The following excerpts are from an article written by Andrei Toom after teaching a Calculus II course for business majors. This article came to my attention when it was discussed by Albert Shanker, the late President of the American Federation of Teachers, in his weekly New York Times column ("Pseudo-education," Week in Review section, Oct. 10, 1993).
In my opinion, Toom did an oustanding job at exposing the pseudo-educated students being produced in the US, and he is to be commended for speaking up in such a forthright manner. Toom was also quite outspoken in exposing the fraudulent promotions and incompetence of the NCTM leadership, whom he described as "impostors of education." Unfortunately, when Toom wrote the article, he was not aware of how our textbooks and teaching methods had degenerated during the previous 30 years.
It is clear to me that the situation has worsened since Toom wrote this article. I am particularly appalled by the increasing number of students whose high school math courses consisted of little more than idiotic drills with graphing calculators. The continuing pseudo-education of American students is a national disgrace, and it is imortant that people speak up.
Dom Rosa --------------------------------------------------
Andrei Toom, A Russian Teacher in America, Journal of Mathematical Behavior, Vol. 12 (1993) pp.117-139.
An adapted version of Toom's article was reprinted in the Fall 1993 issue of The American Educator (beginning on page 9). A shorter version appeared in the June and August 1996 issues of FOCUS, the newsletter of the MAA.
"Never before had I seen so many young people in one place who were so reluctant to meet challenges and to solve original problems. All they wanted were high grades, and they wanted to get them with a conveyor belt regularity." (p. 122)
"I had to learn that every technical calculation, which I was used to ignoring, was a considerable obstacle for my students. It took a considerable amount of time for me to understand how poor they were in basic algebraic calculations." (p. 123)
"Of course, students are different. Many want to learn, because curiosity is inherent in the human nature." (p. 125)
"They [students] are never carried away by the subject's charm for its own sake, as they believe they must be 'practical', that is never forget points and grades. As a result they never use the powerful potential of creativity given to them by nature." (p. 126)
"Elementary mathematics is normally taught to children who looked like children." (p. 127)
"The voluminous book ÃÂ perfectly fits the max-min principle of the market: maximal pretensions with minimal content." (p. 130)
"The moral status of those who designed the business calculus course is like that of colonial-time hucksters who sold cheap beads, mirrors and 'fire-water' to ignorants, whose role is now played by students. I do not blame rank-and-file teachers, because they have no choice." (p. 132)
"The students grabbed their calculators, but seemed not to know what to calculate. After a while, one produced a complicated and wrong answer. ... All they had learned was to follow a few recipes without thinking." (p. 135)