Com­mon sense thresh­old

The Covington News - - Opinion -

A fre­quent topic of con­ver­sa­tion in the Lan­guage Arts teach­ers’ work room of New­ton High School more than 20 years ago was some­thing we called the sense thresh­old. When the ad­min­is­tra­tion, county of­fice or other pow­ers-that-be is­sued an edict that de­fied com­mon sense, we would ex­claim in won­der, dis­cuss the ab­sur­dity and in­tone, “sense thresh­old, sense thresh­old.”

One year, it was de­cided that we would not keep of­fi­cial at­ten­dance in our roll books; we would mark at­ten­dance and tardies on a Scantron form for each class pe­riod. In other words, we would bub­ble in who was tardy and ab­sent on a form sim­i­lar to forms used in stan­dard­ized tests. We were also told to keep roll in our roll books as a back up. This new in­no­va­tion was all done in the name of less­en­ing pa­per work for teach­ers.

Ba­si­cally we had to take roll in two places. So much for less­en­ing pa­per work. Then about six or seven weeks into the school year, the ad­min­is­tra­tor who was sup­posed to be han­dling school at­ten­dance ad­mit­ted to be­ing over­whelmed by the sheer vol­ume of tardies. If a stu­dent was tardy a des­ig­nated num­ber of times to a sin­gle class, he was re­ferred to the of­fice to be dis­ci­plined. Since the ad­min­is­tra­tor could not cope with the vol­ume, we were in­structed to keep up with the tardies to our classes and send in a dis­ci­pline re­port when the spec­i­fied num­ber was met by a stu­dent. So now we were keep­ing roll in two places and keep­ing up with tardies.

At the end of the grad­ing pe­riod, we were in­formed that our roll books were the of­fi­cial record of at­ten­dance. We were to ig­nore the num­ber of tardies and ab­sences printed out by the com­puter and change what the com­puter said to match our roll book.

Now we were tak­ing roll two times, mak­ing our own tardy re­fer­rals and check­ing our roll books for at­ten­dance and tardies and cor­rect­ing the com­puter. All in the name of mak­ing teach­ers’ work loads eas­ier. Sense thresh­old, sense thresh­old.

I thought things like this hap­pened only in ed­u­ca­tion. Boy, was I wrong.

Re­cently, I was mak­ing a recipe that re­quired the zest of an orange. I try not to cook, but some­times it creeps up on you. I went to the store with a shop­ping list of one orange and some pow­dered su­gar.

When I got to the pro­duce sec­tion, I was faced with the de­ci­sion of buy­ing a bag of or­anges for around $3 or one or­ganic orange for 98 cents. I only needed one, but you get more for your buck with the large bag. It was a tough call, but I de­cided on one orange, ra­tio­nal­iz­ing that the zest of an or­ganic orange would be safer.

I took my two items to the self check out, scanned the su­gar and scanned the orange as it had a bar code. The ma­chine said wait for at­ten­dant. So I waited as she was with some­one else.

She came over and took the orange and ticked away on her com­puter-cash reg­is­ter and then gave it back to me. I looked at my check­out screen and it said $1.50 grape­fruit.

I turned to the at­ten­dant and told her my pro­duce was an orange, not a grape­fruit.

She took it from me and went through the same process again. It again came up $1.50 grape­fruit.

I said some­thing to the ef­fect that you could look at my piece of fruit and tell it was not a grape­fruit. While I ad­mit, since it was or­ganic, that it was not a bright orange, it was orange, had a navel (it was a navel orange) and had thicker skin than a grape­fruit.

I asked the at­ten­dant if she would sim­ply look up the code for the orange. I told her it was 98 cents. I asked her if she would just fix the er­ror on her com­puter-cash reg­is­ter.

To para­phrase Shake­speare, ap­par­ently in a gro­cery store an orange by any other bar code is not as sweet (or an orange).

She told me I had to re­turn the grape­fruit (be­cause if the bar code said it was a grape­fruit, it was a grape­fruit) to the pro­duce sec­tion and re­turn with an orange. I fig­ured any more ar­gu­ing would be fu­tile and did as in­structed.

Con­sid­er­ing the time it took for all of this to play out, I would have been bet­ter off pay­ing $1.50 for my orange also-known-as grape­fruit.

Sense thresh­old, sense thresh­old.

Paula Travis is a re­tired teacher from the New­ton County School Sys­tem. She can be reached at ptravis@ cov­

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