Will Science, Math and Texas Education Ever Get Along?
Texas, dear God, what are you doing?
Far be it for me to tell you how to run your schools (not that that will stop me), but what is happening? I’ve read two very disturbing things in the past week regarding your curriculum, and we need to talk about it.
First: evolution (or should I say EVILution, am I right?). Look, this was cute for a while, but it’s time to put on your adult trousers and get with the program.
For those not in the know, let me fill you in. Last week the Texas state board of education preliminarily approved a slate of new science textbooks. However, one subject got left behind. Which one? You guessed it: biology. Why? Because evolution is the work of the devil, or something.
Who cares if some people continue to believe something in the face of all the evidence? Why should that matter? Surely they are in the fringes. Nope! You’d be wrong about that. In Texas, volunteers get to review textbooks before they are approved. In this case, some of those volunteers are, well, not predisposed to accept the evidence for evolution:
Publishers submitted proposed textbooks this summer, but committees of Texas volunteer reviewers — some nominated by creationists who are current and former Board of Education members — raised objections. One argued that creationism based on biblical texts should be taught in science classes, while others objected that climate change wasn’t as settled a scientific matter as some of the proposed books said.
Now, because a group of creationists have a problem with reality, approval of the biology textbook is held up. The board of education appointed three outside experts to take a look at the book. Hopefully, only actual errors will be reported this time.
This isn’t the only troubling thing to come out of Texas education recently. The state board of education has issued preliminary approval for a change in the math requirement to graduate high school; namely, it would no longer be required for most students to take algebra II.
The goal is to give students more flexibility. If they want to focus on vocational or technical training, the reasoning goes that we should let them. Not everyone will go to college, so not everyone needs college prep classes. According to the Dallas Morning News:
The vote means algebra II would be required of students who want “distinguished” degrees that allow them to qualify for automatic admission to any state public university in Texas. It will also be required of students who choose diploma plans that focus on STEM courses — science, technology, engineering and math.
But the board removed a proposed algebra II requirement for students who choose all other diploma paths: arts and humanities, business and industry, multidisciplinary studies and public service. Students can also earn “foundation” degrees that don’t include higher math or science requirements and don’t focus on a particular discipline.
Really? You’re going to let students who want to work in business out of high school with no algebra II? Le sigh. Let me tell you a personal story.
I hated math in high school. I took a math class every year and did reasonably well, but I hated it. I was going to be a lawyer, so I didn’t need trig. For a variety of reasons, I took it anyway. What I didn’t know at the time is that law schools love mathematicians. Why? Because math teaches you how to think logically and solve problems, even when those problems are unrelated to math.
Basic reasoning skills are necessary in everyday life. You may never need to rationalize the denominator of a fraction. However, being able to sit down and reason your way through a complicated algebra problem is good practice for reasoning your way through more adult decisions.
You’re not making me happy, Texas. If the purpose of mandatory public education is to prepare kids for life as adults, I’m unconvinced that removing a math requirement and pitching a fit over evolution is really the way to go.
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