MrSwiss wrote:From my point of view: you've no clue about spanners and probably, never had one in your hands.
You probably think that my education was a bed of roses. Not so.
In the UK we had 'O' levels, at age 16, and 'A' levels, at age 18. I got enough 'O' levels to go on to 'A' levels but my father said that I had already done one year more than other 'kids' in our area and he would not support another two years; he wanted me to get a job. I got one in a rolling mill as a trainee draughtsman. There was a bunch of us at the in-house training school and at the end of the first year, I was chosen for the design department. A year later I got a certificate in Structural Engineering. The firm that I worked for built the Sidney harbour bridge. A year later I got the first year of a higher certificate and saw a notice for a new course at the College: BSc Mathematics. Structural Engineering bored me to death but I loved Mathematics.
I took my certificates to the head of the department expecting a rejection as the normal entry was 'A' levels. I was offered either Computer Science or Mathematics and told that there was no money in Mathematics. I was horrified and said that I had no interest in money but did have an interest in Mathematics. The head just smiled and said, "Mathematics it is then".
I qualified for a grant but parents were means tested and expected to pay a percentage. My father refused to pay a penny. I went ahead anyway and my father asked how could I possibly manage; at the time I had no idea. I put my notice in at the rolling mill and the chief draughtsman refused to let me go saying that nobody had broken an apprenticeship in the company's 140 odd years of history. I told him that I would turn up for work but would be a pain in the arse until the end of the apprenticeship. He said, "In that case, I had better let you go". The chief designer threw me out of the design department and sent me upstairs to the drawing office where I was "sent to Coventry" for my month's notice.
I left home at 19 and got a 'bed-sit' near the college. On Saturday's I tutored youngsters who were having a bad time with their maths studies. On Sunday's and bank holidays, I worked in a local bakery. With the bank holidays, I used to a do shift, go to the canteen for a sandwich and then do another shift. One summer I got a job at the rolling mill that I left but in the mill itself. The oxyacetylene burner guy took a holiday so I applied for it telling the mill manager I knew how to do it. I didn't but had watched the 'burner'. I managed to get 7 days a week work until the end of the summer.
It was tough going but I got a BSc(Hons) in Mathematics. I got a chance to do an MSC but was 'broke' and needed a job for the summer. I couldn't find a job in the North East of England so my brother hunted for a job in the South. I got one as a labourer on a building site. I persuaded the site foreman to give me as much overtime as he could. One Saturday I was pumping a spray used on concrete walls to stop them cracking. A tube burst and I got a face full. A big Scotsman ran down to me, threw me over his shoulders and ran to the canteen. He stuck me head first into a sink and ran the tap into my face. He saved my sight and little balls of plastic popped out of my eyes for a few days after. On another occasion, the Kango hammer was broken so I used a 70-pound jackhammer horizontally to knock some walls down. In no time my thighs were black and blue. The hammer slipped and the drill went through my foot. I had to engage the hammer to pull it out of the floor. The drill went between two toes, burnt them both and ruined my father's boots. I was staying at 'home'; my parents moved to the area a few years before. My mother saw my hands one day and burst into tears - both palms had large blisters and bled continuously. She offered me money to stop but I said no. My father said nothing other than questioning why was the BSc not enough. Most of the crew at the building site used to work for a few weeks and then go 'boozing' for a week. When I did stop I held the site record of 56 days straight.
My MSc grant was not means tested but it was not much so I did maths tutorial work with undergraduate chemists. By now life was a bit easier and got an MSc in Numerical Analysis.
So, at the end of all that I may not have become an expert in spanners but I had no idea what a 'bed of roses' was either.
BTW, I am not a 'pure theoriser'. I did not shine with Pure Mathematics but did OK with Applied Mathematics. I did an IQ test recently to see if my 'grey matter' was still passing muster. I got Visual Perception: Above Average, Abstract Reasoning: Average, Pattern Recognition: Average, Spatial Orientation: Above Average. So, not much to 'write home about' there but for Analytical Thinking I scored Exceptional. That is not the result of reading mathematics but why I read mathematics.
I have rattled on a bit but wanted to show MrSwiss that he should take care about making assumptions about people. Of course, many students may have similar stories but I should imagine only a few of them had a father who washed his hands of any support.