Just what are our children learning in school? I’ve written and spoken numerous times about the importance of teaching the basic fundamentals of budgeting, money management and the proper use of credit; things that everyone needs to know whether they’re blue collar workers or top executives.
How long are we going to sit back and tolerate an educational system that isn’t teaching the basic fundamentals we all need to become productive members of society? Failing to stress consumer economics has turned our youth into easy prey for unscrupulous credit vendors. The easy credit they offer, coupled with exorbitant late fees and usurious interest rates is robbing many people their financial futures. How much longer are we going to allow this tragedy to continue, when proper education is the solution?
Here’s a tip! In America, we have a history of rising up against abuse and injustice and demanding change. It’s time to get angry and vent our frustration over this failure of our educational system. Students are being taught to pass tests upon which teachers are graded for pay raises. That’s wrong! The No Child Left Behind Act has become The Every Child Left Behind Act. Pick up the phone today and call your elected officials to discuss the problem. Call your school superintendents and demand better. Otherwise, it may be your child or grandchild that gets left behind.
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