Saturday, February 22, 2014

Not Completely Useless Yet

There are times that the continuous drumbeat of "People over 40 are too stupid to hire" really gets to me.  The other night, my wife was participating in a poetry reading in the coffee shop part of a Hastings in Nampa, along with other faculty and students from College of Western Idaho.  Over in a corner of the coffee shop, a couple of Boise State students were working on their chemistry homework. 

As I listened to them struggling to understand valence and chemical compounds, I joined them, and walked through the process of understanding how electrons are transferred, and the importance of the columns on the period table.  I cannot imagine that their instructor did not cover all this in class -- but not everything that is transmitted is properly received.  I could see the lights turning on when I explained them how the loosely bound electrons in the outer shells of the more electropositive atoms are anxious to be taken away, and the more tightly bound electrons of the electronegative atoms are anxious to complete their shells, and how this forms ionic bonds.  Then I explained covalent bonding and electronegativity.  I could see the lights turning on. We also went over how to use atomic weights to solve some of the mass calculation problems, and explained some of the practical applications of chemistry, especially for making stuff blow up real good!

I have not studied chemistry since 1975.  It is nice to know that I have not forgotten it all.


  1. Did the same thing with some trigonometry the other day for my daughter, when she was trying to figure out how to explain a problem to a student she's tutoring in mathematics. The knowledge was still there, though it's been 30 years or more since I had to use it.

  2. I watched my mother teach my sister's 17-year-old boyfriend how to read, in about 20 minutes.

  3. It sucks to be on the short end of the stick in terms of hiring fashion but there's something of a consolation. All of those people passing up older talent are driving up their cost structure and making it more likely that their businesses fail.