Sunday, January 11, 2009

Time for a little truth on eliminating the working poor

Ladies and Gentlemen, for years now I've heard how we need to offer more programs on how to help the poor. Yet, not once have I ever heard the only way that actually helps. 

First, start to explain to children the secret of success. Hard work, and education. Learning enough to be able to communicate and read and comprehend the instructions give you by a superior. Education is meant to give our children the foundation of success, by laying the groundwork that they will build the future on. 

Truth learned from my own life. Like most teenagers, I found Math difficult, and even arguably useless. I did not know where my future lay, however I was certain I would not be an accountant, and thus Algebra was a waste of time. I was resistant, and even reluctant to offer more than the minimum effort in it. 

Some years later, I needed that Algebra, when as an Army Engineer, I found the truth of life, all things tend to tie into math. I loved blowing thins up, however I was always astounded in the amount of math that went into blowing things up. I had to calculate the time fuze burn rate. The explosive radius, or danger zone. The probable effects of the explosive. I had to plan the detonations using complicated mathematical models. How many charges, where they were placed, and how large they should be for example. I would wear out a scratch paper doing the math, which I still resented, so I could do what I wanted, blow things up. 

I got better at the math, eventually, reluctantly. Then I achieved higher rank, and the problems really began. My foundation in math was shaky to say the least, mostly self taught as well as lessons from my own superiors. Now, I needed Geometry to plan other things. I was expected to perform Trigonometry as well. This from a guy who in high school barely passed algebra because he was certain there would be no use for math, especially advanced math, anytime in the foreseeable future. 

Later I got out of the Army, and became a truck driver. So what could Math have to do with this? Oh not much. How much fuel will you need, and where can you get it at lower cost, and will getting it there, save you or cost you by leaving you empty in an area with higher cost? Then there are the calculations on how fast you can cover a distance, how many days you'll need to cover said distance, how many hours of driving, and how to balance the load in question. Federal Law requires you to have no more than 12,000 lbs on the front axle, and no more than 34,000 on the two sets of tandems. Turning radius, time work estimates, it's all mathematical in nature, and it's easy now, because I've been doing math most of my life despite my absolute certainty that there was no use for that math in my future.

I had to work much harder, to catch up, because I did not give myself the advantage of a solid foundation in math. I nearly doomed my own future, before it began, and would have, if not required to learn some math, up to Algebra in school. Without that, I never would have gotten where I am. 

I no longer drive trucks, but I still work in the transportation industry, and usually do the math in my head now, calculating the complex formulas to balance loads and cargo plans. I can glance at a sheet and get a rough understanding of the problem, and the probable solution, doing the math on the fly. Because despite my reluctance, I ended up learning, and needing math. 

Before you ask, yes I have notified my Math Teacher that I was wrong, and thanked him. I also thanked the Sergeants and Officers who taught me math later, re-enforcing a weak foundation and giving me a chance at success. 

Education, and hard work, get you closer to success than deserve. You may deserve a break, but no one is going to give you one, if you're lucky, as I was, you'll find a superior who has the time, and is willing to spend that time, teaching you what you should have already known. 

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