Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jobs for the Digital Age

We have heard so much about jobs and the need for a workforce educated for the computer age, I couldn't get this out of my mind.

Last Saturday I went on my weekly supermarket run. At the deli counter I asked for "six-tenths of a pound of turkey." The deli man, who was in his twenties, replied, "What's that? Two-thirds?"

This struck me as an odd response. The scale is digital, after all, unless the display he sees is different from the one that faces the customer. His response suggested that he did not know that "six-tenths" is "0.6." But more than that, what was he going to do with the information if I told him "yeah"? Would he know how to read two-thirds off a digital scale? I told him "A little more than half a pound" and that is what I got.

I shrugged and forgot about it. Until I went to a different supermarket today on the same errand.

"Six tenths of a pound of turkey," I said. Deli man #2, about the same age, replied, "Is that like a quarter?" Wow, I am seeing a pattern here. Maybe it's just the Stop&Shop chain?

How the hell is the U.S. going to compete in this world when people in their twenties don't know decimals? You can't even slice turkey in a market without knowing that much!