Fredericton — We all remember the scene: walking into our Grade 11 math class and seeing a worn-out cardboard box sitting on the teacher’s desk filled with clunky black electronic objects. “What could that be?” we naïvely wondered. “Some kind of futuristic computer? This’ll be fun!”
Oh, how wrong we were. In fact, that box was filled with Texas Instruments graphing calculators, which we could almost see becoming obsolete in real time. The mastery of these strange devices consumed hours, months, in some cases even years of our young lives. All we know for certain is that they made graphs. And none of us has laid eyes on a graphing calculator since departing Leo Hayes or Fredericton High.
“What I want to know is, when is my boss gonna hand me one of those things and let me show off a bit?” said an exasperated Sarah Henderson, 31. “I’ve been doing communications at this medical supply company for like six years and I’ve made exactly zero graphs. What was even the point of high school?”
Henderson said she truly excelled when it came to operating that graphing calculator, and hasn’t really felt special or talented in life since handing it back to her teacher in 2003.
“Mme. LeBlanc would list this super-long long sequence of buttons to push on the calculator, and I would push those buttons in the perfect order, and for me the result was always, always some kind of graph-like picture. Other students didn’t have that magic touch and the thing would just shut down on them. Amateurs.”
Thirty-year-old Geoff Lyons recently added “graphing calculator skills” to his resumé — and yet he remains unemployed.
“I was on the old Internet Explorer back then and found a way to hack a game onto the graphic calculator,” bragged the out-of-work car salesman. “You gotta be pretty good at it to get around making those pointless graphs. But yeah anyways, no luck with the job hunt. Every employer says it’s not an ‘applicable skill’ but then why did I spend months programming it and taking tests with it? I got good grades too!”
Beyond the graphing calculator, high school teachers insisted we buckle down and study pertinent life skills including: carrying an egg around without breaking it; building a model bridge out of toothpicks; teaching ourselves a few words of Spanish using an old CD-Rom; memorizing the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” as recounted by Ponyboy in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton; reciting the components of the human cell; and of course, “solving” a triangle.
“You should be thankful we taught you this stuff,” stated high school gym teacher/art teacher/guidance counsellor Richard Kilbride. “Otherwise you’d be stuck here watching tenth-graders play badminton and confiscating kids’ weed, like me.”