Monday, May 19, 2014
Not too awful many years ago I had occasion to be speaking with a young engineering student who was asking about some of the fun projects we work on at our place. I first had to correct him. None of our projects are fun, because they're work, and work isn't supposed to be fun... the reason some of us refer to "going off to the salt mines" or "keeping our nose to the grindstone" concerning the subject of gainful employment. If memory serves correctly, the discussion was instigated by a question about Faraday shields, or something similar, and we got off on several different types of component and equipment reliability testing.
The most comical part of the discussion was when a professor walked by, stopped, and after listening for a couple of minutes asked "You get to break stuff?".

I was reminded of that incident the other day when, while having coffee with friends at one of those YuppieJoints, I went to get a refill and walked by some folks, at least one of whom was obviously in a courtroom recently, and couldn't help but overhear his comment about a young woman, standing tall in front of a judge, who had to admit she could neither read nor write. 28 years old, 5 kids, unemployed, and she couldn't even read or write her name.

How sad is that?  But from whence does it come?

Some will tolerate, even celebrate, a jock-strapper swapping spit with his gay caballero squeeze on prime time television. That's offensive when it's a man and a woman, even if she's pretty. Who celebrates the young man, perhaps a mediocre swimmer or water polo player, who's a member of the National Honor Society... and happens to like girls?

We celebrate a bastard child, look that one up in Funk and Wagnalls, even though the BabyMomma can't identify the BabyDaddy and is totally dependent upon others for her support. Who celebrates the woman who decides, rightly, that staying home to raise the children she and her husband have brought into this world is a more noble endeavor than going off to work for a paycheck, even if it means a lower standard of living for the family? How insulting is the question "Oh, so you don't work?" aimed at such a noble woman, or man if the lady can earn more.

We celebrate mediocrity, excuse non-thinking behavior. Who celebrates the farmer who can fix anything but a broken heart because it's either too expensive or takes too long to have someone come out to repair his equipment? Who celebrates those who raise the food most of us depend upon for nourishment?

Fast food's easy to grab-and-go on the run. It's easy to forgive, and should be, an unfortunate young lady's confusion when some wiseacre comes into her drive-thru asking "May I have 4 McDoubleCheeseBurgers, plain, and a large McCoffee, one sugar? Granulated, not lipulated, on that sugar please." Is there any excuse for another young person who receives $11.32 for a $6.32 tab and has trouble understanding the customer wants a 5-spot back instead of a bunch of change?

Not to pick on fast food workers, most of whom I have a great deal of respect for even though some are demanding "living wages" for bringing no or low skills to the party, because all work is honorable work. When I hear of "living wage" demands I'm reminded of an incident when a young guy got confused by a customer handing him the odd change for an order after he'd already rung it up. The customer had to explain to the cashier what his change should be as a result. The scowl on the customer's face apparently elicited "Come on, man, gimme a break. I've been in college all day." To which the customer, dressed in bluejeans and a scuzzy t-shirt, responded "You don't even want to know what I've been doing the past 48 hours with no sleep." You see, I happened to know a little about that mid-50s, at the time, high school drop-out who went on to serve in the military, get a GED, take a couple years of college courses by both correspondence and classroom work while on active duty, then go on to become one of those super cool engineer creatures using that free GI Bill money while working 50+ hours a week at a real job. He wasn't the guy to be whining to about being exhausted from sitting in a classroom.

I'm no fan of any Chamber of Commerce. They've never done any of my companies any favors, even when we paid big bucks to be members. But aren't they oh so cool when their President, the Big MahMoo at the national level, stands up, as they have for at least 20 years, and says our nation, the greatest nation to ever grace the face of Planet Terra, needs to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Are you kidding me? We have, as of the April 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics (government) figures, 92,594,000 legal American citizens unemployed (that's, like, 92.594 Million unemployed), reported by CBS News out of Washington, D.C. At 62.8%, the lowest figure since 1978 for those of us who can remember, labor participation, those who can work and are, this means 47.2% of those who can work aren't. And the Chamber of Commerce wants amnesty for millions of illegal aliens? More mouths to burden an already over-loaded system one might suppose... and cheap labor for those who don't want to pay for qualified workers.

With an uneducated or under-educated populace it's easy to make those felgercarb laden statements without fear of challenge, isn't it. With such a populace it's easy to cook the numbers and tell us the unemployment rate is a mere 6.3%... if they leave out the fact some minority populations have rates as high as 70%. Sad, too, is in those communities where unemployment is highest it's considered too "white" to get good grades in school, that ignorance and failure to study, to succeed, are celebrated, isn't it.

At the same time an un/under-educated populace can be sold a bill of goods that because the stock market is doing well our economy is generally doing well. If the rest of our economy was receiving a trillion dollar annual infusion of cash, one might suppose everyone would be doing well too. That's $3,333.33 dollars for every man, woman, and child in these United States of America every year. More of our money government, our "leaders," including those my second favorite politician of all time used to call those republican weenies, is wasting. More felgercarb.

Is this any worse than an elected official complaining about the potential for a family member not being able to vote for lack of proper photo ID? And does he meet proper residency requirements to vote? If someone's too confused to understand how to obtain proper ID, would it be difficult to imagine that person having difficulty determining who's the more qualified candidate?

It's sad, too, so many academically gifted children are belittled, marginalized, and called names for being a little different, isn't it. I'm reminded of a 4th grade little girl who was tested to qualify for advancement into an academically gifted program at school. She called her father that afternoon and told him "Daddy, I only missed the AG (Academically Gifted) cutoff by one question." A few days later Daddeo was at school and mentioned the phone call to her teacher, who seemed surprised, telling him the tests were scored outside the system and they wouldn't know the results for several weeks. Later, when the results were back, sure enough... that little girl had missed the cutoff by only one question. She was afraid of being called a geek.

We'll accept, tolerate, perhaps even celebrate mediocrity and failure, then turn right around and besmirch excellence, goodness, and success, won't we.

Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput (pronounced Chap-you, no kin) is quite a guy. In his 3 February 2012 blog post, A Thread for Weaving Joy, he writes; "My point is this: Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God."

Although his subject was evil, what's the difference between his commentary and what we see happening every day in our current education system... and our society? How can mediocrity survive when there are examples of excellence to compare with? How can failure be the norm when we have example after horrible example of individuals and groups who succeed?

Toys... we must always remember; the bigger the boys, the more expensive their toys.

Imagine a little boy, 3 or 4 years old, running to grab a puppy and hug it, the look on his face. That was exactly the look that college professor had on his face at the thought of being able to break stuff. Imagine another boy, the owner of that puppy, smugly stating "It gets better than that. We design and build equipment we use to break that other stuff."

The bigger the boys, the more expensive their toys... without an education how does any boy, or girl, know how to reach for those toys?

But We the Peeps... before all the screaming's done, we will prevail...

Royce Burrage, Jr.

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