View Full Version : A Trip to the Sawmill, or...

Bill Grumbine
09-03-2004, 10:13 PM

It was an adventure! It was a little depressing as well though. I had to go to the sawmill to buy some oak for a small job I am doing. As I pulled into the parking space by the front of the wood barn, two young ladies dressed in the uniform of the young came scampering out of the door of the wood barn. They were wearing tight tight (sic) jeans and revealing tank tops with boobs and bellies hanging out, and sandals – hardly what one would expect for proper, or even just safe attire at a sawmill. Driving past the big roll up door, I saw that the barn was crammed with girls dressed much in the same way, with one or two boys in the mix for variety. My first thought was, these don’t look like regular customers.

Well, they weren’t. As I strode into the barn, an older girl (although still not as old as I) popped out of the group and exclaimed, “Well there you are at last!”

“Who, me?” I replied.

“Yes, you. We need some help here.”

“But I don’t work here.”

“Well you’re wearing one of their shirts!” she exclaimed. I realized immediately how she had come to her assumption as I stared down at my own chest, which was proudly displaying the name and logo of the sawmill. I told her it had been given to me and I wore it in gratitude. I then went on to say that someone should be along presently, but in the meantime I would help them out if I could. She informed me that they were from one of the local universities, and the kids were in Furniture 101 class. I asked if they were all woodworking majors. “Oh no”, she replied, “these are all architectural majors. They need to take this class as part of their degree program.”

The immediate problem at hand was one of the girls whining (yes, whining) that she did not know how much a board was going to cost her. She had a price sheet, but there was no information to be had on the board itself. I asked the group in general if anyone had a tape measure with them. You can imagine the answer. I retrieved my tape from the truck, and told them that they needed to figure out the board feet of a board to determine the cost. I was rewarded with a set of blank looks. By this time I had about eight young ladies and one professor clustered about, waiting for me to reveal the mystery of the board foot. I asked the group if anyone knew what a board foot was. The professor lady piped up immediately to tell me that this was beginning furniture, and they did not go into complicated stuff like that in this course.

I looked her dead in the eye and said, “Well if you are going to begin building furniture, it is a good idea to know how much wood to buy, don’t you think?” She just looked sheepish and hung her head a bit. I turned to the group and told them that I was going to show them the secret method for determining board footage. Taking the board in question from the one young lady, I measured it across its width – 4 ½” . I said, “This board is 4 ½” wide. For the purposes of determining cost, we will call it 5”, which is what the sawmill people will do. I then measured its length, which turned out to be 10’. I asked, “How many inches are in ten feet? They got that one pretty quickly, 120 inches. Things went rapidly downhill after that.

I asked the group in general, “What is 120 times 5?” There was dead silence for a space of about 15 to 20 seconds, while they all looked at me like I had three heads. I felt like I was talking to fourth graders. Finally one young lady in the rear said in a soft and quavering voice, “Six hundred?” “Very good!” I replied, while my heart sank. I knew the next question was going to be even tougher. I said, “Now we need to divide 600 by 144. What is 600 divided by 144?” No one spoke. Finally a girl volunteered that she had found a calculator over on the desk. I said, “600 divided by 144 is approximately four, but you might want to check me with the calculator.” I turned to the girl with the calculator and said, “Divide 600 by 144 and tell me what you get.”

As she started to push buttons, I said to her, “Why are you dividing by 144?” in my best classroom voice. She froze, and looked at me with that ‘deer in the headlights look’. I could just tell by her expression that she was hoping the floor would open up to swallow at least one of us. Finally I said, “You are dividing by 144 because I told you to, right?”

“Yes!” She exclaimed with obvious relief.

“NO!” I exclaimed right back. “You are dividing by 144 because that is how many square inches are in one board foot! One board foot equals 12” x 12” x 1” thick. That is why you are dividing by 144!”

By this time the whiny girl had been able to do these complex mathematical operations in her head, and she whined that the board was going to cost her $20.00. She had taken a bit of initiative and multiplied the board footage by the price per board foot on the sheet she had. “Very good!” I exclaimed. Meanwhile my heart sank even further, thinking that this must be one of the reasons why woodworkers and carpenters curse architects on a regular basis. Basic math was beyond these kids. You would have thought I was asking them to solve a polynomial or calculate a logarithm in their heads instead of doing simple multiplication and division.

After our short lesson they all scattered to find boards suitable for their task at hand, which according to the professor was hand cut dovetails and turned mallets. I would love to be there to see that. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t. I got my oak, traded some stories with the folks at the sawmill, and returned to my shop, contemplating the sad state of education these days. These kids are attending a very prestigious university near me which is noted for its engineering school. I wonder if the architects are as highly regarded.


Jim Becker
09-03-2004, 10:32 PM
Well...look on it from the bright side...they at least didn't look like the rest of us woodworkers. :D (Many of us, at least...)

Seriously, your observations are consistant with what I've seen all too often. I'm not really gifted for mental math, but at least the concept doesn't escape me...

Kevin Gerstenecker
09-03-2004, 10:32 PM
Bill, that is a funny story, but all too true and sad these days. As many of you know, I work at a College, and I see this stuff everyday. It is simply amazing.............no, astonishing.....that some public school systems turn out High School GRADUATES with little or no knowledge of the most basic of the "3 R's". I have seen MULTIPLICATION TABLES written on the chalkboard in more than one classroom..........and this the COLLEGE level folks! I realize that teachers are the most under paid element of our society, but what ever happened to parents as teachers? There are many problems that exist in society today that are not conducive to learning, and it seems to be socially acceptable in some circles? I just don't get it? Oh well, enough of that rant..............this is one of my peeves, in case ya didn't notice. ( I DO know one thing..........that would have NEVER flown in my folks home, and it didn't fly in MY house either!)

Waymon Campbell
09-03-2004, 11:27 PM
What really scares me is that their generation will be running this country when I retire. Frightening!!!

Dennis Peacock
09-04-2004, 1:55 AM
( I DO know one thing..........that would have NEVER flown in my folks home, and it didn't fly in MY house either!)

Now Kev....don't you know that it's not nice to fly in ones house? :confused: :D :p LOL!!!!

Dennis Peacock
09-04-2004, 1:57 AM

That's simply too funny!!!!! :D Even my 10 year old son knows how to calculate a board foot.!!!! Simply disheartening with college kids these days.

Dave Anderson NH
09-04-2004, 9:15 AM
Look on the bright side, maybe you could become Adjunct Professor of Woodworking at that fine institution of sometime learning. On the other hand maybe I ought to retract that, it's not politically corrct these days to scare the students into learning.:D

A friend of mine taught for math for years at my old alma mater and complained constantly that his department was used as a service bureau and remedial calculus school for the engineering departments who admitted unprepared students. I suspect this argument has been going on for as long as humans have walked upright. Somehow we always manage to pull through it and education eventually happens.

Jim Becker
09-04-2004, 10:44 AM
Even my 10 year old son knows how to calculate a board foot.!!!! Simply disheartening with college kids these days.
In fairness, I never heard of a "board foot" untill a few years ago when I started woodworking. That said, I'm more concerned about the basic math skills that are lacking in this caclulator-oriented society. (And I'm personally guilty of the same as it were these days) When I ran a Radio Shack store back in the 1980s, mental math was a necessary thing since all transactions were written up manually and totalled manually. My aging brain is out of practice with that these days, but at least I understand the concepts and can think through a problem. Many of the kids in Bill's story seemed to lack that ability to conceptualized the problem...at least "whiney" was sharp in that respect with a little prodding!

Michael Stafford
09-04-2004, 10:47 AM
Sadly far too many youngsters today have no concept of what numbers actually mean and can not begin to manipulate them without a calculator. Pi are round not square.

Roger Fitzsimonds
09-04-2004, 11:08 AM
I have encountered the same thing in reading. When I was in the Navy we would get new sailors in the fleet that had passed tech school because they had programmed text with the answer on the next page. So we would have to have basic electronics class with them and almost one on one tutor them until they understood the basic stuff they needed to do their jobs. That was 20 years ago I tend not to believe it has improved.

Good for you Bill taking the time to at least introduce them to the subject, The professor obviously had not.

such is the way it is.


09-04-2004, 11:20 AM
I think you're reading too much into this. These are smart kids to get into an Architecture program in the first place. Their math skills are probably pretty good. In school, you get very little practice at the skill of estimation. Every equation you solve has to have an exact answer. "Around 4" gets you an F, "4.166667" , or "4 1/6" is correct.
I had a roommate that is a very smart guy. We were both just out of college and were making pretty good money. So, we went out to eat most nights as our cooking skills were minimal (mine haven't improved much). His girlfirend had given him a tip card that he used to figure out tips. Huh, I thought, this guy can't figure out a tip. We talked about it a little. When I was young, my parents took us out to eat each Friday. They would hand either me or my sister the bill and ask us what the tip should be. So, we both had the skill to determine a tip quickly. He did not, and had apparently just been guessing. His girlfriend (an ex-waitress) determined he was guessing too low and gave him the card. Once I told him the quick estimation formula he said, well why didn't she just tell me that, and tossed the card. He had just assumed everyone carried around a tip card. :confused:
There are lots of experiences kids don't get when living with their parents. Once they are thrown into the real world, they will quickly learn to estimate and get "close enough" numbers.
Frankly, my first time at a real lumber place wasn't pretty either. I was a little hung up on the borgs linear feet pricing. The second time went much smoother. There are a few other things to learn. For example, on my first trip, I assumed that the board ft calculation was surface area and disregarded thickness. I figured the higher price associated with buying thicker lumber was to account for the thickness differential.
I wouldn't count out these kids. They are just products of their upbringing. They are probably real smart, just not set in their real world/no mommy and daddy around skills yet.
If I had been in that class, I don't think I would've learned those formulas from you either. Those bare mid sections would've occupied 100% of my brain. :cool: :D


Kevin Gerstenecker
09-04-2004, 11:25 AM
I little story this reminds me of: Years back, I was managing the Landscape Department at a large, local Nursery/Greenhouse. We had advertised for Landscape Labor for the summer months. We were located near a large University, and we would get a lot of college students applying for summer jobs. A question on the application asked, "Can you lift weight up to 100 lbs?"
I had a Graduate Student apply, and he was slight of build, so to answer that question on the application he simply wrote......"If I haffto". I questioned him about the word "Haffto" during the interview and he laughed in my face when he said I was so stupid I didn't know how to spell "Haffto." I simply wrote the following on a paper and slid it across the table......"If I HAVE TO." He looked for a minute, then promptly rose and left the room..............never to be heard from again! I'm thinkin' he is probably a politician today!
:eek: :cool: ;) :D :p

Stefan Antwarg
09-04-2004, 11:26 AM
That was a good story. It's nice that you jumped in like that to teach them how to calculate a board foot. But, like Jim, I think we need to give those girls a bit of a break. Before I started WW'ing, I had no idea what a board foot was - I didn't know such a term existed. I even took a ww'ing class in high school, but we were never taught BF. My parents are not ww'ers so they have no reason to know. My first experiences buying wood for my ww'ing hobby was home depot - where every board IS priced. Not knowing why the number 144 was important is understandable considering that they did not know what a BF was. If anybody is to blame, it would be that teacher. Anybody teaching a furniture building class should teach what a board foot is.

As far as doing math in the head - I am not too good at that either.


Michael Stafford
09-04-2004, 11:46 AM
The LOML informs me once again that I should not be commenting on things in which I have no expertise. To say that I am limited is an understatement. Anyhow she is a professor of mathematics with more than 30 years experience and she informs me that the correct mathematic principle that I was trying to relate was "Pi are round and cornbread are square". I'll be going back out to the doghouse, er shop now.

Greg Heppeard
09-04-2004, 1:21 PM
I guess I've been figuring BF for so long that I got tired of doing it and punched the formula into my TI-85. Now if I could get these fat fingers of mine to punch the correct itsy bitsy buttons on that darned thing, I might start to get the right answers again. My grandfather was a journeyman carpenter, so I grew up thinking that everybody knew something about most of the aspects of woodworking. I still catch myself thinking that sometimes. It ain't so. All I gotta do is look at LOML...not a clue there. :eek: oops....I'm off to my doghouse too.

Wes Bischel
09-04-2004, 2:18 PM
Well, I will admit I am not an "in the head" kinda person. I need to write it down and see it - always have - then it's no problem to calculate.
As far as the students go, this course sounds like an elective - a throw away course in their eyes. Unfortunately the teacher is treating it as a throw away and the students follow suit. I would suspect they do not know any of the basics of woodworking and were just expected to make something cool.

In school I had a furniture history course - poorly taught as well. We had a similar "project". I made one corner with dovetails - machine made (router and jig). The professor was ecstatic :confused: he had never seen a student make dovetails with a router at home (versus a production shop). Granted this was 20 years ago before all of the jigs hit the market widespread but as the educator he should have known better. I shrugged it off at the time, but look back at it now with a better understanding of the education system.

As far as the architects go - as with everything there are the good ones and the bad ones. I've spent almost 20 years developing building products and can tell you not many have the skills that our own Mark has where wood is concerned - nor would I expect them to since wood is only one aspect of their skill set.


Tom Sweeney
09-04-2004, 2:37 PM
I don't think it is knowing the calculation for BF that is the problem - it is that kids are entering colleges without basic math skills.
I live in the wealthiest & fastest growing(maybe 2nd) county in the state of PA. Admittedly I live in the poorest area of the county (still not poor) & definitely the worst school district (one of a dozen on the state watch list).

I hate to say this but my 11th grade daughter, who has never not been on honor role) has almost no grasp of basic math. This also carries over to ALL of her friends. They could not figure out our 6% sales tax if their life depended on it, without a calculator. I finally have her understanding the quick & dirty work around for simple percentages - like 10%, 20% but not 10 minutes ago she had to guess incorrectly 4 times before she came up with the correct answer for 18% of $10. :mad: :mad: :mad:
One of her best friends was top in her class last year (11th grade for her) & while she is very bright and has the ability to do more complicated math equations than I can. .... She still has to think hard about making change at Church fundraisers. She scored very high on her SAT's last year so something is definately out of wack

We have tried to do everything we can, to no avail, to insure she gets a good education. We attended every teacher conference, back to school night, scheduled 1 on 1's with teachers & counselors, etc... She is not one of these kids that get a kick out of learning so she just does what she needs to get good grades. I have had conversations with her and teachers of her's where I was told she did not have to do any extra research or learning over and above what they teach her. Neither my wife nor I were exactly wizs at school so we can only personally do so much.

It is not only math that is the problem either they know very little about history & even less of geography. I think they are taught higher-level info on an OK basis but if you don't have the basics how can you retain what you are taught?

On a positive note - some of these kids, my daughter included, are truly amazing. So much more mature and indeed better people than my friends & I were at this age. Every year I go on a mission trip to Appalachia, with my Church. It is geared towards being a youth project, to get them into volunteering & helping others. I had never hung out with a group of today’s teens until I took my first trip 6 years ago. I was completely blown away by every one of the kids down there & have been ever since. So all is not lost for the future - I just wish the educational system would be up to the standards that these kids deserve.

As to teachers being underpaid: Median household income in my zip code is $49,649. If I understand the census correctly household income is everyone living in the house. Avg. Teacher salary in my district is $46,225 (school year '01 - '02). Plus if needed they can take summer jobs for the 1/4 of the year they don't have to work.
Now if you are a truly great teacher who both cares about your students & has the skills necessary to properly educate them then by all means you should be making a 6 figure income. In 11 years of my daughters schooling I can easily count the teachers who qualify on 1 hand. Sorry but that's my personal experience. There have been numerous others who were good, caring people however they did not do a good job of educating. It's not just the teachers fault - this is already way too long to go into the adminstrative problems (you wouldn't believe it anyway) we've had.

Sorry for the soapbox but the greatest regret in my life is that I could not afford to give my daughter a better education, so this kindof ;) ticks me off, if you couldn't tell.

Doug Jones
09-04-2004, 2:43 PM
Good story Bill,,

However IMO the problem of basic math skills (of which I lack) of todays younger generation starts well before they even reach high school. For an example, my daughter who was in 6th grade last year was required to have a calculator (a simple one) as one of her school supplies, and was allowed to use it for math problems and homework. I would let her use it at home but only after I saw that she attempted the problem on paper first.

They know that 1+1=2,,, but do they know why or how???

Bill Grumbine
09-04-2004, 5:36 PM
But, like Jim, I think we need to give those girls a bit of a break. Stefan

Hi Stefan

I did not really come down on the girls for not knowing what a board foot is. That is the professor's fault, who obviously did no preparation whatsoever for this trip. Not only did they no nothing of how to buy their wood, they were running around in sandals for the most part - not too safe in a barn full of lumber, and in our litigious society, guess who would bear the brunt of a miss step? :rolleyes:

I know all the arguments for not being proficient at certain things, and I certainly am not proficient at a lot of things, but it seems to me that people entering a discipline like architecture should be able to do simple multiplication and division. How would you respond if a kid showed up for your band but could not play scales?

There are plenty of failures here to go around. The professor is failing to properly prepare these students. The kids have failed, although maybe unknowingly, to take care of basic knowledge. That does not obviate the failure. The parents have probably failed to be as involved as they should have been in the education of their children. Big houses, two new cars, and lots of other material things get in the way of that all too often.

I actually had a lot of fun with these kids, and not at their expense. I taught them in the style which I have been teaching children (and they are children) for the past 16 years. They all paid attention, and hopefully they will retain what they learned.


Bill Grumbine
09-04-2004, 5:54 PM
I think you're reading too much into this....
If I had been in that class, I don't think I would've learned those formulas from you either. Those bare mid sections would've occupied 100% of my brain. :cool: :D Jay

Hi Jay

I think the kids were bright, just not prepared, and for that there is no excuse on the part of the professor, who by her own report had been there numerous times. I also think that they have probably led pampered lives, knowing the school, its costs, prestige, etc. And as far as those midsections go, I would be a liar if I said they weren't a distraction! But I pressed on for the good of the woodworking community.

I have to tell this very funny story - funny to me, since we are talking about distractions of this type. A number of years ago I walked into our guild meeting a bit early to check out the show and tell, talk with my buddies, etc. One man had brought his daughter along with him - his very buxom teenage daughter, who was dressed in some very revealing clothes. Now whan I say buxom, she was exceedingly buxom.

Anyway, I had no idea that the two were related, and I had exchanged a few words with the young lady in the course of walking about. As I paused to look around the room her father approached me and we began a conversation. She joined in a moment later, and he introduced her as his daughter. His very next words were, and this is an exact quote:

I want you to take a look at this chest I brought with me tonight.

I thought I was going to die right there on the spot. My eyes were trying of their own volition to swivel over towards where his daughter stood smiling up at me, but I did not dare move my head even a fraction of an inch in her direction. I thought my head was going to explode if something did not happen quickly. Fortunately he turned away and said, "It is right over here." All I could think of was not looking at his daughter. I made it over to this old antique, and managed to get a strangled hoot out about it looking like a very nice chest, and that he should be proud to own it. I made my escape as quickly as possible, and avoided the girl until I could look her in the eye and not further down. Now that was a distraction.


Tyler Howell
09-04-2004, 8:07 PM
Fortunately it is not everywhere....Almost, but not everywhere. The one thing my X and I agreed on was the value of a good education. When I couldn't stand those two another second we still sat down and read, applied math skills to the workshop, or science to the walk in the park. I'm truly blessed to have two daughters that have always had a hunger for knowledge and information. Didn't think the youngest was going to make it, but she has pulled it out and has a very creative mind.

The great thing is there are a bunch of sharp ones out there. I've had the pleasure of watching kids and friends prosper and grow into productive individuals making a contribution to our society. I sit quietly and watch daughters and buds engage in fascinating debate. On occasion I'll dare to join in and sometimes hold my own.

There is hope! Unfortunately the ones making a difference aren't getting the attention;)

PS Bill, I know you did the right thing. The kids picked up some valuable info from a skilled educator with practical experience . They also witnessed someone with no vested interest giving of his time and talents to help them achieve there goals. For most it may not register. I'm sure they all didn't even thank you. But those kind of lessons stick, and some pass them on. Besides they are really fun to look at as you have implied many times in your threads:eek: :rolleyes: .

thomas prevost
09-04-2004, 9:31 PM
How would you like to be the guy in the yard that has to handle these problems everyday? The most fustrating thing is the guy with a zillion dollars of wood working equipment who comes in with a cut sheet from wood working magazines or purchased plans and wants boards exactly as on the cut sheet. 7" by 9 1/2' and another 4 1/4" by 5 1/4' etc. He can't understand you can get the same cuts from a stanard 8" by 10' board.They are a small annoyance compared to the guys who come in with great pictures of great projects they did with our wood. Cabinet makers are the best. "rail, rails, OH! a great door front". They just seem to have an eye for what a rough cut board will look like finished. Not that others don't. Give a turner a piece of firewood and he will give you the prettiest bowl going.

Steve Clardy
09-04-2004, 10:47 PM
Well you did a fabulous job Bill.:) Did better than I probably would have.
If my brain could have reconized what you did I may have been able to get the boob, er board foot calculater going in my head.
But I probably would have been tongue tied, stumbling and bumbling, and would have been in the amazing ozone mode.;)


larry merlau
09-07-2004, 3:23 PM
i commend you on the control you showed in the chest issue. i feel that the father had no idea of what he said and the other meaning it might inflict to some. i too have taught and shown my two daughters the importance of gettin the righ education and one of them was using your hands to do manual work, helped them realize that brain power is important. i didnt finish college becasue of other responsibilties that at the time i felt more important, regret that today some but it has al come out in the wash. i have two daughter with the right stuff and no midrifs showing and have an independant appitude as well. i am sure you gave tyhem girls the right approach and some of them will hang on to the wisdom. and as for the teachers of today some are still great teachers. if it wasnt for 2 specail teachers i had i wouldnt have had the chance to get in to college at all. so when i see others who can benifit from my small wisdom or experiences i always try to help out. that is just like this forum those involved are the cream of the crop. they al help out others and are glad to do so. we all need to continue that with all we come in contack with when we have the chance to help. and most of all show all the good points they have and support them to the fullest.

Chris Padilla
09-07-2004, 4:18 PM
Bill said it already but the teacher makes or breaks the class they teach. It really is that simple. If the teacher doesn't care about the subject they are teaching, the students won't care either.

In college we had the world's worst professor teaching our statics and dynamics course from the College of Civil Engineering. I hated the course and learned zero from it and even sold my book back. Lately, I wish I would've at least kept the book as it would've been handy several times. All I can say is that my physics' course have filled in where that one left off.

Oh, the prof teaching it was new and brought in for all his research money. He would literally show up to class, open the book, and read it to us and then assign the problems at the end of the chapter...that is it.

Donnie Raines
09-07-2004, 5:46 PM
See, i find that the problem lies more with the student then with the teacher. Sure..if you have a teacher that has no clue...that does not help. But, if an individual has the desire to(burning within ones self) to learn and to excel....then they will. Honestly...I hate math. I received C and C- throughout school...collage included(by the way...A's everywhere else.. :cool: ). But I did love buisness, history and science....and I find myself very fluid in many of those topics. Its all in the soul...most of which comes natural. Some feelings/behaviors are learned...no doubt. But I think it is an individual thing. Also, i dont find that it makes them stupid per say that they do not know math. I have had people show up for a application who brought no money or doucments that were requested(haveing been told to bring them only 1 hour before). and these are people in very "smart" jobs....no examples to be given for fear of offending some... :rolleyes: :D

Paul Downes
09-07-2004, 8:00 PM
I feel compelled to weigh in on this subject. The short answer is that now you know why we home school our kids.
In my opinion, the education system in this country is in shambles. This is not a problem of under paid teachers. This is a problem of a morally bankrupt system that is run by people with an agenda to preserve their idea of education at the expense of the kids it is supposed to serve. Every time you hear about poor scores on tests, you hear the old song and dance about the lack of funding. My local school scored tops in the state in science and math with 47% of the kids proficient in those areas. This was the brag of the school superintendent. I stood up and commented at this school board meeting that I wouldn’t be bragging about scores when OVER HALF OF THE STUDENTS WERE NOT PROFICIENT! There was a group of us opposed to the local school millage proposal and we were engaged in an attempt to defeat it. We subsequently got a letter from this Dr. of Education superintendent and after reading it we decided to correct his spelling and grammar and send it back to him. Needless to say he was not pleased with us. We also found numerous math errors in their proposal.
My oldest daughter has been struggling this past year with her 11th grade studies. She still hasn’t finished last year’s work. I sat down with her today and went over her work that is in arrears. (She should be starting 12th grade) I was amazed with the amount of work she was trying to complete. Way overboard! We were trying a different home school curriculum and we now have learned that it is very demanding. She has tested very high on her MEAP and ACT tests. I promised her that we would change to a more reasonable school curriculum. The bottom line is that employers seek her after because she can make change in her head, she shows up for work on time and, she is reliable and works hard. She dresses modestly and is respectful of those around her. Pretty simple.
The other thing you can do for your kids is throw the T.V. out. I have seen nothing but immoral crap on the tube these days. Most of the commercials are hedonistic and insulting to your intelligence. I get somewhat of a sadistic pleasure in sitting down with some kids and watching their favorite T.V. show and commenting about every moral discrepancy and illogical thing I see. I ask them, “Do you know any mothers or fathers who act like that?” The unfortunate consequence of watching T.V. a lot is that one becomes numb to poor programming and immoral behavior. The election news has provided plenty of opportunity to engage in this past time. Emotional arguments and outright lies are common. I want my kids to THINK. Challenge every statement. If they have no standard in life how can they make objective decisions? Morality is not a right of religion; it should be a national standard. You can almost conclude that the education establishment attempts to separate morality from the classroom with some misguided interpretation of the separation of church and state! The truth is that they teach their own version of ‘morality’ that is nothing less than amoral, or immoral.
Where I work we have hired 3 engineers in the last 3 years. One was very good and is doing quite well. He grew up on the farm and must have had good parents because he treats others well. Another one was somewhat intelligent, but was so amoral that her work suffered and she alienated all those who had to work with her. She got moved out. The last one scored very high in school and is a real nice person, but she is a complete zero in ability. She can’t remember simple instructions and can’t engineer the simplest of problems. I wouldn’t trust her to wire in a light bulb. She is going to leave us soon to become a production supervisor. I wish her well.
I can only conclude that we are in dire straights in this country when it comes to the product of our schools. We must be a failing civilization. GO HOME SCHOOLING!!!!!!

Ian Barley
09-07-2004, 9:06 PM
Thanks Bill for an amusing story well told. It is a great example of the kind of practical knowledge that a life lived fully gives. I am sure that you left an impression on everybody that you took the time to help out.

One of the realities of youth is that when things take place in "unfamiliar" surroundings we don't necessary relate them to all of our knowledge. I guess I mean that maybe these kids didn't "have their game heads on". Maybe the same questions asked in the familiar surroundings of the classroom would have got completely different answers. I know for a fact that it took me until my mid twenties to start applying all of my life skills in all situations.

As far as numbers go, I think that many people have difficulty relating math to real life and even more don't realise how much they use math in real life.

The big gap I see in many people is the skill of estimating. And it is a skill. There seems to be a mental block that many people have with the idea that 144 and 150 can be near enough to each other to give a useful answer. I'm lucky that I find juggling numbers in my head easy and could divide 600 by 144 mentally, but wouldn't bother because experience of using estimation tells me that I don't need to. The important words in this paragraph are skill and experience. Its one of those things that you can't teach - you have to learn it.

I buy my lumber by the cubic metre and it is priced by the cubic foot. 1728 cubic inches in a cubic foot - 12 board feet. 62807.484375 cubic inches in a cubic metre. 36.346923828125 Cubic Feet in a cubic metre. £12/ft3 (plus VAT @17.5%) for Oak Shorts. Anybody wanna play?? If I asked for 12 board feet in most timber yards over here they would not understand what I wanted.

Bill met a group of young kids on what sounds like a sunny day taking a trip to a place that they didn't go very often and doing something that they had probably never done before. While they where there they bumped into a nice guy who, because he has a strong personality, sound practical knowledge and relatively distinctive appearance, almost certainly left them a bit wiser at the end of the day than they were at the beginning. I think it takes a bit of a stretch to extrapolate that to the end of the world as we know it.

I think that this is a great thread which everybody can use to examine the way that we all teach and learn every day (In my book any day were you don't learn something is wasted and any day that you don't teach something is a missed opprotunity) . I hope that it does not go off into realms that bump it into the TOS of this site and cause it to be lost as a learning resource for all of us.

Stefan Antwarg
09-07-2004, 11:12 PM
The way you describe your school district, it sounds like it is very poorly run. I can tell you that my school certainly isn't like that. You are making a lot of broad generalizations about the state of things. Sounds to me like you need to get out and research areas where the schools are run better. Of course, home schooling is a good option.

We subsequently got a letter from this Dr. of Education superintendent and after reading it we decided to correct his spelling and grammar and send it back to him. Needless to say he was not pleased with us. We also found numerous math errors in their proposal.

On the other hand, it doesn't sound like you are doing a whole lot to help.


Brad Hammond
09-08-2004, 12:40 AM
i just wanna say "thanx bill" , while i hope i have a little more cognitave ability related to the math such as you described. i KNOW i'm not alone in saying i was once a little creeker visiting the sawmill or lumber yard for the first time and being confused with board feet v linear feet, s2s v s4s, .............all that crap was cleared up by someone who took the time to explain it to me. someone like you!!!!
AND...... it's great folks like you that make this site what it is and i applaud you for taking the time and patience!!

thanx again!!!

Paul Downes
09-08-2004, 5:04 PM
Stefan, I didn't go into great detail because of the limits of time and space in the forum format. I believe the first thing a person should do is to speak up when they believe they see an injustice. At least that is the beginning of communication. To simply get angry and go and ‘kick the dog’ is at best apathetic. Criticism has gotten a bad name in this ‘tolerant’ culture we live in. Many people do not handle it well nor seem to know how to use it constructively. That being said, I don’t try to offend someone just for the sake of it. So I apologize if my post offended you. I am deeply concerned about the state of the education system in this country. I am the son of a college professor who lost his career because he would not compromise his principle concerning the quality of education. Don’t believe for a second that I am bitter about this; my passion is fueled more by the realization of how good things could be. As some of the other posters pointed out, we have been surpassed by many other countries in their quality of education, especially in the primary and secondary school years. I had a Philippino engineer friend and co-worker who regularly solved problems with algebra equations. While I was busy trying to remember the correct formula he was busy making and using formulas to solve the problem. My own education is suspect as I am the product of the 60’s and 70’s. I am well aware of my own limitations. I am mad about this. I believe myself and my classmates were shortchanged by the ‘system’. I just don’t want to see the same ‘crime’ perpetrated on future generations.
I would be glad to go into greater detail about what I believe, maybe in another format. It would be great to set down with a cold brew or other beverage and hash out some philosophical points. Maybe even while making wood chips. The creek is a great woodworking forum and I hope I haven’t stepped on too many toes, I am just trying to challenge what I believe is a great disservice to this great country. I have faith that it can be changed, and I want to be part of the solution. Home schooling has already challenged the status quo, and will continue to do so. I will do my best to contribute my 10 children, well educated, to the solution. If you’re ever out in Michigan, give me a ring. Paul. :D

Ernie Hobbs
09-08-2004, 5:38 PM
I'm not surprised that they didn't know how to calculate BF. What does surprise me is that the professor should have known how to do the math, if he/she intended to bring back materials for their project.

I grew up in woodworking-- I started sweeping the shop floors for an hourly wage when I was seven years old. My Dad always made sure that I knew how to operate tools safely, and taught me proper techniques with hand tools, power tools, etc. However, I usually didn't care to learn any more than I was forced to and I realize now that I squandered a great opportuinty to learn.

It wasn't until I was out of college in in my first house when I started to wish I knew more about woodworking. Fortunately, I only lived a few hours away and could go home anytime and use Dad's shop and his lumber rack. Whenever I had a project, Dad would tell me what I needed and how much wood, etc. He usually picked out the wood so I wouldn't take his good stuff (since he was giving it to me).

Last summer I moved about 700+ miles away and had to start building furniture completely independent of Dad's shop. Upon approaching my first major project last winter, I realized that I didn't know how to calculate BF. I always just figured it out on my own, but not the proper way. I would just go to the lumber yard and pick out boards and let them figure out how much I owed, without really being able to check the math. So, I went online and looked up the formula (it was easier than I thought). I felt pretty stupid for not know how sooner.

So, I have been around woodworking for most of my 32 years and finally know how much wood I need to do a project. Since I have moved away, I have been having a lot of fun learning the basics that I should have learned a long time ago.

Ernie Hobbs
Madison, AL

Stefan Antwarg
09-08-2004, 8:35 PM

Your post didn't really offend me. But my thoughts on it was something like - here's another person who is complaining about the education system who hasn't actually been a teacher in a public school to see what is really going on. Don't get me wrong, I have no idea what your experiences have been and for all I know, maybe you were a public school teacher. It's just that I hear this sort of complaint in various places - TV, newspaper, forums, parents, etc. - and it just starts to get old. I work in a decent school within a decent county. Sure, crazy ideas come down from the top and we have to teach it. But nothing that is an immoral hidden agenda - to paraphrase you. The teachers in my school are very knowlegable about their subject and certainly knowlegable about kids. But it doesn't take long to realize that in the end, it is all about the parents. It doesn't matter how good the teacher is or how good the educational philosophy of the school or system is. If the parents are not parenting at home, it's an uphill battle.

Perhaps I don't understand the direction you are coming from - or what exactly your complaint is. But I guess my point is that there is more to the problem then just poor schools, teachers, and philosophies. Also that the public should realize that there are school systems doing the right thing and have the best interests of kids at heart.

I am certainly not condemning home schooling. If the teacher really understands the subject matter, and how to teach it, then I am sure it is a very good system. Although, I often wonder if the parent really understands some of that advanced level material. Of course one of the advantages of public/private school, is that your kids are learning from a specialist of that subject. But I guess all that is another thread.


Paul Downes
09-08-2004, 9:29 PM
Stefan, Optimism is good, but I believe it is misplaced in regards to the public school system of this country. As far as immoral curriculums that teachers are forced to teach, yes that happens, frequently. I need only mention one such called the Michigan Model. It was rife with situational ethics that lacked morals and was filled with homosexual rhetoric as well as a terrible sex education segment. The plan was to export this ‘teaching’ tool to the rest of the country.
I know this because I worked to fight it and studied it quite a bit. We had to get a court order to get access to the teachers manuals used to implement it. We were able to keep it out of our county. Other counties in the state were not so fortunate. There were several suicides by 5th and 6th grade student’s mere days after viewing the segment on sex education where they were taught how NOT to m*****bate using a rope. This along with encouraging kids to use condoms so called ‘safe sex’. As if there isn’t terrible wreckage from kids getting involved with this before they are able to be responsible or start a family. We don’t need schools pushing their brand of social engineering on our kids. I believe this is the parent’s responsibility. All we had to do to defeat this program was to make parents aware of it’s content, something the teachers union and some state officials tried their best to keep hidden.
One of the biggest lies, in my opinion, is that ‘you can be anything you want to be’. It sounds nice on the surface, but the reality is that for every action there are consequences. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in encouraging kids to work to realize their dreams and ambitions. It’s just that when one hears this lie it is usually accompanied by the statement ‘don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do this or that. You are your own person and you need to make your own decisions’. As if kids are full of wisdom and mature enough to deal with the consequences of poor decisions.
I oppose anything that tears at the structure of family. It is a reality that family structure is under siege. I sorrow over the divorces and single parent families that are so common. We all lose.
I know there are good teachers. I also know that there are many teachers that are a product of the system that was failing when they were in school and is failing today.
I only know how to do my part with my own kids. I believe things can only be fixed one family at a time, so that is where I make my effort. Paul.

Stefan Antwarg
09-09-2004, 7:42 AM
I can't argue with any of that, Paul. It clears up what you were saying in the above thread. I just hope that type of curriculum doesn't make it here.


Ernie Kuhn
09-10-2004, 2:01 AM
Everyone is responding to our current state of education. In your 1st paragraph, "...tank tops...boobs...bellies..." and in your 2nd paragraph, "...an older girl...popped out" ?
All kidding aside, I think you rendered them a service even their professor could not. That's the part I find amazing. Not the students' lack of understanding but the professor's, "this is architecture 101" e.g. board foot calcs "not my job", someone elses........next year? I'm old enough that my "calculator" only had 20 digits (if I took my shoes off). Oh well......progress.
My old person's perspective is, you managed to teach some of the younger generation something, and, some of them actually listened! Next time, have a little fun with it, ask them, "If I help you with this, what's in it for me? Will you all promise to vote for higher Social Security Retirement Benefits and government subsidized pharaceuticals? If you "promise" to help this "old" one later, I'll help you now."
Tell a couple of jokes e.g. cut twice and still too short etc.
Anyhow, you did good, better than their professor.

Dennis Peacock
09-10-2004, 3:38 AM
Well...I think this is a good place to end this controverisal conversation.

Many people have various ideas on education. Some know how to teach it and make it "fun" to learn while others teach it because it's their JOB!

If any of you want to discuss this issue more in detail, then please do so via PM's or email. A public forum is not the place to fight out our differences of opinions on education....especially in a <b>woodworking forum</b>. :D