I know I’m a little late, but here’s my back-to-school column.

I should warn you that part of this column is plagiarized. That’s

right. I copied it. I cheated. How appropriate for a back-to-school

column, huh? I hear it’s an epidemic in those government schools — even

on the dumbed-down tests.

From whom did I plagiarize it? Well, that’s the problem. I’m not

sure. And that’s why I was forced to plagiarize it rather than publish

the work with appropriate credit to the author. The author is unknown.

It’s one of those beautiful, inexplicable, brilliant, unsolicited

e-mails you get in your mailbox from a friend. When you ask your friend

where it came from, he doesn’t know. Or worse, yet, he tells you. Then

you write to his friend, who says he got it from his uncle, who, in

turn, says he got it from his cousin, who swears he saw the chairman of

Procter and Gamble pledge allegiance to Satan on the “Merv Griffin

Show.”

In any case, this particular gem came to me *two years ago*. To

demonstrate I’m not the kind of guy who plagiarizes material lightly, I

spent the past two years — practically full-time — trying to determine

the origin of this prose.

I tell you all this because journalists have been getting fired —

left and right (but mostly right) — for misusing copy produced by

others. I have an advantage, though, over those other journalists. I’m

the boss. I would have to fire myself if and when I find myself guilty

of the offense. Not likely. At least not before I cash in on my stock

options.

But enough set-up, already. Here comes the plagiarized part. And,

keep in mind, only the punctuation has been changed to protect the

illiterate:

Teaching Math in 1950: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.

His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.

His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1970: A logger exchanges a set “L” of lumber for a

set “M” of money. The cardinality of set “M” is 100. Each element is

worth one dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set

“M.” The set “C,” the cost of production, contains 20 fewer points than

set “M.” Represent the set “C” as a subset of set “M” and answer the

following question: What is the cardinality of the set “P” for profits?

Teaching Math in 1980: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.

Her cost of production is $80 and her profit is $20. Your assignment:

Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math in 1990: By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the

logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living?

Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the

forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees? There

are no wrong answers.

Teaching Math in 1998: A laid-off logger with four kids at home and a

ridiculous alimony from his first failed marriage comes into the logging

company corporate offices and goes postal, mowing down 16 executives and

a couple of secretaries, and gets lucky when he nails a politician on

the premises collecting his kickback. Was outsourcing the loggers a good

move for the company?

Teaching Math in 1999: A laid-off logger serving time in Folsom for

blowing away several people is being trained as a COBOL programmer in

order to work on Y2K projects. What is the probability that the

automatic cell doors will open on their own as of 00:01, 01/01/2000?

Now, here comes my original punch line — the one that, I believe, at

least until my unknown collaborator comes forth, gives me the right to

place my byline at the top of this entire modern-day proverb:

Teaching Math in 2000: Is harvesting timber for profit a risky scheme

that threatens endangered species, damages the lungs of the earth,

destroys wetlands and sets back the evolutionary cycle in critical

habitats, national monuments and biospheres that should rightfully be

under the control of the United Nations and allied non-governmental

organizations?

Check the most appropriate answer only:

__ Yes

__ True

__ Affirmative