The Young and the Dumb

You might need math after The SHTF.
You might need math after The SHTF. You will definitely need problems solving skills and critical thinking.

I went to Loews Home Improvement yesterday and returned four boxes of tile that were left over from a remodeling project we have been working on. The girl at the returns desk, who appears to be in her early 20s, looks at them and says, “What’s 4 times 25?”

“One hundred,” I say, not even having to think about it.

She pulls out her phone, opens the calculator app, plugs in 4 x 25 and says, “Yeah, 100!” like I had done some wonderfully complex calculation in my head.

Of course, I hadn’t calculated it. Four times 25 is just one of those many things I know by heart. That someone could not know this basic info shocked me.

For a moment, I felt like explaining basic math to her. Maybe pointing out that when you have four quarters, each of which is worth 25 cents, you get a dollar, or 100 cents. I was more interested in getting my money back than insulting her, so I just nodded and thought about how much dumber young folks are today.

For a moment, it surprised me they gave a job dealing with money to someone who can’t even give change for a dollar without the cash register telling her how much change was due. Then again, I guess no one uses cash anymore. All she has to do is point the barcode reader at the barcode and push a button. Customers look at the screen, stick in the debit card or tap their credit card and they’re all done. It’s so simple, many cashiers are being replaced by kiosks.

I Blame the Schools

In hindsight, I shouldn’t call this young woman, who was otherwise helpful, dumb. She was probably stuck in public school all her life. I’m guessing she never had to memorize the multiplication table. Memorization is a critical skill, but it is fading. We used to have to memorize phone numbers, for example. How many phone numbers do you know today? Not more than three, I bet.

But it gets worse. Not knowing how many times 25 goes into 100 also means she’s never played the banker in monopoly or been to a casino where they have $25 and $100 chips. Maybe as a girl, she never had to empty out her piggy bank and see how much money she had. (Perhaps her parents paid her allowance via Venmo.) I expect she doesn’t balance her checkbook because she just logs in on her handy app and looks at how much money she has in her checking account.

I wondered if she knew how to calculate the circumference of a circle or the area of rectangle or the volume of a cube. Did she know a right angle when she saw one? Can she use the Pythagorean Theorem? Could she solve for X, plot a graph, or even identify the X and Y axis? Could she tell me what the difference was between an adverb and an adjective, had I asked? Did she know when it was “I before E” and when it wasn’t? Could she read and write in cursive? Heck, could she read and comprehend anything written above a sixth grade level? I wondered if she could tell time on an analog clock? If faced with a crank on an old car door, would she know how to open the window?

OK, it’s not just the schools. I blame her parents, too.

Being Young and Dumb

I was young and dumb once, but never that young and dumb. We all make mistakes, and the best time to make them is when we are young and don’t have as much at risk. That’s how we learn, through experience. But will this young woman remember that four times 25 is 100? I doubt it. I can see her pulling out her phone and punching that in again next week when someone returns 4 boxes of 25 washers. Why? Because when you have a phone with you, you don’t have to memorize the answer. You can always look it up again. We are, in effect, training ourselves to know nothing.

I bet the WEF is thrilled about it. Not only will we own nothing and like it, we’ll know nothing and be happy. If you know nothing, you will believe whatever they tell you. If you question something, you will look it up online and the algorithm will point you to the answer they want you to have, regardless of whether or not it is true. The Internet is a bug funnel pouring propaganda from their phone into the minds of our youth, and they are too busy swallowing it hook, line, and sinker to stop and questions anything.

After the SHTF

People like this returns rep are going to be a huge problem after the SHTF. Imagine what happens when the power goes out for good, there is no Internet, and her cell phone goes dark. Helplessness will set in.

Not only will she–and many others of her ilk–be unable to do basic math, they won’t be able to communicate with others, look up information, find a recipe, make a payment, or find their way somewhere. There are people who can’t tell you how many ounces are in a pound or how many quarts are in a gallon without using Google, people who can’t find their way home without GPS, and kids who can’t call their mom if their cell dies.

I’m not against the Internet, but it makes people lazy. Why think when you can ask Google? Why bother to learn something if you can look it up? Kids today would Google it if you asked them, “When was the War of 1812?”

When our highly technical, interdependent world collapses and we get thrown back into a world with the technological level of the 1880s, we are going to need problem solvers and critical thinkers. Someone who can think, “25, 50, 75, 100! Hey, it goes in four times. I better remember that.” We’re going to need McGyvers and Edisons and instead we are going to be stuck with Zuckerbergs and Gates, people who have computer skills, but not life skills and can do nothing without a vast support system feeding them Nachos and Mountain Dew.

Plan for This

Before I go outside, I don’t pull up an app to see the weather; I look at the thermometer hanging outside my window. That not only tells me what the temperature is, I can see if it is raining, cloudy, or sunny. It also works without electricity, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. If I want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow, I look at the barometer and maybe give it a tap. Looks like the pressure is dropping, so expect rain tomorrow. Sure, I like the ability to have a long-range forecast and to see radar on the TV station’s storm tracker, but I can live without it.

Likewise, my wife may look recipes up online, but we also have recipe books and we know how to use the index. I also have a library of homesteading,survival and other practical books. Yeah, the old fashioned paper kind, because I don’t expect to be using my computer or tablet much after the SHTF. We also have things like the Ball book of canning, books on root cellaring and food preservation, and primitive living. Do I want to tan deer hives and rabbit pelts to make our clothes? No, but I have a general idea of how to do so and the resources to learn more if we have no choice.

People who rely on Siri or Google instead of their brain and on the cloud instead of their memory are going to have a problem with their electronics die. If you are a prepper, make sure you are prepared to live in a pre-microchip era.