About 100 years ago, when I had just finished college and moved to Seattle, I answered a job ad titled “Management Training.” Since I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up (yeah, that’s what a liberal arts education will do for you), being Trained as a Manager seemed like a swell idea.
It worked like this. I was to spend two days traveling around with a dude named Ralph (that wasn’t really his name. I don’t remember his name, it was 100 years ago!) while he went from store to store trying to convince the store managers to carry our product, which was cheap knock-offs of designer perfumes. (If you are now thinking, hm, that doesn’t sound like the right job for TR, all I can say is, Kid With Liberal Arts Degree Who Didn’t Know Better.) While we were traveling around, Ralph was supposed to impart much wisdom to me, including the facts about the product (EXACTLY the same as the designer perfumes, HONESTLY!), and an assortment of company-approved motivational snippets designed to make me want to sell, sell, sell.
At the end of Day 2 I would be returned to the Home Office and given a test on all I’d learned. If I passed, I myself would have the opportunity to roam the city, bringing the gift of inexpensive scent to many. And if I sold, sold, sold, I would be promoted to Management!
So off I went with Ralph, and I learned much about the counterfeit perfume business. I also learned some fine motivational snippets. This was my favorite:
Q: What’s the difference between poor people and rich people?
A: Rich people take advantage of their opportunities!
On the morning of Day 2, I went out traveling with Ralph and another dude I’ll call Ralph 2. Since Ralph and I hadn’t sold anything on Day 1, and I’d already memorized all the facts and snippets, I convinced Ralph and Ralph 2 to blow off sales and go to the movies. It was so easy to persuade them that I had to suspect that they were not all that motivated themselves. So we saw some moronic late-80’s comedy and then we got some lunch and then we went back to the Home Office for my test.
When I got to: What’s the difference between rich people and poor people?
I wrote: Rich people take advantage of their opportunities and the evil, scum-sucking poor do not.
I thought that showed not just my aptitude but my superior dedication to the cause. Apparently the Manager agreed, because I got 100% on my test, and the Ralphs started arguing about which one of them got to have me on their “team.”
For all I know, they may be arguing about it still, because I never went back.
I was reminded of this when I saw this article, which finally points up a difference between rich people and poor people aside from how much money they have. Turns out poor people have brain damaged children.
No joke. The researchers looked at rich nine-year-olds and poor nine-year-olds with a simple test in which they had to watch images of triangles on a screen and press a button when tilted triangles appeared. They were all hooked up to EEG’s so the researchers could see what their brains were doing.
The brains of the poor kids responded much more slowly. So slow that the researchers likened the brains of the poor kids to the brain of an adult who has had a stroke.
Shocking, yet not surprising at all. Impoverished environment, poor nutrition, lack of stimulation, etc = poor brain development.
The scientists hastened to point out that the kids’ brains can be remediated with “intensive training,” whatever that might entail. And perhaps the well-intentioned Head Start program is too little, too late. Do we need Baby School?
This unpleasant bit of data poses a potential for abuse in the form of race/class discrimination. One might have to hide one’s modest background to avoid being thought of as, well, a person who doesn’t take advantage of their opportunities.
I did not suffer from poverty as a child, so I have no excuse for spending two days of my life driving around Seattle with Ralph, but perhaps it was my well-nourished and stimulated brain that sent me packing.