Friday, March 04, 2016

Mixed Messages, or Why Education Is Such A Messed Up Business

Yesterday Joanne published a story about how some do-gooders think that since most people don't need "higher math" we should stop compelling kids to take algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus (as if the latter two are graduation requirements anywhere).  By the way, Algebra 1 isn't "higher math".  Pre-pubescent teens take Algebra 1.

In my school district, seeming home of the No Crappy Idea Goes Unimplemented Act, there is consideration of changing our graduation requirements from two years of high school math to three.  That means that every student would take Integrated Math 1, 2, and 3 (assuming they're at grade level), which is the functional equivalent of passing Algebra 2.  In other words, our graduation requirement in math will be the entry requirement for our state university system.  There's talk of making the panoply of state university entrance requirements our graduation requirements.

Does anyone out there think that all high school students are capable of university entrance standards?  Anyone?  Bueller?


Pseudotsuga said...

And we wonder where these ideas come from..."academics" such as these, who are clearly wrestling with first-world problems:

mmazenko said...

Hate to say this D, but I somewhat agree with Hacker's point. And this is true even as I have a son who is one of the top ranked math students for his age in the country. My boy is in 8th grade and is acing AP Calc BC. Clearly, math is his thing ... though he reads and writes pretty darn well, too. That said, here's what I posted on my blog today about Joanne's piece:

"For many yearsI thought the same thing as CCSS proponents, and I bought the argument that learning math to algebra and beyond was fundamental to developing the critical thinking part of the brain, and that knowing algebra and trig was part of being an educated person. But I'm beginning to believe that is a smoke-and-mirrors argument. Looking back, I wish I'd learned to play the piano, and taken more art classes, and done graphic design, and learned to code, and taken art history, and learned Xcel as well as mail merges, and learned PhotoShop and AdobeDesign and publishing, and taken debate, and sung in the choir, and worked on set design for the plays, and learned to weld, and studied sound mixing .... and myriad skills and interests other than algebra II and trig."

Darren said...

As I said, Algebra 2 and trig aren't graduation requirements anywhere that I know of--at least, not *real* (as opposed to watered down) Algebra 2. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect an "educated person" (translate: college graduate) to be proficient at Algebra 2, any more than I think it's unreasonable to expect an "educated person" to take Freshman comp and some other literature course.

I have no problem with the courses you described, but assert that in several of them you'd be well-served by knowing at least introductory algebra.

Ellen K said...

I suspect this is the pushback, not unexpected, to the general administrative support for all things STEM to the point of excluding anything outside that discipline. I also suspect that the secondary reason for this story is that many students of all colors are failing math classes and the demographic that matters-minority students-are included in that data. Politicians and administrators (but I repeat myself...)are all fearful of data that shows minority students failing to achieve. And they do that almost ignoring that mainstream non-hyphenated students are failing as well. So now there will be a movement to remove higher math from the general course recommendation for graduation just as handwriting was removed under the assumption that today's children would never be out of reach of a keyboard. I think a student should have access to a wide swath of courses. Some of my most gifted artists excel in science and math. And some of my most interesting Art History discussions include references to every aspect of human knowledge. Can we leave specialization for college and let students sample an array of courses instead of making kids choose before they even understand the scope of what they can do.