A few weeks back, Roger Schank tossed out some red meat for the education traditionalists by declaring that math and science was irrelevant for most American high school students. At least the way it’s currently taught.
He evidently received quite a bit of feedback from the “defenders of the faith” but is not backing down.
In a short response, Schank reiterates a couple of excellent points about the American education system.
This country needs to come to grips with the fact that the high school curriculum reflects a notion of how nineteenth century scholars thought about how to produce more scholars like themselves.
Fifty per cent drop out rates in high school reflect the irrelevance of what is being taught in high school. The kids know it, but the system, which is defended by nearly everyone associated with it, does not.
As painful as it may be to face, he’s exactly right.
For example, the math curriculum in most high schools (the part I’m most familiar with), aims every student with laser precision at eventually taking Calculus.
Very few people need Calculus in their work, much less their lives. And please don’t feed me the old line about improving reasoning skills. There precious little of that in the rote-memorization-of-algorithms approach used in most classes.
It would make much more sense for every student leaving high school to instead have a solid foundation in basic probability and statistics.
Considering all the numbers tossed around in the news, not to mention many business situations, it would make for a far more realistic and useful math curriculum than the one we have now.
If nothing else, it might help more Americans think twice before spending their money on lottery tickets.