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! I’ll never be able to do all that stuff!

Legislature:: OK, we’ll give you five years to meet the standards we agreed on.

Johnny: (Eyes glued to TV, he says nothing.)

Legislature: OK Johnny, it’s been four years. Let’s see how you’re doing on reading, writing, math and science.

Johnny: Waaa! I’m not ready for any of them right now, and I doubt I’ll ever figure out math and science.

Legislature: But if you don’t pass them all, you won’t graduate from high school which means you won’t be able to compete in the global marketplace.

Johnny: Right, and I’ll have to live at home forever.

Legislature: We don’t appreciate threats, Johnny, but we’ll 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! We’re quite hopeful that next time you’ll pass, especially because we’ve fixed the test a little bit.

Johnny: I might actually try this time. Gosh, I’ve 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: That’s the attitude! You’ve 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: I’m on the same level in math and science as students in South Korea and Iceland, only I’m 25 years older than they are.

Legislature: You mean you have the math and science skills of an educated five-year-old?

Johnny: They’re testing the wrong thing! I know my numbers. Ask me what’s on any of our 157 channels any time of the day, and I’ll tell you. Ask me the top 10 worldwide scores in any of the top 50 video games and I’ll tell you. Geometry and algebra are so old fashioned.

Legislature: Very well, we’ve been at this for many years now, and still you’re 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 don’t know math and science by 2012, you’ll be grounded forever!

Johnny (turning toward computer screen): If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you’ll always change the rules before watching me fail. In 2012, it will be no different.

Legislature: Maybe we’ve been a bit lenient, but we’ve got one last threat, and this time we really mean it. If you don’t pass math and science by the time you retire, no Social Security checks!

Johnny: There won’t be any Social Security by then, anyway.

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