The other day my mother-in-law asked me if I could help her son with his Chemistry homework, as he is doing poorly in the class. He just turned 17. Tonight I went to help him. He is doing poorly enough that he doesn't even bother to take the book home. He had a few sheets of homework and most of them were filled out correctly --- just figuring out molarity. It all revolves around one equation. If you can do one, you can do them all. (Divide the grams of your solute by their molecular weight to get "moles" and then divide that by the amount of the solvent in liters. Boom. Molarity. If it's a solid, rather than a liquid, it's called "molality." Most of Chemistry is just a big science vocabulary test.)
It's always fun to do the homework when you already know how to do it. Like how you wish you can grab the pencil and fly through your kindergartener's homework packet. You know what all of the pictures will be before you've connected the dots.
I was thinking that it's funny that it's such a priority to teach this stuff to young kids when they could really care less and anyone who's moved beyond high school is abandoned. After high school, you have to make a special point of learning anything or knowing it's significance (and worse, you have to pay tuition and jump through those hoops if you want a document saying that you know it).
I picture a perfect society where a portion of the work week is dedicated just to maintaining basic math skills. Last week the bosses told us (in so many words) the company had checked out wages at similar jobs and decided to give us all a five percent raise (the turnover is already bad enough). Later I heard Shrek saying, "that's like a $.54 raise. It's like an extra $3000 a year."
I said, "Actually, if the raise comes off our base pay (which I'm sure it does), it's more like $.45."
Shrek freaked out. He went to his friend who had done the math for him. They were both so upset that they brought it up with our bosses in our nightly meeting. I really didn't have the heart to tell them it would be nowhere near $3000 a year and I didn't want to suffer through watching him attempt math to prove it.
I hate school but love learning. My goal is to never again be employed in a "Dilbert-esque" atmosphere. My goal is not to be employed with monkeys on heavy machinery. My goal is to actually redeem all those college credits and get a degree. I guess it all depends on when my kids can get by without a parent.
My biggest mistake was to go to college thinking I was doing it to make myself a better person and persue my interests. That is the worst thing you could ever do. Go to school with a WELL PAYING career in mind and don't stop until you're there. Forget your friends. Forget your family. Forget the outside world or life-experiences.
I had no guidance and now I pay the price. Here is what I was told by two advisors from two of the largest schools in Utah:
Advisor: "Why did you want to see me?"
Me: "Because I've been in school for three years and I've never spoken to an advisor."
Advisor: "That's not my fault."
That's the meat of the conversation. He gave me a schedule of classes I should take over the next year. When I went to register, half the classes were not offered.
The next time I talked to an advisor, I was married and had a toddler, I worked full time and went to school full time taking killer classes. I did fine the first semester but was nose-diving the following semester. I went to an advisor to see if he could help me.
Me: "I feel guilty about not spending time with my son. Work takes up all the time I need to study. What do you think?"
Advisor: "What kind of work do you do?"
Me: "Stopping internet fraud."
Advisor: "Well. Preventing internet fraud is important and I would imagine it's interesting... but is it more important than your education and your career plans?"
I was somewhat baffled at the question. I didn't know how many steps backward I needed to take to explain that I didn't work recreationally. I had what was known as "responsibilities." I wanted to tell him that I would pitch the idea of eating rats under a bridge for the next few years to my family so we could make my education our top priority. I already knew how my wife would feel about that scenario.
Is there such a thing as an advisor who understands the basic workings of our social structure and who doesn't just want to point fingers?
I'm going back to help my brother-in-law some more tomorrow. Maybe I can make Chemistry seem interesting and explain things in a way that is applicable to the world we live in.
Mostly I want a vacation. I haven't had one since we bought our house, unless you count the four days we spent driving to Cali and back when my grandpa died. They probably won't be impressed at work if the new guy asks for a week off.