LAS VEGAS, Nevada. It is Sunday morning in this desert city and the streets are quiet. Inside the casinos, where there are no clocks, gamblers who have played through the night order breakfast at blackjack and craps tables.
At the edge of town in the studio of channel KQJA (for “King-Queen-Jack-Ace”), a small crew of technicians is working as comedian Sheldon “Shecky” Felton begins the final day of his national telethon to raise funds for his signature charity, which doesn’t have enough clout to pay for air time on Labor Day weekend.
“Ladies and gentlemen out there in the television land–I’m begging you,” he says, exhausted from two straight days of singing, cracking jokes and talking to guests. “Liberal Arts Major Disease cuts down our kids in the prime of their youth, just as they’re about to begin their journey into adulthood. It’s the saddest thing in the world. So please-give and give generously. Now we have two little girls who’ve come all the way from Calumet City, Illinois to dance for us–please welcome–The Tapping Twitchells!”
Liberal Arts Major Disease–the delusion that all big numbers are essentially the same–is an affliction that affects more than 80 million Americans. Its onset can be traced to the realization among high school upperclassmen that they have completed the minimum number of math classes required in order to graduate.
“A lot of kids basically shut down the left side of their brains as soon as they finish Algebra II or Geometry,” says Dr. Philip Heyman of the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. “The degenerative process begins the moment they know they’ll never have to take another math class.”
Experts say that Liberal Arts Major Disease, or “LAMD,” effects America’s productivity as well as its long-term future. “You look at China and India, they are cranking out more engineers and obtaining many more patents,” says Erskine Hollins of the Council on Economic Progress, a business-government group. “Of course those kids have been chained to their desks for two decades, but we should be able to overcome that competitive advantage with a little more discipline.”
Back in Las Vegas, a contingent from the National Council of Plumbers and Pipefitters makes their appearance on the KQJA set to present an oversized check in the amount of $125,000, which Shecky Felton, who himself suffers from LAMD, graciously accepts. “Guys–this is just fantastic. A hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars! Wow! Let’s see-we had a million nine hundred thirty-thousand before so now we’ve got, let’s see . . .” His voice trails off and the producer, sensing trouble, cuts to a commercial.
Meanwhile, across the country in Wellesley, Massachusetts, a stream of volunteers is holding a walk-a-thon along the 26.2 mile route of the Boston Marathon to raise money for LAMD. “Hey look, everybody,” says Meghan Morrissey, a first-year student at Wellesley College from Saratoga, New York. “The sign says its 13.5 miles from here to Hopkinton,” the walk’s starting point. “That means we’ve only got like-uh-15 more miles to go!”
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “The Spirit of Giving.”