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by Jan Sand
2006-12-29 09:08:42
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The universe is replete with possibilities, both threatening and rewarding and anything alive has to carefully select which of those must be permitted to come to fruition or be relegated to oblivion.

Aside from the basics like breathing, digestion, and dodging traffic, we each have many skills at our behest and we spend our lifetimes acquiring new ones to prosper. I have an inherent knack (as do most people I know) to strip a banana down to its basic fibers and molecules and milk its energy to fire up the old machine but if anyone pressed me to relate exactly how I did it I would have to confess, like any other prodigy, that it was a gift too complex to divulge.

Like most of my contemporaries I learned to speak, to read, to eat with a fork, knife and spoon, to be discrete about human wastes, to be wary about the N, F, and X words (as in algebra, let X signal any appropriate unknown quantities) and be careful with my hands near attractive women.

Although I could manage with a sewing machine, electric drill, kitchen machine, Volkswagen Microbus, Piper Cub (both land and sea), tricycle, bicycle, roller skates, electric shaver, enema, nail clipper, word processor, toothpick, dustpan, washing machine and dryer, steam iron, camera (digital and film), Photoshop, stove and oven, flyswatter, my expertise on any surgery on the CNS or lower organs is purely theoretical. And my manipulations with cyclotrons, calutrons, linear accelerators and electron microscopes are in the realm of the total klutz. Also, as a caution, I don’t feel quite confident about a space shuttle whatever cross-country experience I might have tucked away on light aircraft. Someday, when time permits, I may try my hand at knitting.

It seems to me that grammar school is deficient in some vital instructions. Although I was aware early on that all those ads in the newspapers and TV were pure lies done by skilled professionals, no instructor inculcated me in how to formulate a really good fabrication, a skill that every successful businessman uses almost continuously.

At school the old chestnut that the dog ate my homework never functioned properly and when I cleverly claimed that my senile grandfather ate my homework I was sent down to the principle for discipline. None of my comic book experience in hypnosis had the slightest effect on the principal who suggested to my parents that perhaps an eye should be kept on my behavior. I know that tickling frogs on the stomach puts them in a trance as does holding a chicken’s beak to a chalk line but these techniques seemed oddly out of place with the principal. So when I tried a big-eyed stare he took it as a sign of abject fear and gently nudged me into the hallway back to my classroom with a gentle warning.

Although civics was taught in my day, the mere general outlines of government divisions and their theoretical functions were specified leaving out all those wonderful devious relationships that politicians develop with lobbyists that makes politics a monetarily rewarding occupation. And of course, since power corrupts, my schoolteachers never clued me in on how to get powerful enough to get corrupted. They left me adrift with truth, honesty, trust, integrity and all those other personal disabilities that afflict many average citizens and head them for poorly paying jobs and financial ruin in the long run.

Another huge black hole (no pun intended) neglected was frank discussions of sex. Back in the days before computers, neotechnic times, pornography was not only generally unavailable, it was considered somehow distasteful. Nowadays, of course, it is one of the major financially rewarding industries rivaling automobile manufacture (which, in the USA at least, seems to be sliding into oblivion).

Although a few odd individuals have the unhealthy concept that sex should not be one of the major rewarding amusements of society this idea is obviously quite ignored in most more rational quarters. A good many kids in my day seemed unaware, due to lack of proper schooling, of some of the more interesting capabilities of their own body parts. A practical workshop in these areas would surely have been welcomed with enthusiasm and could have been spectacularly edifying.

In the matter of finance, my schooling gave me no hints whatsoever as to how one moved, in a relatively short period of intense concentration, from existing as a poor working slob to a billionaire financial manipulator. Lottery tickets are, obviously, pretty much of a scam but investing in volatile financial instruments that are manipulated by a select “in” group is not much better. Nigerian offers on the web also seem rather off the page and in not too different a category. Getting to be a made man in the Mafia, insofar as the movies tell me, is rather difficult, sometimes brutal, work and has rather poor general social acceptance and, at end, does not reward as well as Wall Street or the California tech industries in Silicon Valley.

Other general lacks in average schooling lie in bungee jumping, surfing, deep sea treasure hunting, creativity in general, arguing with bill collectors and landlords, operating in a space suit, and being generally kind to the animals that are not slated to be chopped up for dinner.

The No Child Left Behind Program in the USA, in concentrating on math and reading, shows severe lacks in these vital areas.

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