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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Query stumps governor,but it wasn't easy was it?
By wire services
Published July 7, 2004
Gov. Jeb Bush was asked by a student what the angles are on a 3-4-5 triangle, top. He answered incorrectly, but the answer the student gave, 30, 60 and 90, described a different type of triangle, bottom.
ORLANDO - A recent high school graduate tried Tuesday to stump Gov. Jeb Bush on a math question.
At a luncheon, she asked the governor to name the angles on a 3-4-5 triangle. The question, she said, had appeared on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Bush gave a steely grin and stalled.
"The angles would be ... If I was going to guess ... Three-four-five. Three-four-five. I don't know, 125, 90 and whatever remains on 180?"
Nope, the student replied: "It's 30-60-90."
Turns out, the governor was wrong.
But so was the student.
And within a couple of hours, the Associated Press was sending a corrected version of a story saying Bush had goofed on a basic geometry question.
The fact is, it was no easy question.
Even college math professors needed a minute to ponder the question.
"Um ... well ... ah ... gee," said Edwin Clark, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of South Florida. "I don't think those are very well known angles."
After working on his calculator, Clark said the angles would be 90, 53.13 and 36.87 degrees, if rounded off.
"I've been teaching math for over 30 years, and I didn't know the answer to that question," he said. "I wouldn't expect many mathematicians to know that."
"That was a little harder than asking someone to spell "potato,' " Clark added with a laugh, recalling a much-publicized misspelling by former Vice President Dan Quayle.
Because FCAT questions aren't public, it's difficult to know whether the student quoted the question accurately. It's unlikely, though, since students are not allowed to use scientific calculators, useful in solving that particular question.
The incident occurred as Bush was in Orlando giving a speech to high school students who mentor younger children in reading.
"Me and a couple of my friends ... we know that the FCAT is a very important part of schooling in Florida and we were wondering if you could answer one of the questions we remember from the FCAT?" said Luana Marques, 18, who just graduated from Freedom High School in Orange County and is heading to Flagler College in the fall.
The crowd at an Orlando hotel, gathered to honor 200 students who take part in the Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentor program, laughed and Marques posed the question: "What are the angles on a 3-4-5 triangle?"
Marques provided an answer, although it wasn't the right one.
Bush thanked Marques for the answer and then launched into a defense of the FCAT test, which the governor has taken and passed.
To graduate with a standard diploma, every Florida public school student must pass the FCAT. They get six chances before the end of 12th grade. If they don't pass, they don't graduate with their class.
They can keep taking the test as many times as they want after that to get their diploma.
The FCAT is also the basis for the grades each public school receives. Those grades govern which schools get an extra $100 per student as a reward and which failing schools stand to see students receive tax-funded vouchers to attend private school.
"If the point is, I haven't been in school for the last 30 years, that's true. But if I'm going to be graduating from high school and I can't pass a 10th-grade aptitude test, then I'm fooling myself," Bush said.
"The fact that a 51-year-old man can't answer a question, is really not relevant," he said. "You're still going to have to take the FCAT and you're still going to have to pass it in order to get a high school degree."
Marques said later that she had asked the governor the math question only as a joke but she believes the governor and others who call for the use of the test should be able to pass it.
"I think I offended him," Marques said of the governor. "I don't think he had much of a sense of humor."