Today a Facebook friend shared this post, Bob D. commented, and I responded. (See below.)
Last week I purchased a burger at a fast food restaurant for $1.58. The counter girl took my $ 2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while looking at the screen on her register.
I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.
Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s:
1. Teaching Math In 1950s
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?
2. Teaching Math In 1960s
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?
3. Teaching Math In1970s
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?
4. Teaching Math In 1980s
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.
5. Teaching Math In 1990s
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living?
Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers, and if you feel like crying, it's ok. )
6. Teaching Math In 2009
Un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producciones es $80. Cuanto dinero ha hecho?
7. Teaching Math In 2013
Who cares, just steal the lumber from your rich neighbor's property. He won't have a gun to stop you, and it's OK anyway cuz it's redistributing the wealth."
- Duncan C. McDougall Did you allow it? I sure as Hell didn't! That is why my PSU students in the 1970s nicknamed me "Flunkin' Duncan," even while rating my teaching highly. In my humble opinion, the problem is grounded in the "feel good" principle in education. Never give a zero on a mid-term even if the student doesn't show up, because it makes her passing the course so improbable; never keep a student back a year because he hasn't learned to read, etc. "The agony of defeat" was a part of my childhood, and it helped me to grow stronger. C'mon, Bob. Let's put the blame on do-gooders, that huge class of fatuous grapes that "knows better than we" how education is supposed to feel. As if kids do not know who's bright and who's prepared, and who's lazy and who's unprepared! For over a generation the educational system in the US has been in the hands of people who think that self-esteem can be given to kids, rather than earned by them in fair competition. And that competition may not be with others... it may only have to be with their own previous best! You know why education is failing? It is failing because the good students are not getting diplomas that represent a distinctive accomplishment. Damned near every student graduates today, and a college degree today can be earned by a person with less learning, skill and culture than an average high school graduate had twenty-five years ago, let alone fifty years back! The very term "do-gooder" makes me want to vomit. How about some standards?!?!
- Duncan C. McDougall Continuing the theme: Universities treat graduation rates and retention rates as goals, on a higher-is-better scale. That would be valid if the academic expectations of those universities were high, and if their grading standards were consistent with those expectations. But since grading is subjective, and since teachers' expectations have been drastically reduced over the past thirty years due to the pitiful preparedness of many, many high-school graduates, higher retention has come to mean a weakening mix of students in the higher level courses, and therefore a sadly degraded bachelor's degree. If you want to find a great institution of higher learning, ask not what is its graduation rate, ask what is its rate of attrition from the first year to the second. Those schools that take in three times as many first-year students as they expect to have in the senior year probably are doing their jobs. Want to know where that happens in New Hampshire? It happens in the business programs at some of the community colleges! I served for ten years on the advisory board of one such community college, where the business program would admit 65 students per year, and graduate about 25 per year. That is why transfer students who have earned associates' degrees from those schools are so much sought-after by the four-year schools!