The Times on Math and Science Education

The New York Times endorses greater flexibility in math and science education:

American students need vastly improved skills in math and science — they ranked 30th among students in 65 nations in math — but they do not all have to be trained to be mathematicians or scientists. While all students need a strong grasp of the fundamentals of critical thinking and problem solving, including algebra and geometry, they should be offered a greater choice between applied skills and the more typical abstract courses.

Hmm…I wonder what’s more abstract than the theory of evolution?



  1. Should they really be offered a choice? At that age, if not for my parents’ direction, I would have chosen all courses with the cutest girls. That’s applied chemistry right thurr.

    1. Ha! Good point. I’m not necessarily saying the kids themselves should decide. It’s more the parents. Parents have wide authority in their children’s education, and this could be one of the choices. As long as we’re still teaching good science, I personally don’t see why an extra unit on biochemistry is any better / worse than a unit on evolution.

      For what it’s worth, the Times suggestion is pretty mundane and uninteresting from the academics who study this stuff. The idea that a typical science education turns away many people who don’t become scientists is a very common argument.

    1. Hey Dan. I’ll try to get to a response soon. Especially since those surveys are heavily about electoral politics, it might take me a while:-) Not that politics isn’t important (it is)…but as I said before, I’m trying to avoid it.

      But to give you a preview of my response…it’s not necessarily that you can discuss evolution in isolation. It’s that when it comes to this debate, aggregate data and general trends don’t hold much sway with me. There are aggregate data all over the place (gender and science, race and crime, etc.). In these cases, we now rightly insist that individuals should be judged as just that, individuals. Even more powerfully, we rail against simplistic interpretations of the aggregate data. I’m not sure why there’s a creationist exception carved out to this general moral principle.

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