I've been blogging for almost

by francine Hardaway on August 18, 2004

I’ve been blogging for almost three years. Before that, I had my email list (which still exists). Although I use Blogger, I also post to Blogit, Always On, and anywhere else that will have me. I’ve come to the conclusion that writing is one of those old paradigm skills that has made it into the 21st century without losing its relevance. It’s still good to know how to write. Writers have a certain modicum of power, even though they are the lowest paid people in Hollywood.

It is also still good to know how to read. I’ve always felt I could learn to do anything by reading: I taught myself to sew from magazine articles, and how to cook from Julia Child’s cookbooks. I have also taught myself to plumb and wire from books, and now I’m learning about driveways. Along the way, I’ve learned about Buddhism, chaos theory, and nutrition. Reading is power. That’s why adults take literacy classes.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m working my way through the traditional 3 “Rs” here to ascertain whether they are all still relevant. The need for reading and writing have always seemed obvious to me, but until recently I thought ‘rithmatic (yes, it’s the third “R”) had been replaced by the calculator and the computer. When all the debates about letting kids use calculators in school came about, I sided with the “let them eat calculators” folks. And when touch screen software programs replaced the need to make change in retail stores I applauded. I laughed when Fran Lebowitz said algrebra does not exist in adult life.

But I am wrong. Early math skills are as important as the others. And that’s because the third “R” is actually Reasoning.

This year I bought my foster daughter a new car. (Remember, she dropped out of school after 8th grade, and paid no attention after 3rd grade when her family fell apart.) In the first two months, she put 4000 miles on it, and I hit the roof. I explained to her that the car had a 10-year or 100 thousand mile warranty, and that at the rate she was going, she was going to drive 24,000 miles in the first year and not have a warranty by the end of year 4. I thought she understood.

A month or so later, I drove her car and discovered she had 7500 miles on it. Now she was on track for 30,000 miles a year! I hit the roof again. (My head hurts from all this hitting of the roof). Then I sat her down and tried to talk to her about it. I know she doesn’t know her multiplication tables, but I had never really thought through the consequences of that –outside of causing her to fail the GED exam.

When we started to talk I realized she had no way to extrapolate from the mileage currently on the car to the mileage that would be on it in the future, because she had never been taught the thought process of multiplying. This horrified me, because her incapacity to multiply and divide, and her inability to grasp the concepts behind those activities, will cost her both dollars and misery in later life.

No calculator or computer can replace the need to reason mathematically. Sorry it took me so long to get here (where every primary grade teacher has been forever), but I’ve been distracted for the past thirty years by the march of technology. For a while there, I guess I forgot about real life.

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