Friday, October 12, 2012

I know my Calculus

The "Harrison Bergeron" Clock has now been moved to 11:55 p.m. The midnight hour for "forced equality" in education is close at hand.
The "Harrison Bergeron" Clock is close to midnight...

Andrew Hacker, an emeritus professor in political science at Queens College, has published an article in the New York Times arguing that algebra needs to be removed from the high school curriculum, because - in essence - mathematics is difficult for black kids [Is Algebra Necessary, 10-11-12]
My question extends beyond algebra and applies more broadly to the usual mathematics sequence, from geometry through calculus. State regents and legislators — and much of the public — take it as self-evident that every young person should be made to master polynomial functions and parametric equations. 
There are many defenses of algebra and the virtue of learning it. Most of them sound reasonable on first hearing; many of them I once accepted. But the more I examine them, the clearer it seems that they are largely or wholly wrong — unsupported by research or evidence, or based on wishful logic. (I’m not talking about quantitative skills, critical for informed citizenship and personal finance, but a very different ballgame.) 
This debate matters. Making mathematics mandatory prevents us from discovering and developing young talent. In the interest of maintaining rigor, we’re actually depleting our pool of brainpower. I say this as a writer and social scientist whose work relies heavily on the use of numbers. My aim is not to spare students from a difficult subject, but to call attention to the real problems we are causing by misdirecting precious resources. 
The toll mathematics takes begins early. To our nation’s shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most of the educators I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason. 
Shirley Bagwell, a longtime Tennessee teacher, warns that “to expect all students to master algebra will cause more students to drop out.” For those who stay in school, there are often “exit exams,” almost all of which contain an algebra component. In Oklahoma, 33 percent failed to pass last year, as did 35 percent in West Virginia.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. 
It’s true that students in Finland, South Korea and Canada score better on mathematics tests. But it’s their perseverance, not their classroom algebra, that fits them for demanding jobs.
Yes, young people should learn to read and write and do long division, whether they want to or not. But there is no reason to force them to grasp vectorial angles and discontinuous functions. Think of math as a huge boulder we make everyone pull, without assessing what all this pain achieves. So why require it, without alternatives or exceptions? Thus far I haven’t found a compelling answer.
Why on earth are students in Finland, South Korea and Canada scoring higher on mathematics tests? Is it because these nations lack the same vibrant diversity that is found in American classrooms? Is it because Finland, South Korea, and Canada are bereft of any black (and increasingly Hispanic) test takers, whose scores on mathematic tests are significantly lower than their white or Asian counterparts?

American education isn't in a state of crisis; our inability to be honest about intelligence differences between the racial groups creates a crisis because standards must be continually lowered to accommodate the abilities of blacks and Hispanic students.

To put as bluntly as possible: we are intentionally sabotaging our future by continuing to believe that all students have the innate ability to excel. They don't. That more white kids will be proficient in algebra than black (and Hispanic) students doesn't mean that the American education system is "racist" and doesn't necessitate the abandonment of teaching mathematics in high school.

On the contrary, it shows once again that truth has a racial bias. And mathematics is truth. 2 + 2 always equals 4. Always.

What Mr. Hacker should have written is that we should no longer tolerate the ghettoization of education in America, just to ensure that certain racial groups aren't left behind come report card time.

But this can't be published in the New York Times. Such radical insight goes against the etiquette set forth by the code of Black-Run America (BRA), which forbids any rational discussion on black dysfunction or reasons (outside of white privilege and white racism) why a racial gap in education exists.

Instead, we move The "Harrison BergeronClock closer to midnight. Just recall this story about science labs being "too white" and non-inclusive to black or Latino students, thus the need to banish them to the pages of science-fiction [Berkeley High May Cut Out Science Labs 

The proposal would trade labs seen as benefiting white students for resources to help struggling students, East Bay Express, by Eric Klein, 12-23-2009]:

Berkeley High School is considering a controversial proposal to eliminate science labs and the five science teachers who teach them to free up more resources to help struggling students. 
The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High's School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley's dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse. 
Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.
Back in the late 1990s, there was an MTV spoof of Boy Bands called "2Gether" who sang a hilarious song called U+ Me= Us (I know my Calculus). The song seems pedantic by todays standards, when algebra is on the chopping block...

As the American education system marches to the gallows, led by the executioner known as "coerced equality" upset because of the pesky persistences of "disparate impact" and that widening "racial gap," let us smile knowing that the future will is nothing more than that of Mike Judge's Idiocracy.

It won't take 500 years to get there. Just take a peak into Detroit Public Schools, Atlanta Public Schools, Birmingham Public Schools, Memphis Public Schools...


panjoomby said...

i hope someday the general populace stops celebrating brown vs. board of ed & stops celebrating the civil rights "revolution" of the 1960s & notices that those things have done NOTHING to help society.

Tom said...

Wow, mixed feelings on this one. I have to admit I HATED algebra and geometry, and still feel after many years that it isn't really necessary in most professions. But the author's point is still valid- whatever the subject, blacks will do worse than whites. The dumbing down continues.

Whiskey said...

The flip side is the quick and rapid movement to things like the Khan Academy, and Stanford offering along with MIT many of its degree programs online with certification of passing, for modest fees (you pay a fee to take an online test that if you pass certifies you know the course content).

We are fixated on students sitting in a physical classroom because that's how education has been since well, Socrates. We don't need to be imprisoned by that model anymore, after say grades 5-6, where arguably direct supervision and concrete learning must take place (because kids that young cannot grasp abstract concepts).

By the time you're in 7th Grade, you ought to be able to use a computer, log in, see a lecture, take a quiz on how well you learned, watch it again, take more drill/skill stuff (computers are great for that), and all hanging on the world-class lecturer.

The "best" teachers are limited, in the traditional model. They can only teach so many kids. By putting them in Cyberspace, they can reach millions. Potentially. Then AI-driven skill drills and the like can reinforce lectures. One on one skype-driven sessions can fill in the gaps, more effectively than say being one of 40 kids in a classroom.

More directly, this allows avoidance of NAM dysfunction and violence, and competition by institutions to offer "the best" certification the way the Teaching Company and Kumon offer adults and kids alternative education and fill-in.

Yes the elites are corrupt and decadent, but against that is the energy and drive and brilliance of ordinary people, mostly White and Asian (but a few Black and Hispanic) who seek an end-run around conventional wisdom and bucks in doing it. Steve Jobs being the best known but not exclusive example.

Anonymous said...

Economists use algebra to calculate the cost of consumer goods, and engineers design highways with geometry. Negroes do not understand algebra and geometry? Good! Let them stay in one place and do farm labor, like the animals they are.

They don't understand physics/electricity either so take away the cell phones.

No clothes - no car - no cell phone. Animals.

LBD said...

For those who think they'll "never need" of my hobbies is quilting, a fairly homey activity. There is a time in every quilting class or group when at least one middle aged woman wails, "Hell, I wish I had paid more attention in Geometry class all those years ago"! I am sure there's a male equivalent on construction sites. The point is that you never know when the need to do an accurate determination of measurement or weight or distance will come up.

Most people who don't do well in school at math at least retain enough to handle these situations, or have the basics to teach themselves what they need. Without the basics, though, you're screwed.

Anonymous said...

Well I am of mixed feelings about this, it will make things worse but we need that. Germany was able to turn around in the 30's because everyone was suffering(and there was little diversity). Here, however the well off whites can run away. They can put there children in private or de facto segregated schools. To fix what ails this nation, the nation needs to fail. This move can only help us on that road. Also, when it comes to tears one side will be a hell of a lot dumber then they are now.

Jay Santos said...

Well how about this? Prescribe adderall for all black children performing poorly in school? Social justice demands this.

Pills for Social Justice

Only the most dangerous people in the country are now involved in our collective decision making.

Anonymous said...

I have some sympathy for this writer's view and it isn't just Blacks and NW minorities who are expected, but fail to learn algebra, calculus in HS and college.

Lot's of otherwise, healthy White kids suffer the same fate.

The reality is that there is no practical purpose for calculus for 98% of American workers and that includes me.

Not everyone or even most Americans should go to college, it's a waste. They should be entering trade schools.

Black Americans are capable of living positive lives and being gainfully employed, getting married, not destroying, their our neighborhoods. But most are simply not capable of passing high level math - just learn basic math, money management.

I have an MBA from Stern New York University rated the #1 MBA program in America by US News and World Report - what a waste, I am lucky I ever managed to find a real job.

Dissident said...

"You want to be a man, then I'll treat you like a man!"

Watch how a busdriver uppercuts the belligerent Negress running off at the mouth.

You can't make this stuff up. A prime example why normal people can't use public transporatation. Public transporatation is a haven for impulsive and irate Negro's waiting to pounce on the next unsuspecting victim. Just like lions on the Serengeti in Africa.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Ross School of Business here, graduated in May with a 3.8 and can't get a job. I have a few leads but will probably end up making 40,000 annually because I am a white male in a dying economy.

By friend is a journeyman electrician and is making 90,000+

Anonymous said...

Considering how stupid these inner city blacks are that do graduate (see the Douglass High documentary from HBO a few years back) I could not imagine the complete morons that they would graduate that they aren't now.

Blacks don't even have to learn to read and can still get a high school diploma.

While Algebra is not something everyone will use at every job, there needs to be a minimum level of knowledge attained. It shows you are capable of problem solving, etc.

I can't wait for the next civil war.

Eliza said...

The purpose of teaching mathematics is to build problem-solving skills and logical thinking. There is nothing difficult about algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus once you know the laws and formulas. Physics (on whose laws our very universe works) has the same requirements: know the rules and, using logic, solve a problem with specific parameters.

If certain demographics aren't doing well in math, then it is a good sign that they have poor reasoning skills and will struggle in many areas of life that require critical thinking. There are exceptions of course, especially if one had a bad math teacher who built an incorrect foundation. Today with free educational sites like Khan Academy there is no excuse for not knowing algebra EXCEPT low IQ or a lack of desire to learn (just as bad).

Anonymous said...

Replacing some higher level math requirements with more practical education would benefit a large percentage of less academically inclined White kids, but it wouldn't do much improve black education.

Whites are shorter limbed and more naturally hand smart. Surviving brutally cold desolate winters required endless handicrafting and tool making.
A large percentage of young Whites would thrive by being truly well educated learning a lucrative skilled trade rather then wasting time and money in an academic paper chase.

Unfortunately, removing higher level math requirements for blacks will simply result in idiot academics designed to improve black egos and promote left-wing politics. We'll have ebogic(ebony logic) classes teaching black math such as: Black peoples is poor = racism.
My guess is that blacks are at least as poor learning skilled trades as they are academically.

The most important educational reform we need is school choice.
Allow hard working tax paying White parents the financial means to escape these damaged government schools overrun by the spawn of welfare sluts.
Over time thousands of new private schools would be established including mini-schools in which would be a modern equivalent of the old one room school house.

Also, the more we can help White parents escape the trap of BRA government schools the more children they'll be encouraged to produce.
Currently, the combination of housing vouchers allowing dysfunctional blacks to infect White communities and the absence of school vouchers which traps Whites is suppressing White population growth.

Anonymous said...

Predition time:

The net effect of this will be that in 50 years "unprivileged" kids won't be taught higher order math, while "privileged" kids will be, by their parents. Society will simply HAVE to do something about this egregious wrong, such as introducing geometry and algebra back into the class room. Why its practically a stolen generation here.

So CAL Snowman said...

The United States is the ONLY country in the world in which the phrase "I HATE MATH" is met with cheering and high fives. Math doesn't suck, you do. Sucking at math is like sucking at cooking. I don't want to eat shitty food simply because you can't follow the recipe/instructions. I'm personally fed up with people saying, "I suck at math" like it's a god damn badge of honor. Math is not some ancient tribal voodoo that only the brightest can understand, it's some of the most basic, straightforward thinking you can do. As for the whole, "I don't use math in my life" shit, well if you live your ordinary life in such a way that you never have to do math, then congratulations you are a donkey. Why is math the only subject that has to put up with this nonsense? I noticed that Mr. Hacker didn't mention cutting the arts, music, or literature curriculum. I mean when was the last time any one of you wrote a HAIKU? Oh but wasn't that such a useful skill to learn?

When it comes to math everyone turns into a Hilary Clinton clone and starts PMSing all over the place because YOU KNOW for 100% certainty that you will never have to use this stuff in the next 70 years. Damn can I have tomorrow's lotto numbers as well Nostradamus? I forgot it's far more important to practice drawing stars and reading "Huck Finn" with he word "nigger" removed than to educate yourself on something the ancient Greeks though important enough to pass down to the next generation. You don't like math? Well tough shit, most people don't like work. If we all took your attitudes about math and applied it to work, we would all be living in mud huts in africa. I love math, the internet, and elevators. Don't like math? Take the stairs.

Anonymous said...

When ever black leaders are called on the failure of blacks academically, or why they cant keep a city productive and viable when blacks take over the gov of these cities when whites, they always try to figure out a way to blame whites for sabatogue of the system.when in fact they know the reason. Any body with half a brain knows the truth. Dave CHAPELLE let the truth out in one of his comedy sketches I watched the other day. It was skit about jury selection for the OJ Simpson trial, when asked if he thought that OJ WAS guilty he replied (your honor my blackness wiil not allow me to answer that question).

Carol said...

This guy sounds like the idiot who wrote an op-ed that ran in my paper saying we should get rid of fractions, because golly they're just so hard for fifth graders and everyone uses a calculator nowadays anyway.

Just imagine doing algebra or calculus without knowing how to manipulate rational numbers. LOL

Anyway, I agree with the implication here that getting hopelessly behind on math is at the root of dropping out.

But Algebra I was not required for graduation in my school in the 60s. That was college prep. I think the boneheads took something called Secondary Math. Even then there were plenty of dropouts.

Requiring Algebra II would be insanity. The left side of the bell curve is not any smarter now than it was in 1965.

MuayTyson said...

As someone with learning disabilities Math and Spelling have always been very difficult for me. I do not like Math but I see the need for it and wish that I had more exposure to it.
I do think that Math should be taught in a context that makes it useful for the average man. I now run into Math and have to look up formulas and such on the Internet. My lack of Math has been an issue for me in school as well as in my work and private life.

Life is not an ocean and humans are not boats. Not all boats will rise with the tide but all boats will be lowered if they drop educational requirements.

paulmurray said...

So kids should know how to do long division, but don't need to know algebra. How totally backwards! The simplest calculator can do division far better than any human can. The question is, to solve a problem - what numbers do I need to divide by what to get the solution? That's what algebra is for. Doesn't matter if you are quilting, fixing a car (not that anyone does that anymore), or figuring out how long you will be in debt if you pay the minimum on your credit cards. You need to know this stuff. The kids aren't being asked to "master" it, they are being asked to solve a pair of linear equations with two variables. They are being asked to know what a sine is.

Anonymous said...

“The 3-legged stool of understanding is held up by history, languages, and mathematics." --Robert A Heinlein

Discard said...

I was once a math teacher, and I was good at it. Math can be gotten into most White heads if you don't force it on them before they are ready, and if you explain it three or four ways to ensure that the idea makes sense to kids with different strengths. The current practice is to afflict 8th graders with algebra, presented in the most abstract form. No wonder people hate it.
In the New North American White Republic To Come, I would like to spend my time salvaging the minds of those who have been poisoned by bad math teaching.

Anonymous said...

Adderall will help to close the IQ/intelligence gap! I just hope the tax eaters must use the generic version, it will save the tax payers a few bucks. Maybe less of these budding geniuses will qualify for SSI now. Funny thing is, if that happens the mamas will be VERY disappointed not getting a SSI payment for their kids.

YT said...

a dumb population is vulnerable to everyday scams like adjustable rate mortgages and poor lease vs buy decisions. I don't know how many times i've used a little mathematical knowledge to avoid a shitty deal.

Let's face it....geometry and algebra is useful even in labor when one needs to know where to make a cut for example.

Eliminating these things means that even construction or simple manufacturing becomes beholden to someone that can do the math and then needs to make it idiot proof for everyone else.

james wilson said...

The crime is not that one in four ninth graders will not finish high school, but that most students are not already finished with school after eight grades. This country was a much better place when that was so. Tocqueville described Americans as the best educated people on earth.

Those who did not choose to attend an institution in which they did not belong got the education of work. Now, they not only waste four important years, but are completely unqualified for work at the end of it.

There was once actually a reason that High Schools were called that.

Anonymous said...

A journeyman electrician can make $90,000+ a year. But in this economy he is lucky to be employed. If he is employed and stays employed great, but usually journeyman electrician make that money in new construction building schools, hospitals, police, fire stations, ect. That has all dried up since '08 to a very slow drip. Tens of thousands are out of work right now in this economy. It's a case of the grass is always greener. I know, I'm a journeyman electrician.

Anonymous said...

Any one building stairs needs to know basic geometric and trigonomic formulas.

Discard said...

Anonymous Electrician: At least you have a real skill. What can most college grad cubicle rats do? When the EBT card runs out, guys with MBAs will make their 16 year old daughters do shameful things in order to get you to rig them some electricity.

Anonymous said...

What effects do drugs like Adderal have on Congoids? Does it make them electrokinetic superthugs, or does it tame their raging inner chimp a little?

Ray Scissom said...

Black people make up 12% of the population. They commit upwards of 60% of all violent crimes. The total population of America is 314,000,000, and a boat costs $1,000,000. If a boat can hold 1500 black people, how many boats do we need to send them back to Africa, and how much will it cost to buy the boats?

This is just one example of why they can't continue to allow white people to learn algebra.

Anonymous said...

I struggled with high school algebra and college algebra, but aced geometry and calculus. Weird.

njartist said...

First the "civil rights" activists got rid of tracks (the practice of having courses according to to student ability: general, business, occupational, and college prep), now the activists are bringing everything down to the "general" level.

Zenster said...

Berkeley High School is considering a controversial proposal to eliminate science labs and the five science teachers who teach them to free up more resources to help struggling students.

The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High's School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley's dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse.

Sur-effing-real. As if doing so will magically see all of these underachieving minorities suddenly qualifying for entrance to UC Berkeley.

If you want a tidy summation of why California has such a profound "learning gap" look no farther than this article:

Smart vs. cool: Culture, race and ethnicity in Silicon Valley schools

There is no other explanation.

tsnamm said...

Its amazing how they blame the subject matter for their difficulties...1st it was being segregated from whites in the classrooms, then it was the textbooks and who wrote them,then it was the teachers, then it was the tests, and now its the subjects fault. And they STILL can't learn. So California's answer is to sacrifice any advanced study on the altar of ignorance, by cutting science labs and diverting the funds to trying to teach apes how to count to ten. It's absolutely unbelievable. As Ayn Rand said, " you can ignore reality, but you can't ignore the consequences of ignoring reality". Luckily this truism will shortly come home to roost.

Anonymous said...

After reading this thread Sunday, I taught my 9 and 10 year old sons algebra. After one hour of teaching, my 9 and 10 year old could listen to word problems, write them in a mathematical equation and use the proper formula and order of operations and solve the unknown variable. ... forth and fifth graders attending public schools. I thought of teaching my 14 year old son trigonometry, but he was so bored after listening to me teach his younger brothers algebra that he fell asleep, but I'll teach him next Saturday or Sunday. I really don't understand why schools make it so difficult. If my kids can not only solve basic algebra equations, but listen to word problems and translate them into algebraic equations and directly solve them, what then makes math so difficult? Is it the teaching method or truly just IQ?
To go further, I may just teach them (my 9 & 10 year old sons) trigonometry with their 14 year old brother. After all, trig isn't hard either if explained in simplest terms. It may be beyond my nine year old's current skill set, maybe not, but I'm pretty sure my 10 year old will pick it up with no problem as will my teenager.
Anonymous Electrician/
Left Coast White Guy

Mr. Rational said...

The simplest calculator can do division far better than any human can. The question is, to solve a problem - what numbers do I need to divide by what to get the solution?

When you get to something as simple as constructing a spreadsheet and you need to be able to write a formula to calculate a result instead of plugging numbers into the calculator, what do you do?  If you don't understand fractions, you don't understand anything.

There are high-school grads working deli counters who can't figure out how to measure out 3/4 of a pound of something on their digital scales.  Sounds like you're one of them.  Out of jealousy, you'd see that all but those bright enough to figure it out themselves are just as crippled.

My high school taught AP calculus.  I feel so blessed that I had that opportunity.