Our Days are Numbered

I watched a commercial the other day that claimed — get ready for this — kids in other countries are better at math and science than our kids. More accurately, the public service announcement claimed America ranked 29th in science and an abysmal 35th in math. So, I guess if you live your life according to commercials you’re too slow to fast forward through, the future is pretty bleak, huh?

Humiliating enough, the commercial then ran a laundry list of countries that rank higher than we do down the TV screen. I only recognized the names of a few of them, which is further evidence we should launch into inquiry where we rank in geography worldwide, as well. But I refuse to believe America ranks 35th in math, and not just because math is hard and a frivolous waste of time for most people. I honestly didn’t think there were that many countries on Earth. How can the Netherlands be better at science than us? Until recently, I thought the Netherlands was a fictional land of pixies and elves.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but do we have to be better than everybody at everything? Is that what’s expected of us? Are we this egoistical and self-involved? And if it’s true, isn’t that an unrealistic, if not arrogant, expectation for our children and our children’s children, who will be even stupider than we are?

In a day where some might be provoked into action, I say why bother. Honestly, don’t flatter yourself: We’re stupid and we know it. We’re almost proud of it — for crying out loud, turn on a TV if you don’t believe me.

I suppose we can treat this in one of two ways. We can either show that old-fashioned American attitude of ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away or we can begin the systematic elimination of other countries that rank higher than us at science and math. We are America, and we have the bomb! After nuking a few of the countries that rank higher than us, I have a good feeling the remaining countries would catch on and throw the fight. Before you know it, America would be at the top of the class again. USA! USA! USA!

But do those rankings really matter? Honestly, does anyone care if Sweden is good at anything? Are they good at anything? When was the last time Sweden’s so-called knowledge of mathematic equations trumped America in the last century or any century? Are there Swedish mathematician masterminds operating as terrorists to release a legion division remainders on American soil that I’m unaware of? And more importantly, do they operate in factions or fractions?

Thankfully, I don’t think it will come down to nukes. Not because it’s a silly reason to go to war — America does that all the time — but because I imagine launching a nuke requires a fair amount of math and science skills. We’re so stupid that we might end up blowing ourselves to smithereens.

Unless firing a nuke is just pressing a gigantic red button, like in the movies. Please tell me it is. Just think where America ranks at pressing buttons — cell phones, text messages, computers, Internet pornography. I bet our world ranking is pretty high in that category. So chin up, America, that’s an impressive accomplishment worth celebrating. And let’s not forget about child obesity, which clearly shows American children at least rank first in something.

I guess if you want to be a real stickler about it and not go about the business of causing needless bloodshed, we could roll up our sleeves and learn our kids real good like . Count me out though, it sounds hard. Plus, I’m busy the next day (and the day after that). Besides, the whole process probably involves way too much math and science for me.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any ideas. For starters, in Japan at this very minute, junior high students are being taught about their country’s foreign policy. Ask American junior high students about America’s foreign policy and listen to what they tell you. In junior high, I was constructing makeshift dioramas for Hardy Boys books as class assignments. So if you want my opinion, I’d start there.

Until that time comes, America will constantly live in fear of Swedish mathematicians lurking in the shadows and biding their time to pounce.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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