Sacrificing the joy of learning:

A couple of days later, I came across this article by Roger Schank; blaming the laziness of college professors for the focus on arcane subjects:

Universities dictate curricula to high schools to make professorâ€™s lives easier. If everyone takes physics and calculus and most never use it, well, professors claim it was good for the students anyway when in fact it was only good for making sure professors didnâ€™t have to teach it in college. As long as professors donâ€™t have to teach the basics it is okay that high school students are forced to study stuff they will never use in their whole lives. We have ruined an entire generation of high school students who donâ€™t like learning and think the subject matter is irrelevant because professors only want to teach the good stuff.

We sacrifice the joy of learning for an entire generation so professors can have an easier time teaching incoming students.

I have 18 years of formal education, 25 years of work experience, have never used exponential equations outside of school, and donâ€™t remember how to do them today. What are we teaching, and why?

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I don’t buy this argument. The idea that mathematics is irrelevant at the level of exponential analysis is just silly. How is one supposed to understand the compound interest of checking and loans if you cannot do the math? Are you willing to say that people should be left to the will of the bankers and related businesses to do their calculations?

On another level, we aren’t really talking about teaching irrelevancies for the sake of them, we are actually talking about the teachers inability to choose textbooks that are meaningful to the students and parents… Frequently they choose textbooks that are too abstract, that lack real world word problems, and are very hard to relate to. It is not that the concepts can’t be constructed to be otherwise, it is that people have grown accustomed to seeing the ideas in a very 1950’s timeless formalism. If the materials are actually presented as parts of real life then you’d not have the issues of the professors at all, because perhaps… students would actually remember and use their learning instead of forgetting it before college…

I could go on and on about this… but I’m not going to.

You make a good clarification to what I identified as a problem; thanks. Yes, school instruction has to be relevant to the learners. Abstract formalism turns off kids; and parents.

BTW, I’d be the last person to say that we should be left to the will of the bankers 😉