What A Greasy World

, , , , , , | Learning | September 1, 2018

(As a first-year high school student, I’m required to take a semester of geography. It’s the first day of school and as a fun exercise, my teacher gives us five minutes to list as many countries as we can that do not contain the letter A within its name. As a prize, the teacher will award five points extra credit to the student or group that list the most countries. I come up with what I believe to be a good list, but spend the entire time trying to rack my brain for more. Once that is done, the teacher asks us to get into groups and compare our answers before submitting them to her.)

Classmate #1: “This was really hard. The only country I could think of that didn’t have an A was Europe.”

Me: “Europe is a continent, not a country, so your answer doesn’t count.”

Classmate #2: “That’s okay. I wrote down Mexico as well as Mississippi, Illinois, New York, and Ohio.”

Me: “Mexico is good, but the rest are just the names of States. As far as I know, there isn’t a state today that is legally considered its own country.”

Classmate #3: “I have London, Sydney, and Tokyo.”

Me: *mentally banging my head on the desk* “Those are famous cities, not countries.”

Classmate #1: “Well, if you’re so smart, let’s see what you have.”

Me: “I have Mexico, Chile, Peru, Greece, Luxembourg, Belgium, The Czech Republic, Turkey, Morocco, and the Philippines. I was trying to name a dozen, but I couldn’t think of more before time was up.”

Classmate #3: “I haven’t heard of most of those countries. You sure you’re not making some of those up?”

Me: “If you don’t believe me, look them up yourself.”

Classmate #2: “Wait a minute.” *points to where I’ve written “Greece”* “You spelled that wrong. It should be spelled G-R-E-A-S-E.”

Me: “You’re thinking of the grease like greasy food you’d get at a fast food joint, or quite possibly the musical. The country of Greece is spelled the way I have it written down. What I want to know is have you guys ever look at a globe or a world map before?”

(I don’t know which was worse that class period: the fact that I didn’t get the extra credit because someone listed more countries that I did, or the fact that the answers from the think tank I was grouped with were considered the typical answers by the teacher.)

Boston, Lincolnshire, Is Wicked Good

, , , , , | Learning | August 31, 2018

(I work as a college counsellor.)

Me: “So, have you decided on any other schools that you want to apply to?”

Student: “Well, I was thinking about the University of Massachusetts, Boston, but it’s so far away.”

Me: “But you’ve already decided to apply to other schools on the east coast. Why is this one too far away?”

Student: “Well, it’s in England.”

(I sat there gobsmacked for a bit. The kid thought that New England was part of Great Britain. I laughed for quite a bit, and even reminded the student that after taking AP US History he should definitely have known better. And yes, he did apply to UMass Boston.)

Making A Baby Hurts Way Before You’re Making A Baby

, , , , , | Learning | August 30, 2018

Lecturer: “Kip Keino ran with gallstones, arguably the second most painful experience in the world. Who can guess the first?”

The Answer: “Childbirth.”



, , , , , , , | Learning | August 30, 2018

While I never really got on with school as a whole, there is one lesson I had that really stuck with me. It was set up as a game. The class was split into teams; each team was a country. Each country started with $500 of their local currency and some materials such as paper, scissors, or rulers. The countries had to create shapes and sell them to the world bank for profit. The trick was that countries like the USA or UK had lots of scissors and rulers, and even compasses and Protractors — curved shapes were worth more — while the poor countries had lots of paper but not much else.

The game started with the world bank taxing each nation $100 to be collected by the USA. Unsurprisingly, my team’s Ethiopian Dollars weren’t worth much and were all taken, and the US got to keep 10% of the tax. Occasionally the teacher running the game would make up arbitrary rules that more often than not benefited countries with wealth and the tools, such as closing the border to Europe so only the wealthy nations could sell to the world bank, or rejecting certain shapes which had been overproduced while still allowing the wealthy nations to sell their excess stock

Eventually I got sick of being on a losing team, took all my country’s money and materials, and bought my way into the United Kingdom. We raked in the money mass-producing circles. My best friend started to cheat, himself, by stealing from other teams; he even tried to steal from the world bank. At the end of the lesson I asked the teacher why he let us cheat, since he obviously saw me buy my way into the UK. He went on to explain that very often people in poor nations do just what I did, exploiting my nation for personal gain, or, like my friend, steal from other weak nations to improve his own all the while the richer nations reap the benefits.

The class really stuck with me as a great way to explain a lot of how the world economy works, if very dumbed down.

School Rules Going Down The Toilet

, , , , | Learning | August 29, 2018

(I am in third grade, and our school is having a lockdown drill. It’s the first one I remember ever having at school. It’s around late 2000 or early 2001, so a little bit before 9/11, but it is around the time that school shootings are starting to be recognized as a problem, so maybe that is why they have only just decided to start doing these drills. Anyway, my teacher that year isn’t the greatest. She isn’t exactly the most patient person, and maybe should have rethought her decision to be a teacher. And of course, during lockdown drills, teachers are supposed to just have their students hide in a corner of the classroom, turn the lights off, and make sure the door is locked. However, our classroom happens to have a small bathroom in it, and my teacher has the bright idea to try to cram all of us into this tiny bathroom, AND turn the lights out in there. It is literally pitch black and I can’t see anything in front of me. I am a shy and quiet kid, so I am kind of just standing there and being silent, but of course, being young kids, some of the others are fidgeting around and being silly. But I mean, what do you expect when you try to cram that many kids together in a tiny, pitch-dark space?)

Kids: *giggling*

Teacher: *whispering at this point* “Quiet! You can’t make a sound right now! If you don’t settle down, you are all going to lose all of your tickets for today!”

(Then, suddenly, the toilet flushes. I’m sure someone just bumped or fell into it. Again, it is pitch black in there, so I really doubt a kid could have actually found the flusher on the toilet and pushed it intentionally.)

Teacher: *yelling* “WHO DID THAT?! That’s it! Every one of you has lost your tickets for the whole day!”

Me: *thinking* “So… Thank goodness this is just a drill, because if a bad guy really was in the school, we just would have been the first ones to die.”

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