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Q&A #1739

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Purpose of studying algebra

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From: RON <rselby@cinci.rr.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003060321:51:12
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Purpose of studying algebra

I FIND IT INTERESTING THAT YOU ASK A SOMEWHAT PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION,
GET BASICALLY PRAGMATIC RESPONSES, THEN TAKE OFFENSE AT THE RESPONDERS
BY QUOTING WHAT YOU BELIEVE TO BE "THE ANSWER" THAT THEY DID NOT
SUPPLY.

THE OVERALL ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION SEEMS TO BE "IT DEPENDS". FOR
SOME, THE STUDY OF ALGEBRA IS A COMPLETE WASTE OF THEIR LIMITED TIME
ON EARTH. FOR OTHERS, THE STUDY OF ALGEBRA WILL OPEN INDIVIDUALLY
IMPORTANT DOORS FOR THEM THAT WOULD OTHERWISE REMAIN CLOSED. FOR MOST,
THE VALUE OF THE STUDY OF ALGEBRA LIES SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE TWO
EXTREMES. AS WITH ANY DISCIPLINE, MATHEMATICS CAN PROVIDE AN EDGE IN
THE SURVIVAL GAME. IF THE GOAL IS TO EXTEND ONE'S LIFE, THEN THE
ABILITY TO REASON LOGICALLY WILL USUALLY PROVE TO BE HELPFUL. AFTER
ALL, IT IS OUR BRAIN POWER, NOT OUR PHYSICAL PROWESS, THAT HAS LED TO
OUR DOMINANCE OF THE PLANET. IF QUALITY OF LIFE IS THE GOAL, WHATEVER
THAT MEANS TO AN INDIVIDUAL, THEN THERE ARE NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF
"FAMOUS" PEOPLE WHO LIVED LIVES ENVIED BY MANY BUT WHO ON THEIR BEST
DAY COULDN'T FIGHT THEIR WAY OUT OF A SIMPLE ADDITION OF FRACTIONS
PROBLEM. ON THE OTHER HAND THERE ARE NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF "FAMOUS"
PEOPLE WHO WERE DRIVEN INSANE OR TO DO PERSONALLY UNSOUND DEEDS
BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T SOLVE EXTRAORDINARILY COMPLEX ABSTRACT PROBLEMS.

IN ANY CASE, THE ORIGINAL QUESTION SEEMS TO BE AIMED AT A
JUSTIFICATION FOR PLACATING TEENAGE CHILDREN. THAT SEEMS TO FALL UPON
THE PARENTS OF THE OFFSPRING. WHATEVER THE CHILDREN AND THEIR PEERS
MAY THINK INDEPENDENTLY, A DEGREE OF TRUST IN SUPPLYING WORTHWHILE
ACTIVITIES MUST BE INSTILLED, ASSUMING THAT THE PARENTS ARE WORTHY OF
THAT TRUST. IF THEY ARE NOT WORTHY OF THAT TRUST, THEN PERHAPS THAT IS
NATURE'S WAY OF THINNING THE HERD.

MOST OF THE CURRICULUM IN PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE U.S. HAS PROVEN TO
BE WORTHY OF SPENDING SOME TIME FOR WHAT MOST PEOPLE DEEM TO BE 
"A SUCCESSFUL LIFE". THE AMOUNT OF TIME AND EFFORT SPENT ON INDIVIDUAL
ITEMS ( SUCH AS MATHEMATICS ) WILL PRODUCE VARYING RESULTS FOR
INDIVIDUAL STUDENTS. IF THE STUDENTS IN QUESTION ARE ON THE FRINGES OF
EITHER END OF THE BELL CURVE, HOWEVER, THEN PUBLIC EDUCATION IS
PROBABLY NOT FOR THEM. ONE MUST THINK OF PUBLIC EDUCATION AS BASICALLY
UTILITARIAN IN NATURE. WHILE MEETING INDIVIDUAL NEEDS IS OFTEN
PREACHED, THE BASIC PRACTICE IS ASSEMBLY LINE IN NATURE.

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