Monday, July 30, 2012

Political Non-Scientist Wants Algebra Requirement Canned

A political (non)scientist asserts that forcing high school and school and college studentsto learn algebra and other basic mathematical courses is largely responsible for our high drop out rate, and anyway, nobody but those geeky STEM students will ever use it anyway...
Algebra is an onerous stumbling block for all kinds of students: disadvantaged and affluent, black and white. In New Mexico, 43 percent of white students fell below “proficient,” along with 39 percent in Tennessee. Even well-endowed schools have otherwise talented students who are impeded by algebra, to say nothing of calculus and trigonometry.

California’s two university systems, for instance, consider applications only from students who have taken three years of mathematics and in that way exclude many applicants who might excel in fields like art or history. Community college students face an equally prohibitive mathematics wall. A study of two-year schools found that fewer than a quarter of their entrants passed the algebra classes they were required to take.
I have a little sympathy with the latter paragraph.  I was a horrible high school student. To say I was an underachiever would be to imply that I had attempted to achieve anything other than to skate by with the minimum (actual quote "Well, a C is average, right!").  When I got into college (standards were lower then, and my SATs were good), something clicked, and math made sense, and I did very well. And now, here I am, with a PhD in Science.  I truly believe in giving students the benefit of the doubt, and time to find their niche.

But I'll tell you what... It you let STEM bound students slide on stupid requirements like art (I had to take a couple of astonishingly stupid art classes in college) and political non-science, yeah, I'll vote to let your kids slide on algebra.

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