I know my Calculus

The “Harrison BergeronClock 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 Bergeron” Clock 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…



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