ONCE upon a time there lived a little boy in a small town in a peninsula which was once known as the Golden Chersonese. This lad was awfully smart in the schemes of numbers, variously called calculus, algebra, multiplication and many other names one as dull as I can barely utter.
And he was incredibly gifted in the remembrance of all things, that even elephants marvelled at him.
It came to pass that he excelled in the public examinations of the day, one after the other. In the UPSR he obtained 5As, in the PMR it was 8As, in the SPM it was 10As. And so it continued well into his years in university.
Such was his intelligence that newspapers and journals and all others that speak about the ‘important’ things in the land never tired of heaping praise on him. And he never grew weary of vainglory.
In not so many words, he was;
The one whom parents sow,
The one whom teachers delight in,
The one to whom questions are kin,
The one to whom glories go.
Now, the time arrived for the acorn, fully grown into a mighty oak of a man, to show himself in the community of people, to exercise his ‘greatness’ in the world of the workman. Many were his expectations, and much more was expected of him by parents and admirers.
And here was when the wretched mystery, at least for him, came into being.
You see, with his armoury of As and supreme confidence, no work was beyond his reach. But no work could he keep. He left each job as fast as he found it.
He had many unhappy things to say about his employers. “They are half-wits, they are not taking care of the workers”. “They are not listening.” “They pay so little and expect more than the Venetian’s pound of flesh.”
Now, this man who could not work for long in one place had a vocally industrious female friend who had as many As as the word ‘angry’. This poor woman, too, was unable to find an employer good enough for her.
So she would say: “I’ve had it with this place. The bosses are foolish to think people want this product. It is pass its time.” “My colleagues don’t inspire me.”
Both this man and his friend were bewildered. They were anything but “unworthy workers”. How could their bosses not know this?
“How could I be wrong? I know I am intelligent and I know my stuff,” he said. And the woman chimed in: “Look at how hard I work. I do not have the As but I have what it takes. I think our misfortune is that we always had incompetent bosses and colleagues.”
This talk went back and forth until both wound up satisfied with each other’s virtues, and weary about the world’s vileness.
Then it was that a boss, who was wise in the ways of people, came upon them.
(At this point, I must address those who think this story is juvenile. If this is what is thought, it is good, for they are now closer to the truth about themselves and the kind of world our children have been conditioned to accept.)
The boss asked them to retell their experiences, and then he said: “You poor things, I know the problem. It is not that you do not have the skills that industry needs. You have these, and much more.
“The truth is, the exams could not measure your other As and so you did not know that you also exceeded those around you in many areas of life. But your employers were unable to find any use for your other As.
“Pray tell, what are these secret strengths of ours?” the man and woman cried.
The boss looked at them straight in the eye: “They are the six deadly As that you have carried with you to adulthood. That have been allowed to grow, flower and bear fruit... arrogance, apathy, antagonism, avarice, addiction and anger.”
Once upon a time, examinations took up too many years of children’s lives and produced loads of clever people, but not necessarily good ones. Alas, look around you from the very top to the bottom, so it remains true to this very day.
Be certain, no mathematical formula can ever address this.