I know the danger of early deadlines. I once wrote an article about a famous television personality that had to be submitted to my magazine's editor three months before publication date. Unfortunately, just days before that issue hit the newsstands, the personality was fired.
It was embarrassing, but not nearly as embarrassing as what just happened to the Scholastic math series "Dynamath". The idea of Dynamath is to create story problems that are more relevant by basing them on stories that kids will find interesting (instead of the more formulaic story problems we were subjected to as children.)
For instance, the February 2013 Dynamath issue has story problems about ice hotels in Sweden, Japanese snow monkeys, mustache champions, and a star Olympic athlete. Sounds safe enough, right? Not when the star Olympic athlete is the Blade Runner himself; Oscar Pistorius.
I found out about this particular whoopsie-daisy from my son Sean. He gets these Dynamath packages in his math class every month. One night last week he was working on his math homework, and called out to me: "Dad, have you ever heard of the Olympic guy, the Blade Runner?"
"Of course," I said. "He's the one that was arrested for killing his girlfriend."
Sean's mouth dropped open. That information, apparently, wasn't part of the Dynamath feature.
I feel bad for the writer and editor of that piece because it was undoubtedly written and edited months ago. He or she had no way of knowing that this Olympic hero would turn into an alleged killer. On the other hand, there's no need to dwell on the negative. It won't help. When this same thing happened to me in my early deadline case, instead of moping, I called the television personality to get the first "hot off the presses" quote from him regarding his firing, and had it attached to the on-line version of the article. Now instead of a hopelessly outdated piece, I had something timely and current.
This Blade Runner story offers a perfect opportunity for the Scholastic people as well. They can still have the kids do the original story problems about 400 meter times and decimal points, but now they can attach the following timelier Bonus Problem addendum...
#1: Oscar Pistorius will be going on trial for murder soon. His trial is expected to last six months. His attorney averages eight billable hours a day, five days a week. If the trial goes the full six months, and the attorney bills $370 an hour, how much money will Oscar have to pay his attorney at the end of the trial?
#2: Oscar Pistorius' jury will be reviewing transcripts of the trial during jury deliberation. If each day of the trial produces forty pages of testimony, and there are 120 days of testimony, how many pages of transcripts will the jurors have available to review?
#3: If Oscar Pistorius is sentenced to 50 years in prison, and has to serve at least 80% of that sentence before becoming eligible for parole, how many years will he have to serve in prison before his first parole hearing?
See how that works, Scholastic?
Lemons into Lemonade.