Wednesday, April 10, 2013

When Doing The Math Doesn't Add Up

Doug Vehle, The Daily Bosco

So it had been one infuriating day when I witnessed the joke of 'What did one fast food worker say to the other?' What he said was that his friend ". . . .Is a grandfather now. His boy just had a 1 1/2 year old."

The other didn't seem to question the idea that the child came into this world having skipped the first 18 months of his life: I assumed the ready acceptance of this by both parties helped explain why they were still working their fast food jobs when they, too, looked old enough to be grandfathers. Normally to accidently be present for such an exchange I would find amusing, this was just the sort of mindlessness I'd been facing on this day.

And on this occasion, it had indeed been a level of criminal mindlessness I was subjected to. What was meant as my effort in some additional education turned into a surprise investigation into law breaking, leaving me to feel like the late Mike Wallace, catching another conman in the act and saying his name followed with ". . . .COME ON!"

So I'm looking for another Associate in Arts degree. Or two.

With my current interest in electric vehicles I've been thinking the best way to learn about electric circuitry would be through the Physics program. As I've been enrolled at Cerritos College learning plastics, I thought that would be the place to keep going to school. After all, Cerritos is the home of a Plastics program that offers a one page summary of every class offered.

In addition to TWO defined degree plans (On paper so you can have a copy) for a well rounded education in plastic, there are individual certificates (Also on paper) for the specialites in plastics for those who only seek to learn, say, composites, fiberglass, materials and process, industrial design, all of which I have either completed or will complete as the remaining classes become available. As long as I'm there waiting for the next offering, I can also study Physics.

I wouldn't expect the Physics program to be so carefully organized as Plastics turned out to be; good thing I didn't. They did manage to provide information on what classes covered AC/DC circuits, as well as how to go ahead and complete a two year degree on the subject. As one would reasonably expect.

The problem came with math.

You see, there are three levels of Calculus and Analytic Geometry classes required for these Physics classes. Prior to taking the first it is required to take PreCalculus, before that Trigonometry. Fine, I just ask one thing: Since I have to take more than 18 units of math, more than is required of the major in most community college AA degrees, I want that Associate in Arts degree in Mathematics. Not much to ask, right? Certainly I should expect I'd never be asked an accusatory "WHATDOYOUWANTTHATFOR?" Literally, as though there's something suspicious about my trying to graduate.

I remember how well prepared the Fullerton Community College catalog was. There really wasn't a need to see a counselor. Owing to to the variety of schools a student might be planning to transfer to, the requirements remained relatively open, just take 18 units from the offerings. There might be a specific class or two required, after that, just take what you need and leave the rest. How lovely it would have been if only Cerritos College was so well prepared. Or is it that they should be so open?

I'm left to feel I've been trying to learn something top secret. All I want to know is, 'What classes am I required to take to complete an AA degree in math?' Is there, say, some pet class they require of everyone? Statistics? College Algebra? I already have a Bachelors degree, this should be easy.

I'm very good at math, growing up I always had the top score nationally in the math portion of the aptitude tests at school. When my point total of maybe 40 put me in the 99th percentile, it meant that at least 99% of those taking the test had less than that 40 right. This was an annual result for me, I'd been growing up expecting to study math and physics in college until my Mother, as always, set out to destroy everything by sending me to a private school with teachers who spoke little English and had little education themselves. My outlook on life changed dramatically, but that's another story.

I really lost interest in taking any more math classes at the time. Math, though, really isn't a problem for me. There's quite a bit of it in Television production. One second of video is made up of 30 frames, unless you're editing with time code for broadcast, then it's 29.97 frames per second. You're going to be dropping some frames from your total here and there, hence the term "Drop frame editing." And when you're directing live television you're working from a rundown that totals your segments to exactly 60 minutes to the hour, not 59 and a half or 60 minutes and 12 seconds. At perhaps 27 minutes and 55 seconds into the hour you can expect a "Hard time break." You will be out of the show and into the commercials so they'll be over at 29:55, with only the :05 second title bump as leeway, starting the 30:00 segment of the show right at 30:00 and getting ready to do it again at 57:55. Or whatever format is in use. That's not even counting some of the electronic tuning of the equipment the more capable of us would do.

I've proven I can handle math, how nice it will be to prove noone has any business questioning that. We're living in an age when people feel free to question everything not because there's reason to question, but because they like creating problems.

 So why am I finding such troublemaking questioning when I try to learn how to get this AA degree in Mathematics? The catalog makes a vague statement about taking "Common classes." So does the college website. The department tries to discourage me from graduating. The teacher I was sent to talk to told me I should just go talk to the department I want a degree from, to which I responded. "I AM talking to the department I want a degree from." He'd rather I went after a 4 year degree while never graduating from his department. That's his problem.

 My problem is: I'm being left to feel as though I've kicked the door in on some underworld figure, pointed the camera at the law breaker, then began channeling Mike Wallace as I say ". . . .COME ON!" Indeed, in the State of California this is crime in progress as they continue to refuse to tell me. Cerritos College Mathematics department, COME ON!

Afterall, they are in violation of S.B. 1440, signed into law on September 29, 2010. The bare bones of the legislation ". . . .Requires community colleges to grant an associate degree . . . once a student has met specified general education and major requirements for the degree. . . beginning the Fall 2011-12 academic year." The law of the State of California, where the funding comes from. Oops. I guess I'm not the only one who's encountered a problem with people just doing their job as they know they should already be doing WITHOUT there being a law requiring they do the right thing. But having the law doesn't seem to be helping.

It's hard to understand why there would even be any resistance. Mathematics is a department that offers many classes required for other programs, such as Physics, yet there is also a great shortage of Math degrees, according to the Simons Foundation nearly 40 percent of all high school math teachers do not have any math related degree. Just an AA would be an improvement. Merely a two year degree in Mathematics is listed as a qualification for some well paying jobs that are hard to fill even in the current economy. Yet so limited is the view of the Cerritos College Mathematics department that, since they have Masters degrees and don't see a 2 year degree as meaningful, they can't be bothered to comply with S.B. 1440 as is curently required and allow students to graduate.

Cerritos College Mathematics department, COME ON! It would be a non Television job, but if I went to work for this one company I guess I'd be working steady. There's other things I've dreamed of being around, in this case it's auto racing. The talk to them has only been friendly until now, they always love racing fans. Suddenly the idea of my having a math background to go with the plastics has caught their interest. They point out an extension program at Cal Polytechnic Pomona covering Finite Element Analysis, the kind of thing they'd be wanting me to help out with. Can I really consider such a move?

Not without my AA in Mathematics, it would seem. Cerritos College Mathematics department, COME ON! Before you start with the same tired advice so many are givng me, keep in mind I've amassed quite an education WITHOUT seeing a counselor. I picked up my initial AA in Broadcasting and completed all my general education at Fullerton College, setting up for a Bachelors degree in English and a minor in Theatre Arts from Cal State Fullerton. A 2 year degree in a different subject than your 4 year degree is an excellent way to a diverse education.

I didn't have the $20,000 for the complete graduate program in Film at UCLA or the $50,000 so many spend on the thesis film, but I did get to take classes, including the legendary madman Mryl Schreibman and the classic free thinker James Hosney, their most notable teachers at the time.

With the up and down nature of television leaving me with some free time for volunteer social work I went back to Fullerton College to pick up an AA in Sociology. Prior to my accident and leg injury I'd earned an AA in Administration of Justice while planning for reserve law enforcement, then went on to an AA in Education while getting ready to teach Television. Without needing to talk to anyone about it. Of course all those came at schools with a better school catalog than Cerritos College.

I've even been completing the certificates in Plastics, good thing the head of their department is so well organized with everything in print. I don't have to actually ask what I need, though he's quick to tell anyone who does ask. So why is the Mathematics department working harder to get out of doing their job, as LEGALLY REQUIRED, than it would be to just do their job? But the lack of organization elsewhere extends to the counseling. In this case in a more sinister manner.

I'm told by the woman at the desk, I suppose a student with an on campus job, to "Sit in the chairs along the wall outside the door." This was in conflict with the posted signs, leading me to ask: She became hysterical in response. After an hour as the ONLY person sitting in the chairs along the wall, she comes out the door and angrily announces she's only letting in the people in the OTHER row of chairs. When I remind her that, not only did he insist that the chairs along the wall were the right chairs, she starts pointing at the signs I had asked her about and shouting "Can you read the signs?" I answered just as loudly "I can hear you speak when you CAN'T read the signs."

But this has more to do with the fact I was the only nondark skinned student there when the dark skinned racist was workng the desk without the proper supervision. In this case there were federal laws she was breaking. Needless to say, I haven't been able to learn if the counseling department knows anything about the Mathematics degree, thanks to their failure to properly control their racism within.

Cerritos College Counseling department, COME ON! Yet another expose. . . .

So I've been up to have a look at the Physics department at Mount San Antonio College. Lovely new building. I was there the day when one of their students who'd transferred to the same UCLA Physics Department where my Father did PhD studies came to speak about being involved in research on Dark Matter. A current student asked a question that referenced Dark Energy as a residual from the Big Bang and went on in arcane detail about what he wanted to know, leading the speaker to ask, almost in shock, how he knew to ask about this. (The answer was that a teacher the speaker well recognized had an aside about it one day in class.)

As well as being published on page 99 in the catalog, you can read about the Mathematics degree requirements by going to, then clicking on academic programs. Then you get to choose between a link to the catalog online or the Natural Sciences Math link that offers a 'Mathematics Course Sequence,' to learn that all I'll need is 18 units of the listed classes, no more than two from the computer scequence, with all my prerequistes for Physics counting and totalling 20 units, an entire Math major in itself. And yes, those would be considered the "Common classes," as I kept pointing out to Cerritos College. (COME ON!) If I must leave Cerritos for my math, I will leave for Physics, also.

Perhaps their killing my chance to study math at Cerritos College will be sending me to a better place. . . .

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