When my 11-year old niece was visiting, one of the moments of entertainment was teaching her how to read a map. I got out the atlas in the car to show her some perspective of where the airport was vis a vis where I lived and it turned into a play-by-play accounting of the roads to take, the mileage and what town was coming next. Not being a driver, she has little need for maps or even GPS but from her novice perspective, it was quite fascinating that all the roads and cities were plotted out ahead of time.

Map reading is just one of the many foundational skills that are going by the wayside. My construction friend asked a young helper to read the tape measure and was dismayed to hear the answer as “5 and a third.” Anyone who knows about measurements knows that the marks are in quantities divisible by two – not in thirds – but apparently, ruler-reading has been dropped from the skill development repertoire.

The same is true for cursive writing, making change from the cash register when the machine fails to announce the proper amount to give, writing a check, addressing an envelope and a host of other life skills that once were commonplace.

While technology is wonderful, so is the knowledge that frees you from reliance on it. Take a moment to teach the young people with whom you interact the basics and keep the fundamentals from fading into oblivion.

at the University of Minnesota Post Office!

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