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    #240324 - 11/02/17 01:24 PM Shaking up Education
    marigold82076 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 04/07/17
    Posts: 30
    I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on these articles. First, the mastery transcript seems very subjective to me, I would want to see some kind of rubric.

    Second, as an engineer I find it unfathomable that we would get rid of Calculus in HS, let alone Algebra. It seems like I am seeing more and more articles arguing that a liberal arts education is the best way to prepare kids for the future, when AI takes over all our STEM jobs. I find this hard to swallow, I always understood math as the best way to teach problem solving skills. But I may be biased.

    I do love to see that people are starting to shake things up in the education world.

    http://www.tonywagner.com/tonys-article-...just-published/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/is-algebra-necessary.html

    https://www.inc.com/greg-satell/we-need-to-educate-kids-for-the-future-not-the-past-heres-how.html

    I have an ulterior motive for asking for comments, there is a private school in my town that seems to be incorporating all these concepts. While I love the idea of students owning their education and following their passions, I am hung up on "when do they learn Calculus". smile

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    #240325 - 11/02/17 03:31 PM Re: Shaking up Education [Re: marigold82076]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    - Tony Wagner article - need more information. I'm willing to accept that grades are not the most suitable measuring tool, but his alternative is not very well defined.

    - The NYT article would be put to better use by wrapping fish or lining bird cages. As information, it's pretty much a failure. This failure was particularly egregious:

    Quote:
    Even in jobs that rely on so-called STEM credentials — science, technology, engineering, math — considerable training occurs after hiring, including the kinds of computations that will be required. Toyota, for example, recently chose to locate a plant in a remote Mississippi county, even though its schools are far from stellar. It works with a nearby community college, which has tailored classes in “machine tool mathematics.”


    As a professional technologist, I can tell you that if you have to construct programming that uses any sort of computation, you MUST understand and be able to construct basic algebraic expressions correctly, because everything has to be stored as a variable and manipulated as such. If someone has to show you how to do that, they'd rather show you the door first. You've picked the wrong field.

    So, why teach it to every child in high school, when some people will grow up to be "poets and philosophers", as the article says? Because it's necessary to understand your mortgage and your student loans. Because it gives you choice in case you find out that poetry and philosophy don't pay.

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    #240326 - 11/02/17 06:48 PM Re: Shaking up Education [Re: marigold82076]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2277
    Interesting topic. I get a little queasy when I hear these "let's re-think education" pieces, because they tend to go one of two ways: arguing for an unrealistic level of technical achievement on a population basis ("everyone is a programmer!"; Bart Simpson: "One Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ticket and one senior's ticket") or sidestepping technical skills and arguing for over-specialization on account of more social/interdisciplinary work environments. In reality, the answer lies in the middle, with a rigorous general education program, and ample access to advanced topics early for those to whom such study is suited.

    The NYT article's thrust is that graduation is a "high bar" for many students, so let's water down the standard on math to minimize retention. This is a superb philosophy if the US' national skills development goal is to achieve the sheepskin effect par excellence without any actual qualifications to show for it. But, as almost all adults are able to vote and participate in society through employment, social institutions, and reproduction, it behooves Americans to prepare their citizenry for adulthood. Part of that preparation involves honing logical and critical thinking, as well as persistence in problem solving, all easily developed through math study. Students will be far better off if educators implement existing educational standards and actually prepare the broadest possible swath of students for adulthood, rather than expecting less and creating a relatively ineffective generation of citizens.

    In specific terms, these points stood out:

    1. "I’m not talking about quantitative skills, critical for informed citizenship and personal finance, but a very different ballgame."

    How exactly does the author expect individuals to grok basic portfolio investment strategies and intertemporal discounting without algebra? Intergenerational pension overhang is already a pressing public policy and social issue, which would be further exacerbated at a high economic and social cost if algebra training weren't mandatory. And if logical reasoning is only moderately developed, a citizen is arguably not well equipped to make informed political and social decisions. As evidence, I cite the example of every federal government in North America. laugh

    2. "But a definitive analysis by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that in the decade ahead a mere 5 percent of entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra or above."

    Umm....no. If the referenced study is the one I think it is, its conclusions are predicated on the assumption of constant technology in industrial and occupational structure, which is patently false, and increasingly so the farther forward you project. Furthermore, the reality is that we are not educating generations for efficacy only at a 10-year endpoint, so a longer horizon is required to optimize skills development.

    3. "Certification programs for veterinary technicians require algebra, although none of the graduates I’ve met have ever used it in diagnosing or treating their patients. Medical schools like Harvard and Johns Hopkins demand calculus of all their applicants, even if it doesn’t figure in the clinical curriculum, let alone in subsequent practice."

    This statement also ignores the fact that many technical fields which don't employ higher level (or even high school) math on a day-to-day basis require university level math training as a gateway to conceptual understanding of the field's subject matter. Even the simple matter of assessing an animal's weight and height relies on logarithmic growth curves. The argument that rigor is used as an exclusionary criterion for entry into technical professions is laughable.

    4. "More and more colleges are requiring courses in “quantitative reasoning.” In fact, we should be starting that in kindergarten."

    This is called "math". *facepalm*
    _________________________
    Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

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    #240327 - 11/02/17 06:55 PM Re: Shaking up Education [Re: marigold82076]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2277
    On the Wagner piece, he's effectively promoting a balanced scorecard approach to weighting students holistically. Admirable goal, but it's fraught with ideology.

    "The new reporting will indicate the skills and knowledge that students have mastered. But it will also include qualities of character that make their humanity visible and help admissions officers make better decisions when it comes to an applicant’s “fit.” The design will help colleges better understand students’ skill sets and potential to succeed on campus, and allows students to present themselves more authentically to admissions officers."

    Universities already gauge the "intangible"/EQ/character piece through essays, community involvement, extracurriculars, references, and interviews. And, because each institution--even program--has its own value system with different preference-ranked criteria, I'd suggest that a global student score wouldn't be used by most universities anyway.

    Let's also address the elephant in the room: this is likely to promote greater social inequity in access to university education. The time and financial cost associated with applying for university successfully is already high. Now, magnify that process with greater red tape, and you're adding a new set of transactions costs to the application process to enable screening, measurement,and monitoring of these new criteria, further lifting already astonishingly high tuition costs. And, for low SES students who may be working to self-support or self-fund, or not have an advantaged home environment, this process may be yet another barrier which prevents their accessing appropriate education.

    My personal opinion is that admissions standards to university should be relatively accessible to ensure minimal denial of access to underprivileged students on an aggregate basis. As we've established that a large component of ability is not genetically pre-determined, talent is relatively blind to economic starting conditions. (For follow-on responses to my post: let's agree to set some of the tired social Darwinist tropes to rest, please.) However, once students matriculate, standards should be quite high to filter out unsuitable students on the basis of academic merit. The proof is in the pudding. Let the floodgates open, but then separate the wheat from the chaff on the basis of observed collegiate merit, blind to starting family conditions, and without instituting additional hurdles to access that overlap with existing sorting criteria.


    Edited by aquinas (11/03/17 04:53 PM)
    _________________________
    Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

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    #240328 - 11/02/17 07:09 PM Re: Shaking up Education [Re: marigold82076]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2277
    On the Inc piece, the author's arguments would, ironically, have been bolstered by a basic understanding of Venn diagrams. He conflates working conditions and social work dynamics with technical ability. They are overlapping sets, not identical ones.

    Social skills can (but need not) be a necessary, but not sufficient, set of conditions for professional success in any remotely technical field. Strangely, the author seems to be arguing for the paramount need for social collaboration with the line, "You simply can't write great code for a problem you don't fully understand." But this argument cuts both ways and also (rightly) suggests that technical skills are a necessary foundation to access off-shoot interdisciplinary work. It's not either/or (or weakly so in favour of technical-only skills), it's both/and.
    _________________________
    Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

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    #240332 - 11/03/17 10:53 AM Re: Shaking up Education [Re: marigold82076]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    On to the Inc piece - I can't even get through the subtitle without clearing my throat:

    Quote:
    The work of the future will involve humans collaborating with other humans to design work for machines.


    Let's change that first word to "some," please. Some work will always be done by the self-maintaining, self-programming, self-aware machines known as human beings. A robot is not going to diagnose and fix your car, or your central air conditioning. It's not going to be your doctor or your lawyer.

    Quote:
    The truth is, there is little taught in school that today can't be handled with a quick Google search and an Excel spreadsheet.


    Ahem.

    Guess what happens when you Excel? Math does. And if you accidentally enter a formula incorrectly (and act which necessitates some of that variable handling I described before at a minimum), understanding the underlying concepts and being able to do a quick mental reality check goes a long way to identifying and fixing those issues quickly.

    Good luck to anyone who loses internet access and actually needs to think for a change, btw.

    Honestly, all these people who keep saying how arithmetic and algebra are unnecessary were raised in an environment where that was a key part of their educations, and they go around using those skills reflexively as part of their daily lives. They have no idea how that loss would affect them, because they don't have the self-awareness required.

    Side note, this guy talks about painters and poets. Why are all these anti-maths so hung up on poetry?

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    #240334 - 11/03/17 11:04 AM Re: Shaking up Education [Re: aquinas]
    Bostonian Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2593
    Loc: MA
    Originally Posted By: aquinas
    As we've established that a large component of ability is genetically pre-determined, talent is relatively blind to economic starting conditions. (For follow-on responses to my post: let's agree to set some of the tired social Darwinist tropes to rest, please.)

    You don't get to dictate what viewpoints others express on a forum, and it is not polite to use pejoratives to label their views. I think the parts of your sentence are contradictory, since intelligent parents tend to earn more and also to have more intelligent children.

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    #240335 - 11/03/17 11:09 AM Re: Shaking up Education [Re: marigold82076]
    Val Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3289
    Loc: California
    There have been some very good points on this thread.

    A huge problem is that expectations are simultaneously too high (algebra for all in 8th grade) and too low (Let's omit proof writing in geometry. The kids can fill in the blanks, which is just as good).

    Solving this problem will require that we make changes that people won't like. Some of my ideas along those lines include:

    • Hire math specialists to teach math, starting in first grade
       
    • Require algebra and geometry, but create different classes: basic, average, advanced. Let students pick which one they want to take, but give advice (e.g. "If you want to be an engineer, the advanced class is the one for you")
       
    • Give up the idea that everyone can and should go to college
       
    • Require a class that teaches stuff like interest rates, including car, house, and STUDENT loans. Any graduate of a US high school should know how to manage money, how to make a budget, etc. etc.


    I've heard Silicon Valley types claim that people won't need to know stuff in the near future because computers (and internet searches) will have all the information. Hogwash! At the highest levels, you can't build something or discover something if you don't know which questions to ask, and you can't know which questions to ask until...you know stuff.

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    #240337 - 11/03/17 11:27 AM Re: Shaking up Education [Re: Dude]
    Val Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3289
    Loc: California
    Originally Posted By: Dude
    Side note, this guy talks about painters and poets. Why are all these anti-maths so hung up on poetry?


    As Bostonian (and you) helped us see in the thread about maths and white privilege, there is a point there, however poorly articulated. And while I don't trust the professor who wrote the book we were talking about, I can see that there is a problem in that area.

    Our education system has developed a zeal for STEM subjects. This is good in that we're in golden age of technology development, but it goes too far in that our society has become dismissive of the humanities.

    I'm a scientist, but have a bachelor's degree in history. I also took a lot of English and other courses in the humanities, and they taught me a lot that the STEM field hasn't. Many writers ask us to question assumptions, or to look at something from a new perspective. I wrote hundreds of essay pages in college. They taught me

    • How to think through a situation ("What are the ramifications Macbeth's cunning plan? How can this go sideways?")
       
    • To ask if something hidden is going on (e.g. can you trust the narrator in this novel? What about Nazi schemes to blame their perceived enemies for an attack when they had carried out the attack themselves?)
       
    • How to organize my thoughts and how to make points.


    This kind of thing is lacking in American education today, and all sides of society contribute to it: college students who howl about the evils of reading books by dead white people make the situation worse. Companies that expect their employees to arrive already trained make it worse. Tests composed largely of questions that can be answered in minute or less. And our national obsession with those tests takes that problem several steps further. And then there are the "essay" questions, which are graded in ten minutes or less and which are not graded on content.

    Taken together, we've worsened a problem where politicians can succeed at pandering to the worst of our natures and get away with lying. This was always bad (e.g. Nixon's southern strategy). Now it's worse, IMO, because people are less prepared to think about stuff.

    So, yes, we need to know maths. But we also need to know about history and human nature.


    Edited by Val (11/03/17 11:31 AM)
    Edit Reason: trust the narrator

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    #240339 - 11/03/17 11:53 AM Re: Shaking up Education [Re: Bostonian]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    Originally Posted By: Bostonian
    Originally Posted By: aquinas
    As we've established that a large component of ability is genetically pre-determined, talent is relatively blind to economic starting conditions. (For follow-on responses to my post: let's agree to set some of the tired social Darwinist tropes to rest, please.)

    You don't get to dictate what viewpoints others express on a forum, and it is not polite to use pejoratives to label their views. I think the parts of your sentence are contradictory, since intelligent parents tend to earn more and also to have more intelligent children.


    She asked politely. I don't know why it's beyond you to show a little respect. Your views have certainly been afforded more respect than they genuinely deserve.

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