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Posted: July 5, 2012 9:18 p.m.

McCoy: What did you really learn in high school?

I was in Athens on Sunday, dining at one of my favorite places and mulling over a cup of coffee and my little slice of life, when I saw something that intrigued me. I watched my waitress stand on a stool and erase a big chalkboard they use for a menu. As she wrote up the new entree item - a tasty sounding omelette - I thought: "I wonder if she ever imagined she'd have a job that required her to erase a chalkboard?" We all erased chalkboards in school, but who knew it could be a good career move?

I took calculus in high school. I took so much of it at Georgia Tech, calculus was coming out of my ears. But, I've only used calculus once in my entire 30 year career, back in 1985 when I had to write software to control a bio-reactor. What kind of return on investment is that? But, consider the typing class I took - a class with all the pretty high school girls going clickity-clack. It was 1977, and I knew I was going to be a programmer, so I knew I needed to handle a keyboard. Well, that class has been a life saver. First as a programmer, then as a writer; I'm pretty sure I've typed on every single day for 30 years. For me, that typing class has been far more valuable than all my calculus classes. So, I thought a bit more. My driver's education class has been more valuable than the physics classes I took. Physics is interesting, but I drive all the time; I hardly ever set up a laser and split a light beam. And as much as I loved biology, I'm benefited far more from my stint on the speech and debate team. I've been a professional speaker. It's paid my bills. I've yet to be paid for growing microbes in a petri dish.

I suppose what this means is that need to be careful when we say, "Get an education." There are kids who will never take calculus or physics or Latin. But that doesn't mean they aren't getting a real education. A real education means learning exactly what you need to be successful. For some, that means focusing on calculus and physics; but for others it might mean finding the hidden value in chalkboards, keyboards and floorboards.


David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Covington and can be reached at davmccoy@bellsouth.net.

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