Editorial: Back to the basics

Sometimes I am left just shaking my head after an encounter that should have gone seamlessly — but didn’t. I had one of these moments recently. I went to a concession stand with my family. After we ordered, a young boy working at the stand gave us our food. Then, came the tricky part — making change.

Our total was $6. I handed him a $20 bill. He was young — maybe about 11 — and I don’t really blame him for what followed. In fact, I actually think he would have figured it out, but wasn’t given the chance by the adult who stepped in to help him.

He first gave me $6 — the amount of my purchase. I politely explained that my change should be $14. As I was explaining this, a woman stepped in to help. I figured this would make the situation easier and that she would take the opportunity to teach him. What she taught him was to rely on a calculator — or maybe not.

She quickly figured my change for him using the calculator. She told him I needed $16. Last time I checked, 20 minus six equaled 14 — not 16. I politely confirmed that the total cost was $6 and that I gave him $20, so my change should be $14. She recalculated the change on the calculator and then gave me $10. This lesson was not teaching the boy anything other than that calculators apparently can’t do basic math or calculator operators can’t type in correct numbers.

At that point, everyone was really confused. A college-age girl stepped in and handed me the correct change. I felt bad for the boy, as I really think he would have figured it out, except that the woman just stepped in and confused him so much that he was flustered.

I am terrible at math. Numbers in general overwhelm me, and I always want someone to check my work. But, I can count change back. Making change is an important basic skill that should be taught — and retaught — when opportunities arise.

This encounter made me realize once again that we as a society sometimes rely too heavily on technology. While technology as simple as a calculator should make things easier, it sometimes makes it so easy that we confuse ourselves!

It got me to thinking, though, what other basic skills we aren’t teaching our youth.

Even something as simple as making a phone call is challenging for youth — because they rarely do it. When I was young, I remember calling my friends on a telephone that hung from the wall. Yes, that’s right, I picked up the phone and I called the number to their phone that rang on the wall at their house.

Nowadays, house phones are a becoming a thing of the past. Many people have elected to use only cell phones. I am one of those people as we currently don’t have a house phone, but we need one. Children need to know how to make a phone call — an actual call where you have to put in a number and talk to someone. Currently, when my children want to contact a friend, it is a parent texting another parent, sending a Facebook message or calling the other parent. It’s not that way for everyone nor is it that way every time.

My point is — are we teaching our children the skills they need to face the world? Do they know how to communicate effectively? Are they able to call a friend, have a polite vocal exchange with the friend’s parent or sibling, and then ask for their friend?

It just isn’t always the case any more. Children have cell phones earlier, and their friends do as well — so all of the interaction is between the friends via text or voice call.

Are our children able to communicate effectively? Can they count change back? Do they know basic life skills to survive in the world? These are just questions we should ask ourselves — I know they are things I need to work on.

Krista Wasinger102 Posts

Krista Wasinger is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2011. She specializes in city reporting and feature stories, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Krista is a 2004 Fort Hays State University graduate with a degree in communications studies with an emphasis in journalism. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and four children.

1 Comment

  • Barb Mueller Reply

    July 18, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Excellent, well written article. It should be thought provoking for all of us.

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