I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. I am not an old fogey. You don't have to be an old fogey to recognize that the world started on the road to tarnation when they started handing out driver's licenses to people who do not know the first thing about shifting gears.
No, I am not philosophically opposed to automatic transmissions any more than I am opposed to Polaroid cameras. But anybody who cannot operate a car with a stick shift should not be certified officially as a driver. Would you call some whippersnapper who takes pretty good pictures with a Polaroid a photographer?
Automatic transmissions were invented for the convenience of non-drivers. And just to show that I'm not a mean-minded old grouch, I'd be perfectly willing to grant the operators of these clutchless wonders a license-of- convenience that would allow them to go to the supermarket or church or some such. But you wouldn't want them on the Interstate, now would you?
Why, that would be as outlandish as allowing a child to think he could tell time because he could read off the numbers on a digital watch. Oh, yes, there are plenty such children around. Give 'em a proper clock and they'd be hard pressed to tell you whether it's morning or evening. They sit there pushing buttons on their dadburned digitals and imagine that they are telling time.
At least some of them are still able to pick up the phone and call Time of Day service if their watch battery goes dead. But don't count on their being able to do that much longer. This feller writing in The New York Times the other day knows what I'm talking about. A friend of his wanted to call him from his hospital bed, but he never got the call made. You know why?
"He had become accustomed to using an autodialer with the numbers he called most commonly programmed into it. He had made calls with a touch of a button for so long he had forgotten all the numbers."
Probably he would have written that Times feller a letter, but I'd bet a confederate he couldn't write a note to the milkman without his dadburned word processor.
That's what the world has come to. The more conveniences they come up with, the less anybody knows how to do. If I had my way, nobody would be allowed to graduate from high school until he learned to how to use a fountain pen and tell time on a good old two-handed American clock, not one of those red-dialed contrivances that just sit there blinking 12:00 like a dumb ox if the electric power happens to go off.
Does that make me an old fogey? No sireee. An old fogey would make the girls in home-ec class learn how to bake a cake in a wood stove, not one of those newfangled things where you just punch in 325. An old fogey, bless his heart, woud not let you out of grammar school unless you could tell time on a sun dial with Roman numerals.
As it is, a kid can graduate from college without knowing IX from VIII. Hell's bells, most of 'em can't operate with just plain ordinary figures. And, mark my word, it's going to get worse.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has issued a policy paper calling on the schools to give calculators to students, starting in kiddie-garden, in "all activities associated with mathematics learning, including testing."
It's nothing but enforced ignorance, is what it is, and people just sit back saying "Ain't progress wonderful?"
Well, I'm not against progress. I just happen to think it's not much progress when a kid can't tell you how much 9 times 8 is, even if his calculator is on the fritz. A properly brought-up youngster ought to be able to use a dishrag, turn an ice-cream freezer and tie his shoes without that Velcro nonsense.
And if you think that makes me an old fogey, well XXIII skiddoo to you.