Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Holiday Ramblings

The Fourth of July always makes me recall one of my favorite stories concerning the failure of public education.

On the Fourth of July in 1979, I was managing a Taco Bell in Tampa, Florida. Looking at the schedule and our projected sales, I realized that I had one more person working than I needed. So I decided that I would let someone take the day off. Just to make it interesting, I decided to give the day off to the first person who could tell me why we celebrate July 4.

I first asked the three people who were the opening crew at 8:00 A.M. Strike one! None of them knew. So when the 9:30 person showed up, I asked him. His response was "That was the day we fired the first shot on Fort Sumter." Strike two! Not correct of course, but I almost let him go anyway. I decided to hold out for the correct answer. The 10:30 person arrived with nothing more than a blank expression when questioned. Strike three! With only one more person to go, I was getting pretty desperate. I couldn't believe that five reasonably bright high school and college students couldn't answer this question. Maybe I should have asked an easier question. Maybe they could have handled something like " What date do we celebrate the Fourth of July?" Finally at 11:00, we had a winner. Paul, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, had actually heard of the Declaration of Independence. Further questioning revealed that he had no ideas about the words or the author, but at least he knew the concept. It was a good thing that Paul was the winner. Not wanting to get his uniform shirt dirty, he had carried it instead of wearing it. Bad news for Paul! He had dragged his shirt through the freshly paved road out front. His uniform shirt was covered with road tar. HEY!! He might have been a dork, but at least he knew about the Declaration of Independence.



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