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Editor's Column: Johnny versus math and science
What if the Washington State Legislature were a parent? We can only imagine.
Legislature: Johnny, we told you no TV until you perform adequately in reading, writing, math and science.
Johnny: Waaa! Ill never be able to do all that stuff!
Legislature:: OK, well give you five years to meet the standards we agreed on.
Johnny: (Eyes glued to TV, he says nothing.)
Legislature: OK Johnny, its been four years. Lets see how youre doing on reading, writing, math and science.
Johnny: Waaa! Im not ready for any of them right now, and I doubt Ill ever figure out math and science.
Legislature: But if you dont pass them all, you wont graduate from high school which means you wont be able to compete in the global marketplace.
Johnny: Right, and Ill have to live at home forever.
Legislature: We dont appreciate threats, Johnny, but well give you a break. You get half a dozen chances to pass reading and writing, and two more years until you have to worry about math and science.
Johnny: (Hands affixed firmly to joystick, he says nothing.)
Legislature: Congratulations, Johnny! Since our last warning a year ago, you failed reading and writing five times, but your scores improved each time you failed! Were quite hopeful that next time youll pass, especially because weve fixed the test a little bit.
Johnny: I might actually try this time. Gosh, Ive been in high school for 12 years now, trying to pass all these tests. My friends are starting to get pot bellies and bald heads.
Legislature: Thats the attitude! Youve finally been infilled with the can-do spirit!
Johnny (one year later): Good news! I passed both reading and writing, several days before my 30th birthday. Great job, huh?
Legislature: We never doubted that your genius would blossom if given time. Outstanding work, Johnny. By the way, how did your practice tests in math and science turn out? Maybe you can graduate this year.
Johnny: Im on the same level in math and science as students in South Korea and Iceland, only Im 25 years older than they are.
Legislature: You mean you have the math and science skills of an educated five-year-old?
Johnny: Theyre testing the wrong thing! I know my numbers. Ask me whats on any of our 157 channels any time of the day, and Ill tell you. Ask me the top 10 worldwide scores in any of the top 50 video games and Ill tell you. Geometry and algebra are so old fashioned.
Legislature: Very well, weve been at this for many years now, and still youre far from meeting the standards. We have no choice but to give you five more years to meet your math and science goals. If you dont know math and science by 2012, youll be grounded forever!
Johnny (turning toward computer screen): If theres one thing Ive learned over the years, its that youll always change the rules before watching me fail. In 2012, it will be no different.
Legislature: Maybe weve been a bit lenient, but weve got one last threat, and this time we really mean it. If you dont pass math and science by the time you retire, no Social Security checks!
Johnny: There wont be any Social Security by then, anyway.