Thursday, May 27, 2010

Deschooling Society: Where Do We Set the Bar

Formal public school emerged in this country in the middle of the 19th century. For 150 years, the purpose of School was to raise children to be laborers in city factories, or for the elite, getting them to College to be the next generation of doctors, lawyers, etc.

In my rural-Maine elementary school (K-8) high school was not necessarily a requirement to getting a job, if you were willing to work in the woods, fields or garages. We celebrated everyone graduating eighth grade! But "Graduate eighth grade, and you will have a job waiting" turned into "Graduate High School" then "Graduate College" then "Graduate with a Masters" and continues to escalate. The bar keeps getting raised higher and higher.

My kids are taking a course in Algebra right now and I find myself teaching them what they need to know to do the homework. So I'm planning to continue teaching them Algebra over the summer and into the fall.

I went online to a college website where they have published a Math Review Course for new students, basically what you should know from H.S. in order to succeed in college Algebra, Calculus, whatever. So I thought, hey, why not just get them to this level and they will be all set.

As I started reviewing the materials, loud warning bells started going off in my mind. When would anyone ever use this in the real world? Unless we are training our college students to be College Professors, this is absolute tripe! In all my years of working with technology in various companies both pre-Web and post-Web, nothing has gone beyond basic math and Algebra. I could do differential equations if I needed to; but I have never needed to. I use area and volume calculations at home, but never for work.

So I want them to have a solid understanding of Algebra and Geometry, and know those subjects enough to teach other people about them. Then we will stop. If there is a need for Trigonometry or Calculus, we will go there, otherwise, no.

I love hearing from people who want to argue about the value of these classes. "But if they don't take Trigonometry, how will they...." I like to cut them off right there. Calculating a tangent was something I had to learn to pass a class, which let me take another class, and so on and so on. It had no value unless I had decided to pursue #3, College Professor, and even then my field would not have been Mathematics. How many Math professors are we aiming for anyway? Where should this bar be in the real world?

Best Jobs in America, from CNN along with the current demand for these jobs from within 60 miles of New York City.

Ranking Career Opportunities Growth
1 Systems Engineer 219 45%
2 Physician Assistant 73 27%
3 College Professor 18 23%
4 Nurse Practitioner 68 23%
5 IT Project Manager 207 16%
6 Certified Public Accountant 26 18%
7 Physical Therapist 97 27%
8 Computer/Network Security Consultant 165 27%
9 Intelligence Analyst 59 15%
10 Sales Director 281 10%

1 comment:

  1. Hello!

    I just stumbled upon your blog and read this post. Trig is required for example for architects and other landscape/city planners. Calculus and differential equations are required for business and economics modelling and statistics, as well as finance.

    I personally think that the most important thing a kid, or an adult, gains from these very theoretical studies is logical thinking an ability to view problems and solve them. Of course, one can ask whether there is a better way for them to learn the same things, and I don't know the answer to that question.