Calculus and Jury Duty

by Joe Fitzgerald

Calculus is like jury duty. Everyone agrees that it’s essential, and any sensible human being will try to get out of it if they can. But panicked right-wingers are currently cluttering the internet with claims that a change in high school calculus teaching is the latest threat to Western Civilization.

I write from experience. I’ve been called for jury duty twice and taken three calculus courses, plus numerical analysis and differential equation classes with a calculus prerequisite. I don’t remember a lot of the calculus, and I was rejected both times for jury duty. Maybe because I would have been sending reporters to cover whatever trial I was chosen for. Regardless, they paid me $40.25 both times: $40 for a 20-minute “day” of jury duty, and two bits for a mile or less of travel expenses, another way of saying I walked to the courthouse.

Calculus may make less sense than that, particularly for those who don’t necessarily care whether the derivative of a function of a single variable at a chosen input value, when it exists, is the slope of the tangent line to the graph of the function at that point.

Of course it is.

But calculus is about measuring change and rates of change. Consider, for instance, the first 14 years after the web browser was introduced in 1993. The internet was changing things, Amazon was growing bigger, and some people still browsed through a dial-up connection while staring at a monitor the size of two microwaves and a flower pot. At the end of the 14 years since then, people are sharing social media memes on hand-held smart phones and tablets. Calculus can help the sociologist understand the social change involved and may let the electronics vendor guess how many tablets to order. The rest of us just need to know whether to swipe left or right.

Or consider the funnel. Cooks, chemists, and lab workers know that the level of liquid in a funnel drops more quickly when the funnel is almost empty, even though the water continues to flow at a more or less steady rate. Why that happens has to do with the volume of a cone, which as we all know is the integral of an infinite number of infinitesimally thin circular disks of thickness dx. That’s valuable knowledge for a chemical company engineer designing a centrifuge that won’t blow up and take half of Hopewell with it, but the cook just needs to stick the pointy end in the top of the jar.

Calculus is for those who want to understand rates of change or need to calculate them. So why take calculus? Because it broadens the mind and helps you understand at least the basics of chaos and motion better, or because you’ll need to engineer something that must work in a changing environment. Why require calculus? Beats the shit out of me.

The Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative would try to teach mathematics that students will need in their career and life pursuits. Fox News says the initiative would eliminate calculus. The state superintendent explicitly states that the “traditional high school pathway culminating in the study of Calculus or other advanced courses is not being eliminated. Additional course pathways will include engaging semester courses in statistics, data science, modeling, design, and logic, among others.”

On the other hand, the initiative mentions equity, which has Fox News and its Amen Corner on blogs and social media soiling their ideological diapers. To those people, equity when they say it means how much you can get if you sell your house, and when we say it means socialism, presumably with a side order of gun control. (The documentation also mentions making students “life ready,” but this is about math, not educational jargon. Still, lets call the VMPI the Math Path, because we can.)

In other words, Virginia is making another attempt to improve the way people learn what is for many the most difficult subject area. And conservatives are screeching about something being taken away from them, because equity is mentioned. For those who aren’t selling a house or making stuff up on Fox News, equity means fairness. Can’t have that, can we?

The connections made by the Amen Corner are tenuous. They point not to the state’s standards so much as to a document not mentioned in the standards but alluded to on social media by a proponent of the Math Path. The document alluded to mentions race. Can’t have that either. Racial and ethnic equity in education might mean that students raised in poverty or working class conditions or for whom English is not a first language might have the same chances as white middle class students. Then where would we be?

Or equity might mean teaching students the math skills they might need and use instead of the complex theory behind those skills. A student who’s going to go to community college for an auto mechanics certificate needs to understand how to get the right fuel-air mixture. They don’t need to know that gasoline typically consists of a homogeneous mixture of small, relatively lightweight hydrocarbons with between 4 and 12 carbon atoms per molecule, or that it’s a mixture of paraffins, olefins, and cycloalkanes, which some of you may think of as naphthenes.

From Dr. P.N. Raychoudhury’s Advanced Calculus II class at VCU, I remember an ad in a computer magazine showing a complex integral that left the class groaning. It was long enough ago that I was thinking in Pascal when I considered the integration by parts necessary to solve it. The program advertised could solve it for thousands of dollars, or you could wait forty years and solve it using Dawson’s Integral Calculator, free for the iphone. Calculus as app.

From Dr. Walter Elias’s Advanced Calculus I at VSU, I learned of the Behold Method of Mathematical Proof. You write the thing you want to prove on the board, then stand back and say, “Behold!” Your wisdom obviates the need for deductive steps or explanation. Tucker Carlson uses this method in political analysis, although I doubt he learned it in calculus.

From Dr. Sleepy Williams at W&L, I remember that he earned his nickname when he had us writing on the board. I also remember that in September he hand-picked 10 freshmen to take his advanced course on elementary calculus. Soon after mid-terms he announced, “They suckered you in when they told you you was brilliant.” Nobody had the nerve to say he was the one who told us.

A similar thing happened when Fox News recruited faux-brilliant commentators to talk about math education, and they managed to sucker in their viewers and a host of bloggers as well. I’d hate to have people with their critical thinking approach on a jury, especially if I were the defendant. But they’re probably smart enough to get out of jury duty.

A retired journalist, former mayor of Harrisonburg, and former employee of James Madison University, Joe Fitzgerald publishes a column, Still Not Sleeping, on SubstackThis column was republished with permission.

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48 responses to “Calculus and Jury Duty”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    In the age of online learning – those who want to go forward faster are not smart enough to get their knowledge from online? Really?

  2. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    The new mathematics is really a national initiative, not only a Virginia initiative. Change can be incremental and better liked or be quick and fast, resulting in a too sudden change in the status quo. I actually like the new course sequence. For our students today, it makes sense. They all get the basics and then add ons that reflect their interest.

    Maybe more kids will take more higher level math if it interests them. My son hated math, took geometry and stopped. But he is an HVAC technician and uses math everyday. My daughter is a soil scientist, went all the way to calculus in college her senior year of high school. She uses math everyday too, but I doubt she can remember calculus.

    She took the course sequence that got her in college. He took the course sequence that got him through high school. In the end, they both would have better benefited by the new Virginia sequence.

    I say- give up the old and try on the new. The National Council of Mathematics agrees.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Exactly. Conservative types can’t seem to keep much in perspective these days. Any prospective changes are bound to be bad motives by left-wing ideologues or other conspiracy to be rebutted ….

      I swear. Whatever public education does, the folks on the right are going to bust a hernia .

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        You’re blathering again, Larry. Right now – calculus is an optional class for high school students. Right? You certainly don’t have to take calculus to graduate from high school.

        So, what’s wrong with that?

        Contrary to the author’s meandering logic, calculus is used in a lot of real world situations. For example, calculating the economic order quantity.

        Be specific Larry … what would you do? Eliminate the option of taking a calculus class? Prohibit any student from taking a calculus class because, as the author writes:

        “Why require calculus? Beats the shit out of me.”

        Perhaps if the author paid more attention in English class he wouldn’t feel compelled to write such drivel.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          It’s pretty simple. I’m not opposed to rejiggering the overall math curriculum so that more students may have better opportunities to master at least some of it.

          We rank 25th in the world on Math Achievement. it’s not that we do not have high-rated students, it’s that average students in the US are out-performed by average students in 25 other countries.

          We know this. It’s clear in the data. There’s nothing wrong with making changes in an effort to get better.

          The ironic thing here is that the creation of Governor’s schools themselves were “innovations” and changes meant to offer more opportunity – and originally, it was for the humanities not math and science.

          Beyond that the narrative about the motives of VDOE with regard to equity being equal outcomes is super Grade A blather itself.

          We’re NEVER going to see “equal outcomes” nor should we and claims that – that is what equity is about is just foolishness.

          IMHO of course.

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            What does “rejiggering” have to do with public high school students optionally being able to take calculus?

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            it means that offering math to others so they meet minimal standards so they can compete economically for jobs is also important.

            It’s not a zero sum game. Never was.

            But when you offer “optional” classes to one set of students and nothing to others to help them achieve minimal math standards, what does that mean?

            this whole narrative is bogus to the bone.

          3. DJRippert Avatar

            “But when you offer “optional” classes to one set of students and nothing to others to help them achieve minimal math standards, what does that mean?”

            It means the kids who are good at math get to take more advanced classes.

            When you offer starting positions on the football team to kids who are good at football without “helping” the kids who aren’t good at football, what does that mean?

            The real world is competitive. People compete for a lot of things. If you are good in math … that’s a real benefit. Dumbing down America’s smartest kids is the definition of counter-productive.

            How does effectively canceling calculus help anybody?

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            Education is not football. Are you saying that only kids who are physically talented should receive classes in physical education?

            Yes, the real world IS competitive and that’s exactly why the average US kids rank 25 compared to kids in other countries.

            Our kids are hobbled from competing for real world jobs because they are under educated.

            We lose jobs and industry to other countries because we do not have the skilled labor those jobs require.

            And we do that by biasing our educational resources to the highest achievers – at the expense to most other kids who end up with deficient educations in math.

            You – of all folks in this blog ought to know that.

          5. DJRippert Avatar

            How does providing smart kids the opportunity to take calculus harm average kids?

            It dumbs down the smart kids and does nothing for the average kids.

  3. vicnicholls Avatar

    Calc is a weeder class. Those who can pass go on, those who can’t, stop and move onto another field. The idea is that it teaches you to think and reason, to study. I might not use calc every day, but I do use it for the discipline, linear thinking, everyday. Kids need to learn life is not going to be working for a boss or customers that you like doing every task you are given every day. Some of it you just have to plod through.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Calc IS a weeder class the way it is currently provided, and it ought not be. Some folks will get it quick, others will still get it but it might take longer or a different approach. Not everyone learns the same way. The idea of “weeding” is self-defeating and really elitism.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        The concepts themselves behind Calculus are not that difficult. It’s the mechanics that is truly a “foreign language”. Many people , most people actually need to understand the CONCEPTS that underlay Calculus and other math and science. In fact, it’s this lack of knowledge of the concepts that leads to mistrust or disbelief of science itself sometimes.

        If you ask most folks how GPS “works” , most have no idea – but the basic concepts behind it do not require a Mensa IQ , just an understanding of the concepts. Doing the math – yes that’s much harder.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Yeah, a weeder class. Really? Which cave is yours?

      In the 60s it was “That’s okay, Honey. A ‘C’ is good. Math is for men.”

    3. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      The weeders I knew couldn’t handle calculus, that’s for sure.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: equity and “equal outcomes”. Here’s the problem. Let’s say changes are made in an effort to deal with “equity”. Those that are saying that it’s really an effort to have equal outcomes are full of it.

    Take, for instance, for the time being, ONLY – all whites. Does anyone REALLY think the “equity” changes will lead to equal outcomes for all whites?

    Now do the same for blacks. Does anyone REALLY think “equity” changes will lead to EQUAL outcomes for ALL blacks?


    So what is this REALLY about?

    Oh! it’s about equal outcomes with regard to white and blacks! Or for whites compared to low income?

    So… for some reason – comparing the bell curve profile for whites to the bell curve profile for blacks is apparently a problem if what we are trying to achieve is some kind of comparable profiles?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Feel free to define the left’s use of the word
      “equity”. I define it as requiring equal outcomes. What is your definition?

      Helpful hint – remember that liberals want to “dumb down” Thomas Jefferson because too many Asian Americans end up getting positions in that school. That action is being taken in the interests of “equity”.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        do you mean all whites will now achieve equal outcomes because of the equity efforts?

        All blacks? All Hispanics? All Asians?

        so what exactly is mean by “equal outcomes”?

        be specific.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          I am providing my assessment of what the left means by “equity”. I believe that the left thinks any difference in outcome must be due to racism. Therefore, only when all outcomes are equal will racism be dead.

          The left hates the fact that Thomas Jefferson is disproportionately Asian. They claim it is extracurricular preparation. One dolt even compared studying for the entrance exam to using performance enhancing drugs in sports. Of course it never occurred to that dolt to provide study aides to any student who wanted such help – free of charge. Heaven forbid that Virginia provide help to highly motivated, smart students.

          Better to dumb it down in pursuit of “equity”.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Do you REALLY KNOW the “left” or are you repeating the latest right wing canard?

            The problem with TJ – no matter your “left” or “right” persuasion is that only 2% of low income REGARDLESS OF RACE make it into that school.

            Now , how is that a “left” problem with “equity” and “equal outcomes”?

            It’s not. It’s a disreputable narrative promoted by folks who basically want to make it about left and right – and it’s simply not for most intelligent folk.

          2. DJRippert Avatar

            “The problem with TJ – no matter your “left” or “right” persuasion is that only 2% of low income REGARDLESS OF RACE make it into that school.”

            So what?

            The kids take tests. The highest scores get in. They work 80 hours a week and learn a ton. Then they go onto top universities and become leaders.

            How does that hurt the poor kids who can’t get the scores on the tests needed to get into TJ?

            Fairfax County is 99.9% not TJ. How does taking away the accelerated school for the 0.1% brightest kids help anybody?

            It doesn’t help anybody.

            It just holds back the 0.1% of the smartest kids who would go on to invent things, cure cancer, etc.

            Dumbing down the opportunities for the smartest kids doesn’t help the average kids.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            So when only 2% of low income kids get into TJ and most of kids rank 25th in math compared to other kids in the world – you don’t see a problem?

            We are hurt economically by this.

            We have biased our resources to the most accomplished kids – and not invested in basic math for most of the kids – the level of math needed to compete for skilled jobs.

          4. DJRippert Avatar

            I don’t see a problem that is solved by dumbing down TJ by using a lottery. 99.9% of Fairfax County students don’t go to TJ. Maybe build 5 mini-TJs that are easier to gain admission. But what good does tearing down TJ do?

          5. vicnicholls Avatar

            DJ Remember the issue of Marxists is class war. Nowhere do I remember any one providing that life will be fair. Btw, a documentary on India showed that kids who were bright fell thru the cracks because of society, I don’t see any one on the progressives/left screaming on it.

          6. LarrytheG Avatar

            What part of the following is not understood and acknowledged:

            ” • VMPI is a proposal to modernize and update Virginia’s mathematics curriculum in grades K-12 to align instruction with the essential knowledge and skills students need to succeed in the 21st century economy. The proposals would update Virginia’s Mathematics Standards of Learning and Virginia’s public school divisions would then be responsible for creating courses and designing curricula to implement those state standards, as they do now.

            • VMPI maintains Virginia’s rigorous mathematics instruction for all students and strives to provide all students with opportunities to receive high quality, highly-relevant math instruction that is tailored to their specific post-secondary goals.

            • The implementation of VMPI would still allow for student acceleration in mathematics content according to ability and achievement. It does not dictate how and when students take specific courses. Those decisions remain with students and school divisions based on individualized learning needs.

            • The traditional high school pathway culminating in the study of Calculus or other advanced courses is not being eliminated. Additional course pathways will include engaging semester courses in statistics, data science, modeling, design, and logic, among others.

            • Local school divisions will still have plenty of flexibility to create courses aligned to the standards to meet the needs of all students; and provide opportunities for all students to advance through the curriculum based on their learning needs. School divisions will also be able to offer advanced sections and acceleration through the courses.

            • VMPI will increase rigor by integrating mathematical content and concepts, emphasizing reasoning and problem solving, and providing a highly-relevant experience for all students. It will also include a new focus on statistical literacy, essential for success in a data-rich world.

            • VMPI proposes math standards in kindergarten through high school that focus on reasoning, real-world problem solving, communication, and conceptual connections while shifting away from an emphasis on computation and routine problem practice.

            • The VMPI initiative imagines math instruction for students that integrates existing math content into blended courses for students typically in grades 8-10.

            • The content from Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 is not being eliminated by VMPI, but rather the content of these courses will be blended into a seamless progression of connected learning. This encourages students to connect mathematical concepts and develop a much deeper and more relevant understanding of each concept within its context and relevance.

            • VMPI envisions additional and innovative opportunities for students to access content that is not currently widely available to all students. This foundation can then be built upon with specific coursework tailored to post-secondary goals.

            • The foundation of VMPI’s integrated mathematics content approach is common in many countries, including in countries that are our chief global competitors.

            • VMPI is aligned with research and supported by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.”

            This does not, at all, sound like what the naysayers are spouting…and is actually the opposite of “marxism” and whatever other silly and really uninformed views from folks who basically are playing partisan politics – to the harm of all Virginia kids – who – are BEHIND the rest of the world and because they are, fail to successfully compete for 21st century jobs.

            All this is – is more “stuff” from those who really don’t care about the role of public education to start with but can’t stand the thought of “liberals” in charge!

            Public Education – folks – where all taxpayers pay to educate all kids –

            let me break it to you – It’s a LIBERAL CONCEPT!

            Public Education conceptually is to provide opportunity to each child to achieve their potential to become self-supporting members of society regardless of their individual economic status or the education level of their parents.

            It truly IS about equal opportunity.

            The more economically disadvantaged kids who actually do receive a 21st century education – the less of them grow up to be under educated, low income adults who need entitlements.

            Entitlements is an ironic word in that it includes public education and public assistance.

            Which is better? Which is more cost-effective?

          7. As usual you are a parrot for press releases. Maybe you could get a job with your local TV station reading cue cards? Just because you and the educrats say this is a plan to modernize and improve doesn’t mean it is. Just because you think Calculus isn’t necessary for “21st century jobs” doesn’t mean you know what you are babbling about.

            But nothing you say matters anyway. It is irrelevant. What this top down plan is is irrelevant. Parents should not have top down plans forced on them. They should pick schools and pick what curricula they prefer and thinks is best. And they should not all be the same.

          8. It’s funny how so called “progressives” notice things so slowly and then always formulate “solutions” that just cause more destruction. Government guaranteed student loan programs have long been subsidies to upper middle class people, whose kids are far more likely to get into expensive colleges, and then law or medical school. It’s long been a “redistribution” of income from working and middle class people to upper middle class people.

            TJ and other magnet schools are probably not redistributive in the same way. They probably spend the same – or even less – per student per year than your average government school. (I say less because they may not have to have as many teacher assistants and specialists helping students who do not know English, are failing at math, can’t read, or have severe behavior problems.)

          9. But putting low income kids in TJ or other magnet schools who will not be able to do the work there won’t help them or the kids who are flourishing at TJ. That’s not an argument for quotas at TJ.

            It is an argument for changes and reform, just not the ones that anyone currently in charge of government schools, which are overall failures, can give you. They’ve already failed. They should be fired, perhaps prosecuted.

            The fact that low income kids can’t do well on an entrance exam, and can’t get into TJ, and won’t be getting into a good college (without affirmative action fakery), and won’t be graduating from the college they do get into in 4 years if at all, and won’t be graduating from college in the top or even the middle, of their class, has to be addressed earlier. The problem is that they can’t pass the entrance exam because your education system your experts created has failed to teach them.

            This is an argument for charter schools and education vouchers, so their parents can find a school that inspires and educates them. Even within our current doomed system it is an argument for: the option of sex segregated schools, segregating kids more by ability level and behavior (so that kids are not held back by underperforming peers), and math and science camps or enrichment programs for those who CHOOSE to and are motivated to take advantage of them. It could even be an argument for creating a TJ lite, a second science magnet school for people who can’t handle the advanced level of TJ, but might want to learn more math and science.

            But for “equity” hustlers it seems to always mean destroying the education of any group managing to find some tiny corner of the current system that is working.

          10. LarrytheG Avatar

            No one is talking about putting low income kids in TJ. They’re asking why after a conventional public school education that only 2% of them qualify.

            Here’s the problem that some folks, critics don’t see , maybe don’t want to see.

            Virginia ranks 4th Nationally for academic performance in K-12.

            That’s pretty darn good for “bureaucrats” if you ask me.

            We produce some of the top performing kids in the country – despite all the inane blather from some.

            So what’s the problem? Why, if we rank 4th in the US , we rank 26th in the world?

            That’s the info the critics fail to know much less offer ideas to fix it.

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        “I define it as requiring equal outcomes.”

        Of course you do. By defining your opponents’ positions it makes it easier to argue your own unresearched positions and wild imaginings.

        It’s the Republican way. It’s how Trump worked, “Little Marco”, or “Sleepy Jeb”.

        Congratulations, you’ve achieved Trumpism and Tuckerism.

        BTW, as a lefty, I define it by improving mean trends. If black and white mean outcomes both improve that’s success. If the lesser of the two increases more as well, then that is wildly successful. This is why concentrating effort on the lesser makes sense. Anything else is a failure, or at best, a null.

        I also know that it’s worthless to examine the numbers in the top percentile alone. And this may come as a surprise to you, the vast majority of the lefties know this too.

      3. You have to realize that everything you read in newspaper or hear on TV is likely a lie, or just such stupid coverage that you don’t know anything about reality after you consume it. “Equity” is very much a topic you can’t learn about from mainstream media. No doubt anyone actually covering it will be censored, just as FaceBook just censored anyone who posted articles on how the BLM leaders were spending significant chunks of the donations they have received on their own real estate investments

        There are many equity hucksters already. I was forced to listen for several hours to a zoom-style webinar on Columbus Day, which despite being a holiday for most people was a “teacher planning day in some Virginia counties where teachers had to report to work on Monday as they all report to work on Monday now – online. Some guy who created an “equity in education” “non-profit” talked to us for hours saying vacuous moronic things, and then charged the county no doubt tens of thousands of dollars for doing so. Equity hucksters are just like race hustlers or any other type of con man.

        This bozo (who was white, and male, not totally sure about straight, though he did “present” as “CIS gendered”) made a number of stupid remarks.

        One of his “equity” examples was a school that gave demerits if you were late to class. But there was a gay kid who had to get from one class to another and to do so he had to walk past some kids who always bullied him in a stretch of hall no teacher monitored. The kid had discovered if he waited in an empty classroom until the bullies were in the next class, he could get to his class without being shoved or punched. But then the teacher in that class marked him late for class.

        To this “equity” bozo getting rich by charging school systems for this lecture this showed that we must not enforce rules across the board, but exempt anyone who is LGBT, of color etc etc. because they can’t help it.

        To anyone who is not a government school flak you might want to ask why a child is being forced to attend a school where his physical safety is not protected. Why is there an unmonitored patch of. hallway. Or more fundamentally: why is this child forced to attend a school like this? And why are kids who punch or shove other kids allowed to go to school? If you were a parent would you choose (in a free market where you had choices) to send your kid to a school where she or he was punched or shoved or ridiculed, if you had options?

        Another example for the “equity” hustler was yearbooks that students must buy. If you ordered (and paid for) the yearbook early, before they were printed, you got a discount. This is UNFAIR, the equity grifter said, because poor people (and of course this is evidence of systemic racism since poor people are not white!) can’t pay for things without being given a long time to save up the money.

        So in other words, the equity grifter thinks poor people (and black and brown people) are too stupid to know they might want a yearbook next year, and to start setting the money aside the summer before school starts. (Maybe, pre-lockdown, even finding a summer job to earn the money.). And the education system should prevent students from learning that for the rest of their lives every time they buy something, from an airline ticket to a home, they will be paying less if they buy it in advance (including buying property without a mortgage).

        People should basically not listen to anyone who uses the word “equity.” And should fire or not hire them. And should perhaps slap them across the face.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          well, we also have to understand what is coming out of the mouths of critics and naysayerll “hucksters” is even worse…

          they are clueless as to the issues – on purpose or worse.

  5. LesGabriel Avatar

    If there has been a knee-jerk reaction to Virginia Education officials making changes to K-12 curriculum without getting a lot of input from parents and other citizens, it is probably because there are a lot of changes that are happening that these same groups do not like. The clamor over the insertion of critical race theory and the 1619 project into schools in Loudoun County and other places is a case in point. Don’t expect parents to trust the judgement of academic experts on things like calculus, which they don’t understand as well as the experts when the “experts” tell them that there is no way to know whether a child is a boy or girl or whether or not they are racially prejudiced, subjects on which they have real-world experience and understand very well.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Changes have been ongoing for some time in public education. I’m sure some remember “Whole Language” and “open classrooms” and others… Public Education is operated by professionals – and they strive to achieve the goal of every child reaching their potential – and they know that does not happen for a variety of reasons – some of which they do try to address as changes. Some work. Some do not.

      But the current environment of second guessing everything they do – is counterproductive and even harmful if it ends up with public education professionals pulling back from trying to improve or hiding what they do so they don’t have to deal with controversy.

      Talk to ANY teacher – a real teacher – who has to deal with parents, and you’ll get a much better appreciation of what kinds of idiots are parents these days – that have to be dealt with if the teacher wants to keep his/her job.
      It’s the gig.

      1. Lol. You are just precious. You think the fact that in the current system teachers hate and talk badly about parents is proof that teachers and experts should control things and parents should have no choices. You think the fact that educrats have been making “changes” for years, as U.S. students fall farther behind other students internationally, means the changes are good. People who talk like you, especially government officials who talk like you, insure that we are going to have more and bigger insurrections.

        Government experts and educrats can’t improve anything. They are a cult who are blindered by ideological fads that are always just variations on a theme of increasing government power. The only solution to this is for all of them to be fired and sent back to mopping floors and flipping burgers, despite their worthless EdDs in educational leadership theory and other vacuous pseudo-disciplines.

        Your statement begins with an evil lie: government education DOES NOT PROMOTE THE POTENTIAL OF EVERY STUDENT. I have taught many elementary and middle school grades and in almost every class there are bright kids who are bored because they are held back while disruptive, special education, or unmotivated kids get most of the teacher’s attention or where the lessons and readings have to be kept to a lower level it is hoped (though it never happens) the underperforming students will actually learn. Students who behave well are threatened, harassed, or (if they are able to take care of themselves physically) just distracted by students who run around the room, talk, sing or scream persistently, grab at other student’s belongings or persons, etc. Your system where you force all families into the same school and the same class and give them no choices keeps almost all children from reaching any of their potential and breeds bullying, and creates the conditions in which children become disturbed and violent.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Precious? oh my.

          THIS is what IS “precious”:

          ” Government experts and educrats can’t improve anuthing.”

          Every single developed country in the world is run by “educrats” and our schools rank 25th and worse compared to them.

          Should we be more like those other developed countries where THEIR kids outrank OUR kids ?

          What is your solution? What would you change? Put the ideological right in charge? Sure, turn us into a 3rd world country, right?

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    Jim Bacon – shame on you! Are you so addicted to advertising clicks that you show no discretion in what you republish? This article reads like it was written by a nine year old.

    The only two things that come clearly to the fore from this article are that the author hates conservatives and loves himself. Joe Fitzgerald never met a mirror he didn’t like.

    First things first … what is the author’s point? Math path? Calculus? Equity? Amen Corner (whatever that means)?

    This article is a jumble of regurgitated sputum.

    I love me …

    ” Maybe because I would have been sending reporters to cover whatever trial I was chosen for.”

    “Why that happens has to do with the volume of a cone, which as we all know is the integral of an infinite number of infinitesimally thin circular disks of thickness dx.”

    “From Dr. P.N. Raychoudhury’s Advanced Calculus II class at VCU, I remember an ad in a computer magazine showing a complex integral that left the class groaning. It was long enough ago that I was thinking in Pascal when I considered the integration by parts necessary to solve it. ”

    Random allegations (with no corroboration) …

    “But panicked right-wingers are currently cluttering the internet with claims that a change in high school calculus teaching is the latest threat to Western Civilization.”

    Side note – does the genius who used to think in Pascal not understand how to link to examples of his assertion using WordPress?

    Errors of fact ….

    “Consider, for instance, the first 14 years after the web browser was introduced in 1993. The internet was changing things, Amazon was growing bigger, and some people still browsed through a dial-up connection while staring at a monitor the size of two microwaves and a flower pot.”

    The first web browser was (WorldWideWeb) was developed in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee for NeXT Computer. In 1992 the MidasWWW browser was introduced by Tony Johnson. Amazon was founded July 5, 1994. It nearly went bankrupt in early 2000.

    Microwave is a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from about one meter to one millimeter corresponding to frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz respectively. At the high end, two “microwaves” would be about 6 feet.

    “For those who aren’t selling a house or making stuff up on Fox News, equity means fairness.”

    Equity does not mean fairness. In the context of today’s left it means equality of outcome.

    Horrible writing ….

    “Why require calculus? Beats the shit out of me.”

    Seriously Jim? How very articulate. You need to edit out garbage like that.

    As an aside, what high school REQUIRES calculus? Required for what? To graduate?

    Amen Corner? Amen Corner is the term used to refer to the 11th, 12th and 13th holes at Augusta National Golf Club. The term was coined in 1958 when Arnold Palmer won The Masters. What is the author talking about with his repeated, mindless references to Amen Corner?

    I’m sure Mr. Fitzgerald has some expertise (beyond thinking in Pascal) that could be useful to BaconsRebellion. Perhaps in the area of voter fraud …

  7. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    This is the best response to the hysteria surrounding the Math Path that I could imagine. I wish that I could have written it, but I never took calculus. Oops! I guess that is why I never got any farther than I did. Of course, my high school did not teach calculus when I was there. My class is just a lost generation, I guess.

  8. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Sorry, such a lovely day I’ve been ignoring you all….I’m encouraging my favorite math teacher to compose something and she won’t be too far off Fitzgerald’s opinion, probably. I did fine with the high school calculus, (“The Calculus”), struggled to a C in my freshman year and stopped there. Mainly because I missed too many of those 8 am classes, didn’t do all the homework…can’t imagine what was was distracting me from my studies that first semester….Oh, yeah, Nancy’s art reminds me.

    The educational establishment loves change. Partly because it fears longitudinal comparison, which becomes impossible when you constantly change the curriculum. Dragging equity and race into this discussion was a conscious tactic on somebody’s part, and he’s right, that set off the whining. Which is why I’ve stayed out of this. Based on my long, close observation married to a great teacher, if you don’t like some innovation, relax, it won’t be around long. The best teachers do what they know works.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Hey, at that age, the only math we cared about was multiplying.

      Times have change. That poster used to hang in the math department front office in the mid-70s.

  9. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Larry Summers. Yeah, that Larry Summers. Wasn’t he pilloried for a suggestion that men and women learn mathematics differently? Of course, his suggestion wasn’t on ability, only “differently”, and ohhh, did that matter? No. Hence the need for the pillory. His implication was that there are differences in learning, hence a need for a difference in presentation and teaching, but alas, he didn’t actually say that. Didn’t have the chance. Didn’t say scientists are made, not born.

    Oh well, let’s look at healthcare. That’s safe and well understood.

    Cool, the Conservatives on this site are perfectly aligned with the Liberals against poor Summers… and what he didn’t say.

  10. So you believe we should trust the educrat establishment, even though they have been failures for decades, and have profited, with posh pensions and 6 figure salaries, by stopping innovation and choice in education and by selling poor black and brown kids, the ones you and they claim to care about, to the NEA, in exchange for campaign donations to their candidates.

    Sorry, you and those you are flaking for have no moral or intellectual credibility, rather the opposite.

    The fact that these plans come from the same people promoting divisiveness, race hatred, and envy further eliminates your credibility.

    As to your attempt to repackage dumbing down to the equality of mediocrity it seems a bit racist: you are saying people who are not white (or I suppose Asian), or who are immigrants, just need to take the math they need to be a cook, because they aren’t going to be software engineers or chemical engineers etc.

    Any education reforms must come from parents making choices – shopping – in an educational marketplace with charter schools, education vouchers, and tuition tax credits. It cannot come from the same corrupt bureaucrats and politicians and smug and blindered experts who have made things worse for decades and left American students so far behind other countries while pocketing $10,000, $20,000, and even $30,000 per year for every student enrolled in the system.

    With choice parents can also send their child to a school they fit into, are not bullied at, and thrive in. Government schools have been the breeding ground for everything from the bullying of gay kids to disturbed unhappy kids who become school shooters (has there ever been one at a non-government school?).

    Government school flaks do not get one more chance. They do not get to say we will finally get it right now. They do not get to scream at society at large for being “racist” because of the dysfunctional system they have created and profited off of. They do not get any more input. They must be fired and told to find other employment.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Every single public school system in the developed world 30 plus countries is run by “educrats”, no?

      And how well has our public education system (run by the same educrats) served the advanced level kids? Badly? nope, the opposite.

      What’s happened is that we have done well for the advanced kids but not for the average kids who now rank 26 th and worse compared to the other developed countries.

      So , trying to improve the performance of THOSE kids is “racist”?

      Only in the minds of the far right folks… who never saw a public education system they did not hate to start with.

      Sorry Charlie – you folks are way off into the ozone on this – and really, have been, all along… staunch opponents of the concept of public education and staunch proponents of “separate but equal” schools and private schools funded from taxpayers.

      Public School are what made the US the land of opportunity for the world. It’s why they want to come here – in the first place.

      You can’t have land of opportunity when only the richer kids get decent educations.

      1. No. You are simply ignorant. Education is much more privatized in many countries where students score above American students. You really should not be in this discussion because all you have to contribute is reciting government press releases.

        You have absolutely no moral or intellectual credibility.

        No one comes to America for its failing public schools except illiterate people from war torn countries. And they simply use the government schools as day care, so Americans can pay $30,000, $60,000 or even $90,000 a year to provide them child care so they can take low wage jobs.

        Many government school administrators and teachers, send their children to private schools – so many in fact that it has become a kind of joke.

        In Japan, most students who go to government schools attend private school afterwards to make up for what they did not learn

        School choice is more common abroad than it is in the United States. And they outperform American students

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Right. You have no clue for NAEP and PISA are , right?

          Facts, guy. real data… not right wing idiocy …. and ignorance.

          You guys would destroy public education because you’re living in LA LA Land when it comes to facts and realities.

  11. John Harvie Avatar
    John Harvie

    Getting back to The Calculus: Professor Calkins at W&M had an unusual style in that she went around the room’s blackboard … yes not whiteboard … with chalk in her right hand and an eraser in her left. You’d better make notes fast (no laptops) or else be left behind. One of the few classes so much fun and so interesting it would have been worth repeating … fortunately I didn’t have to. Higher education was so different in 1946.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      When it comes to Calculua and teaching it –

      1. – The teacher has to actually understand it themselves – Some High School teachers do not , but most College level ones probably do.

      2. – Then it’s the skill of the person in their ability to teach it in ways that most can understand what is really going on with the mechanics or is it just magical …..

      Mathematicians that I worked with not only used black boards and white boards – but they would “talk” with their hands as they visualized what they were speaking of conceptually. When computers got to the point where one could do 3-D graphical renditions , a lot more of it was more/better understandable at least to me.

      Even seemingly simple things – like determining the actual flow rate of a river use area under the curve:

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