I Don’t Understand

From My Side Of The Mountain

I Don’t Understand so many things. I fully realize and accept that being a mere mortal there are some things, such as nuclear physics, molecular biology, the Unified Theory, and books by Joyce James, I don’t have the faintest insight into and never expect to have. The people who write about the first three don’t even use words except for “Equation,” “Therefore,” and “It is obvious.” Sure it is! Any normal, run-of-the-mill literate person can understand pages of numbers, signs, and squiggles. As for Joyce James, he and I may use the same alphabet, but we have nothing else in common. I doubt that even Merriam-Webster, or American Heritage, defines words the same way James define them.

On the other hand I would expect to understand people-the plain old genus, Homo, and species, Sapiens, since I am a card carrying member of the party. However, the more I watch people from my mountain, the more I fail to understand them. The more I watch and wonder, the more I realize that Homo Sapiens is a complete misnomer. In their original language, Latin, the two words mean “wise man.” Why am I befuddled and grasping to comprehend people. Let’s look at an example.

A few days ago, the local newspaper presented a survey of scientifically-selected citizens of Alabama revealing their inner most thoughts about state taxes. One of the unexpected findings, to me, was that more than a majority of Alabama’s “scientifically-selected citizens” felt that tax revenue for education was too low and should be increased. More than 50% said that Governor James should rescind his no new-tax pledge and create, with the Legislature’s help, of course, some new taxes to increase funding for education. Given this State’s ranking in education and the low number of scientists, engineers, and technicians Alabama is producing, and keeping, this is a position “wise men” would take. These are the educated people that any state will need to maintain a viable economic base going into the next century.

To say I was mildly surprised, is like saying Newt G. wants to be president, probably at the start of the new millennium 5 years from now. (Don’t tell me I’ve have my figure wrong. Go look up when the Presidential term after the upcoming one starts and which year the next millennium begins.) I was also in a state of suspended disbelief.

The next day my faith in mankind, at least the Alabama variety, was vindicated. The paper printed a followup that pointed out that while the citizens polled a positive stand on supporting education, in the voting booth they cast another story. Of the 40 school-tax proposals in the last 7 years, only 12 were approved by the voters. Most were soundly defeated. Many wail that if only the existing educational taxes were intelligently spent, they would support new taxes. Intelligently spent by whose’s standards-the penny-pinching tax payer, or, possibly, the special interests who are interested only in low property taxes and poorly-educated workers to do their lifting and toting.

Apparently, there is one way to get more money for education: threaten to do away with football and other athletics. According to documentation it worked at least once, and I suspect more than once. Which brings another point that I don’t understand about people. Is the purpose of our schools to produce graduates that can obtain and retain jobs well above the minimum wage level, or is it to produce athletes?

If it is the latter, I don’t think the system is being cost effective. In the 8 years I was in high school and college, the total student body was about 2,000; the number of athletes in all sports, which included a national-level collegiate basketball team, was around 200. Of these only one, a high school football star, is making a good living (most of the time) in sports. Today, he is the head coach of a National Football team. Next year, who knows.

Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy scholastic sports at all levels, and believe they play an important role in our complete educational program, just as art and music. However, we can not let the tail wag the dog in any case. Yet as a high Alabama educational figure said recently, “The only thing they (the voters) believe in is ‘Roll Tide’ and ‘War Eagle.’ ” Otherwise, most people, “just really don’t give a rip.”

This is one reason why I do not understand people. When they answer one way in a poll and another in the voting booth, they are lying to them selves. Is the lost-won record is more important than the number of scholastic scholarships won?

There are a few other reasons why I can’t understand people; one of which involves a couple of the local TV stations. If the grumpy old publisher doesn’t forbid it, I’ll write about it in the future.