Posted on March 30, 2016 at 11:18 AM
Those of you who have followed my blog posts know that I
sometimes express my views about education. I have argued for the value of
broad-based education and in particular I have advocated both that scientists
should receive quality education in the humanities and that those in the humanities
should receive quality education in science. Now I am ready to again argue for inclusion of broad educational requirements
and in particularly disagreeing with a man named Andrew Hacker who has, for
some years now, argued against the required teaching of algebra. Andrew Hacker
is a professor emeritus of political science at Queens College of the City
University of New York. Mr. Hacker notes
that some students drop out of both high school and college and that others
fail courses. These contentions are most certainly factually correct. But Mr.
Hacker than goes on, with an amazing disregard for citing actual evidence, to
identify mathematics in general, and algebra courses in particular as the
reason for students who fail to complete or succeed in their education. In an opinion
piece published in 2012 by the New York Times. Hacker argues that making mathematics education mandatory is a barrier in
developing young talent and a major obstacle to their continued education. He
claims without data or attribution that eight million high school and college
students struggle with algebra every day. He indicates that one in four fails
to finish high school and again without data or attribution indicates that
“Most of the educator’s I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic
reason.” Not this educator. He does cite the agreement of a teacher named
Shirley Bagwell of Tennessee who is apparently another anti-algebra crusader.
It has never been more important than the present time for
those who are educated to be grounded in mathematics in general and in
specifically in algebra as a fundamental building block to mathematics
literacy. We live in a world where science and math are a part of virtually all
knowledge. I guess Mr. Hacker’s background in political science have prepared
him well to make these fundamental decisions on educational standards for
everybody. There was some media coverage of Mr. Hacker’s opinions in 2012
although it is unclear to me why the New York Times provided him a vehicle to
advocate his anti-educational diatribe. He did not seem to change many opinions
on this. However he has a new book out and this seems to be the basis for
rehashing his views before the public.
Michael Gerson coined the term “the soft bigotry of low
expectations”. (Yes, I did just quote a republican.) Mr. Hacker seems to be
extending this concept by having low expectations for just about everyone.
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