Ah, anti-intellectualism. For a nation who’s founding document is anchored so firmly in the Enlightenment, it never ceases to amaze me just how much of this nation functions on the idea that intellectualism is bad.
And it reached new lows on Wednesday when Fox News hosts speculated aloud whether children in the U.S. might be better off if algebra requirements were eliminated from public schools.
Fear the Numbers
A new book published by a professor at Queens College in New York set off a controversy by suggesting that algebra is a major reason for high school dropouts.
This makes sense to me. We don’t teach the beauty of math, and we don’t teach math as an art. In true American fashion, we teach it like the students are on a friggin’ assembly line. It becomes formulaic — being able to do it by rote memorization is more important than understanding why it works like it does.
While discussing the book, Fox News host Pete Hegseth noted that many people were asking the question: “Who needs algebra,” and asked co-host Andrea Tantaros whether there was a “war on Math.”
I whole-heartedly agree with this professor. I struggled. I had honors English, but in math I needed a little bit of help… I said, ‘Please could I drop out.’ But I actually took Algebra I twice and barely passed Algebra II.
She went on to explain that that she was able to convince the school to make a special exception and exempt her from advanced math courses, adding, “I think that if you’re not good at math, you take the basic courses.”
Hegseth attributed the problem to the “mumbo jumbo” in the Common Core, declaring:
They are setting them up to fail. And then we’re lowering the standards and we’re trapping kids in failing schools.
Co-host Sandra Smith disagreed, saying, “It just takes time, and I’ve never met a teacher that wasn’t willing to help someone more.”
I have, but that was a history teacher. And I went on to get my degree in history, so clearly that didn’t stop me.
Eboni Williams likewise agreed with Smith, saying that the “reasoning and logic” in advanced math were important life skills. Tantaros, however, wasn’t convinced.
“The next time I’m in a Bloomingdales and I have a certain amount of money to spend and I’m trying to figure out how many pairs of shoes can fit in x amount of closet space, I’ll text you,” she joked. “I have one mathematical [equation] that I apply. If I like it, I buy it.”
Yep. Play up those stereotypes, Tantaros. That’s why Fox hired you.
Nothing fosters anti-intellectualism better than the obsession of something being “practical knowledge.” “Practical” is a limiting word, it’s a word that places restraints and acts a value judgement, and as such, it should be a dirty word. It’s not, but it should be.
Math is more than numbers and solving problems. Like any language, math is a way of thinking. Students don’t get this because, again, we treat them like they’re on a friggin’ assembly line — among other problems, including how we treat our educators and view education in general.
I am so very tired of this American obsession with things being applicable to “real life.” Americans — especially the ones complaining about this — couldn’t tell you what real life is anyway since they’re too busy being “practical” to engage in the actual, philosophical and scientific underpinnings of reality.
And that doesn’t make me angry. That makes me incredibly sad.
Watch the video below:[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9c4wC6tP-E&w=560&h=315]
Feature image via YouTube Screen Capture