On 3/21/2013 5:22 PM, Herman Rubin wrote: > On 2013-03-20, Paul <email@example.com> wrote: >> On Wednesday, March 20, 2013 5:04:36 PM UTC, Herman Rubin wrote: > > >>> ... > >>> The official prerequisites are almost always as certain courses > >>> or equivalent. Whether those courses as taken were any good is > >>> now highly questionable. >>> ... > > >> I agree with this. A book's prerequisites might say (for example) > that the book assumes knowledge of undergraduate linear algebra and a > rigorous course in calculus of one variable. I would then have a good > feeling for the level of the book. > >> However, I feel that this prerequisites problem is much greater in > university education, because a prerequisite might be "Must have passed > M323GKY". However, if M323GKY was a badly taught course by an unmotivated > professor who hates teaching [the exact opposite to David Ullrich, BTW, > who, judging from his expositional skills and his maths work on sci.math > is someone who is very committed to undergrad teaching], then filtering > the students by their having passed M323GKY doesn't work well. > >> I'm puzzled though by the word "now" as in "now highly questionable." > Do you believe that this is a recent problem and that higher maths > education used to be much better. Please explain the "now" part, or is > it just a typo? > > It is not a typo. It was somewhat questionable in the past, but > the pressure to teach to the level of whatever students are put > in the class by administrators, together with the dumbing down of > high school courses so everyone can graduate, has made it much worse. > >
During the time I attended college, there was a college professor in sociology who had published research concerning the public school system that I had attended. According to his research, it was the least effective public school system in the United States.
The city in which this school system is located has a particular reputation for its politics. Needless to say, that professor's research became a clarion call for reform. The politics of education became a favorite topic for political discourse as it never had been in the past.
Long before the United States introduced its "No child left behind" legislation, this city had been implementing its reforms on the basis of standardized testing. For the entire time there have been contracts for various consultants with their own theories of how to "fix" the schools. And, more recently, the traditional organization of the system bureaucracy was reorganized to have a "private sector" model with a Chief Executive Officer having little or no direct educational background. Schools are now "fixed" by closings that disrupt the lives of students as they get transferred to other schools (preferably private sector "charter" schools).
Of course, there is no money for school supplies. Often I meet teachers who purchase school supplies from their own incomes.
At the time I graduated from high school (secondary education), my school had produced more successful Ph.D. candidates than any other high school in the United States. Needless to say, I have watched the politics of this situation lead to the ruin of one of the few schools that had had a good reputation.
These reform movements led to a handful of schools becoming the "gems" of the school system through the years. One of my nieces attended the most recent version of "the best of the best". This school is listed among some of the best secondary schools in the nation when you read articles in the press that report on such things.
I heard that my niece had been having problems with mathematics. I visited her to give some tutoring and found myself in shock at the quality of textual materials she had been given. The next week I returned with some dusty old tomes from used book stores in the area and explained to her that these would be better references for her if she were to need them.
For financial reasons, she could not attend college. But, she reports that her friends are all having severe difficulties in college mathematics classes. Perhaps that is merely her clique of friends. I suspect it is more widespread than that.
Today one of the former superintendents -- or should I call him a CEO -- for this school system is the Secretary of Education for the United States.
So long as the press merely reports the statistics fed to them by the politicians, the data points themselves are lost in the fray. Standardized test scores get reported. Rates at which students graduate get reported. Rates at which graduating students are accepted to college get reported.
The grades that those students receive when they get there is not.
I have witnessed "much worse" for the last 26 years. For 24 of those years I have watched our "education mayor" preside over this debacle.