Monday, May 23, 2011

Do the Math: Find Your Humanity

Across the land, tea aficionados and union-busting rhetoricians have been busy, busy, busy vilifying teachers for their cushy deals, including short workdays and great benefits, especially those holidays. These speakers and writers, full of sound and fury, seem to believe or at least wish to persuade you that teachers are hogs swilling the seven seas of sloth, incompetence, ineptitude, recalcitrance, greed, neglect, and pride.

I must agree, given the math skills of the average American adult. Apparently, high school graduates leave calculation in the classroom, never again caring to check their work to see if 2 added to 2 really does equal 4. Here is why I say this.

Sixteen percent of the women among us--more than twenty-five million women--do not have health insurance. Planned Parenthood serves these women, providing obstetrical-gynecological examinations to check for ovarian and uterine cancers. These check-ups can also help to slow the spread of HPV, a disease acquired by about 5.5 million people each year. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. By offering counsel about birth control and sex, some women may not become infected; others will know how not to pass along the disease to a partner, but without knowledge, diagnosis, and treatment, people will continue to infect each other.

Given the spread of HPV, just say no does not seem to be the wisest, most effective course of treatment. Medical care seems more prudent, and Planned Parenthood can play an important role in shrinking the number of women without access to health care and perhaps, with access, the number of people afflicted with HPV.

Another set of numbers again suggests that math reasoning is not a life-long skill that people practice. Consider these numbers:

• The average monthly Social Security benefit is $1,076.40.
• Rent, utilities, and garbage and trash collection for renter-occupied homes averages $755. (2007 U. S. Census data)
• $1,067.40 - $755 = $312.40
• The average cost of a Medicare supplement insurance plan exceeds $312.40.
• Zero is the number of figures above that includes the costs for food or transportation.

Yet the House of Representatives, in its infinite inability to fathom the lives of poor and lower income citizens, sought to eliminate or cut by 50%, as President Obama recommended, the 2011 budget for LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program), a program for federal dollars that helped the poor, disabled, and elderly stay warm in winter. Federal dollars that saved lives. If LIHEAP cannot help them, how will the elderly stay warm and pay their bills when home heating costs rise along with the costs of oil and coal?

I guess they should have planned better. I guess they should have negotiated with their employers for pensions and better wages so that they could save for their old age. I guess they should have remained healthy, given birth to fewer children, and lived frugally all their days so that they could fend off spending cuts. Perhaps they should have used the actuarial tables and simply offed themselves before the financial pain set in.

Tea aficionados and union-busting rhetoricians, do the math while considering this story problem from the math class:

Johnny has 12 apples. He gives one apple to each of his 12 best friends, but he does not ask for any payment in return. He tells his friends to plant the seeds, grow a tree, and let the apples trickle down to the hungry below. How much money does Johnny have after giving away his revenue source?
Bonus: What are the odds of twelve apple seeds sprouting a fully grown tree? How long will it take for a seed to become an apple-producing tree? How many people will be fed well by a single tree?

Do the math, high school graduates, to find your humanity for surely you will be judged by the manner in which you treat the least among you, and that includes teachers!