Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Insane asylum in Texas

The one-star state

My college roommate from years gone by had had a good run, but the glory days were definitely coming to an end. While I had detoured into a stint in state government before settling down to a comfy teaching job, he had taken his shiny new Ph.D. in mathematics into the Beltway bandit business back on the East Coast. His lucrative consulting work for the U.S. Navy eventually brought him back to California with a cushy position as CIO for the San Diego office of a major research firm.

I still remember the time he mentioned in a Christmas letter that his year-end bonus was more than half my entire year's teaching salary (and I do not consider myself underpaid). Ow!

Good thing he socked a lot of it away for a rainy day, because it's been raining heavily (figuratively speaking) for a few years now. In the natural course of events, his company was acquired by a rival organization. The consolidation of operations led to a significant reduction in staffing throughout the newly merged companies. When he saw the name of the vice president and chief information officer of their new overlords, my college roomie saw it as the writing on the wall. It was someone he had laid off for under-performance several years earlier. Apparently he had landed on his feet and now had the upper hand.

My friend accepted his buy-out package and walked out the door. He couldn't find an equivalent position anywhere (particularly if he didn't want to uproot his growing family), so he polished up his old secondary-school teaching credential and found employment as a high school calculus teacher. The pay was poor, but the job was more fun that he had had in several years. And there was that nest egg he had socked away to provide a nice mixed-metaphor cushion and safety net.

All was well, and his old college roommate didn't write to point out that our salary situations were now reversed. (In the aggregate, he's still way ahead, but we're not competitive about it. Oh, no!)

Then the California state economy splashed into the toilet. San Diego school districts started laying off the teachers with the least seniority. My buddy got pink-slipped.

What to do?

Smart guy that he is, my friend had stayed in touch with former colleagues throughout the government consulting business. He had picked up some independent consulting contracts. It wasn't as lush as the good old days, but it was substantial. Then, a breakthrough!

His wife found out from old friends that a number of teaching jobs were open in their urban school district in Houston, Texas. My friend dropped me a note:
The wife has a bean up her butt to move to Houston to be close to dear friends and much closer to her family. I’ve applied for some teaching jobs in their district. The situation in Texas appears to be much brighter than California in terms of funding for education and our friends’ district is really good. Pay is less but we can get a house comparable to ours for about 1/3 the price. We shall see.
I wrote him a semi-congratulatory response:
Sorry to hear that you have a pink slip in your future. Being a teacher in Texas sounds scary to me, but it's probably safer for math teachers. The nut cases on the Texas school board are too busy messing with science and history standards to worry much about math.
My old buddy was quick to reply:
I doubt Texas will happen. Had to apply to keep the wife happy. Don't know about math standards in the one-star state. Are Arabic numerals allowed?
Oh, God. If the Texas school board finds out that mathematicians promote Arabic numerals, they might want to round us all up as terrorists!


Karen said...

what's the progression of numerals in the illustration at the bottom of the entry?

athena said...

Oh, noes! Terrist numbers!

Wonder if they realize where algebra came from and who it was named after.

kai said...

They should of course do their math with proper Roman numerals.

Zeno said...

Thank you, Kai, for the perfect response. I don't recall having seen Roman fractions before.

Zeno said...

Karen, the progression of numerals at the end of the post is from a tableau of illustrations of the evolution of modern numeric symbols from Wikipedia.

Marilyn Massacre said...

ER NER!! TERRIST NERMBERS!!! But, seriously Texas is like that. I should know I've lived here my whole life.