In a large branch of a major store chain the other day, I handed over a 10% discount voucher. The cashier didn’t know how to handle it and called the floor manager, a young man in his late twenties. To my astonishment, he had to go and find a calculator. Why did we bother moving to decimal currency?
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. In the same week’s episode of The Apprentice, one of Britain’s great young entrepreneurs-in-waiting revealed himself to be unable to halve £17 in his head. Worst of all, when another of these bright young things insisted that they would be able to sell 200 milk-shakes in the one day their shop was open, no-one turned round and challenged him to explain how he was going to sell one about every two and a half minutes on average through the whole day. (The proof of the milk-shake was in the drinking – they didn’t even come close.)
What really got me going on this subject last week was hearing a Radio 4 programme feature the towering intellect that is Prof. Germaine Greer. At one point she trenchantly declaimed that media studies was far more important than the teaching of mathematics. (Paraphrasing) “I don’t know why they teach mathematics at all nowadays, because we have computers to do all that sort of thing.”
And some still wonder why our economy remains in relative decline.
Abacus image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net