When discussing education reform, every writer, every politician, every “expert”, eventually arrives at one point: students need more math and science.
Why? Because math is important.
Roger Schank thinks that conclusion is all wrong and asks for someone to offer the evidence.
I’m not ready to buy all of Schank’s arguments but he does make some excellent points about education reform with these thoughts.
The right answer would be to make math and science actually interesting, but with those awful tests as the ultimate arbiter of success this is very difficult to do.
No change in education will ever happen in the US until the testing mentality is done away with. No average high functioning adult could pass them so why make kids do it? This makes no sense. What also makes no sense is the idea that math and science are important subjects. You can live a happy life without ever having taken a physics course or knowing what a logarithm is.
On the other hand, being able to reason on the basis of evidence actually is important. Thinking rationally and logically is important. Knowing how to function in a world that includes new technology and all kinds of health issues is important. Knowing how things work and being able to fix them and perhaps design them is important.
Although I taught math for many years, I can see a lot of logic in that.
We should be trading the rote memorization of arcane mathematical processes for a curriculum that instead helps kids understand how to think for themselves.
Those few students who need the quadratic formula will eventually learn it when presented with a good reason to do so.
Think for themselves? Egads! 2 + 2 = 5.
Better they should learn to think like other people, first.
As far as math not being important, boo! We should teach kids as much math as they can learn, recognizing that the amount will be different for each kid. It is not ok to have an innumerate society. It is not ok that the throngs trust numbers produced by a small number of experts, with no sense of how to question them.
How can we teach students to think critically if we cannot arm them with the tools to question data?