This week we had “take you child to work day” for our son in Grade 9. He wasn’t interested in seeing what a home-based consultant does, as he sees this every day. Instead, we arranged a day with a family member who is a helicopter pilot. We drove the 150 km to the hangar and on the way our son did his homework.
His math work had to do with exponentials and reducing equations to a less complex form; or something like that. I looked at the equations and realised that I did not have a clue how to do them. Not only that, but I couldn’t tell him where he might apply this later in his life. So here I am, unable to do Grade 9 math, even though I have two years of university-level calculus and algebra, as well as two years of physics [I went to a military college where even those majoring in History had to have a “well-rounded” education in the sciences].
My inability to do Grade 9 math got me thinking about the usefulness of the public education curriculum (again). I can see the requirement for having skills in mathematics. Of particular importance today would be understanding statistical analysis and how stats can be used to tell almost any lie.
A couple of days later, I came across this article by Roger Schank; blaming the laziness of college professors for the focus on arcane subjects:
“Universities dictate curricula to high schools to make professor’s lives easier. If everyone takes physics and calculus and most never use it, well, professors claim it was good for the students anyway when in fact it was only good for making sure professors didn’t have to teach it in college. As long as professors don’t have to teach the basics it is okay that high school students are forced to study stuff they will never use in their whole lives. We have ruined an entire generation of high school students who don’t like learning and think the subject matter is irrelevant because professors only want to teach the good stuff.
We sacrifice the joy of learning for an entire generation so professors can have an easier time teaching incoming students.”
I have 18 years of formal education, 25 years of work experience, have never used exponential equations outside of school, and don’t remember how to do them today. What are we teaching, and why?