Richard Cohen has an editorial in which he asserts that there is "life after algebra".
He is, of course, right. But I think he's right for the wrong reasons. It's entirely true that the vast majority of Americans will not use algebra over the course of their respective professional or service-oriented lives.
But I would argue that he is wrong in saying that algebra shouldn't be a graduation requirement for high school. It most certainly should be. The problem is that there are people going to high school - which is a college-prep program - who have absolutely no reason to be there. The problem isn't that high school requires algebra, it's that high school is required. If you can't pass algebra, you shouldn't be going to college anyway, and thus there isn't any need to prepare for it. What you need is vocational training. Which is what the US public school system should be providing, and isn't.
The fantasy we teach our children is that everyone gets to grow up, work a maximum of 40 hours a week, live in a 2500 square foot house with three cars and a summer home, and earn north of $100k per year. That's the kind of lifestyle that high school prepares you for. It doesn't prepare you for pulling a double shift at the taco wagon.
What's a bit counterintuitive about Cohen's implicit proposal is that lowering the standards for high school would increase, not decrease, the percentage of people who find their day jobs becoming their real jobs.Posted by ryan at February 17, 2006 9:04 PM