Car Talk Education Rant -- Opinions?

I read this awhile ago, and couldn’t decide to what degree I agree with it. Still can’t. What do you people think?

-Andrew L

He’s full of it. Math really does teach useful skills–deductive reasoning and analytic thinking are the two I can think of the most easily.

Moreover, his “rant” proceeds from several premises to a conclusion. Sounds like deductive reasoning to me. Bet he’s glad he picked that up in his math classes. :slight_smile:

I read both the rant you linked to and the rant about education that Tom links to in the middle of that page. Both make some good sense. But they don’t answer the problem they bring up. [Aside: I apologize in advance if I get your thread transferred to GD. I have strong opinions about education.]

It’s true that a lot of stuff from school isn’t useful later. It’s true that people learn more readily if they are solving a problem in their lives than if they are just trying to get past the next test. But it isn’t true (IMHO) that this forms a good basis for an education system.

What he’s suggesting comes down to apprenticeship training. That is a great way to learn a trade. But it doesn’t give you the broad base that the US education system does. You’d very quickly run out of hours in the day if you tried his approach in more than one situation. Imagine trying to learn in the ‘real reality’ of auto repair, mathematics, professional sports, experimental chemistry and creative writing all in the same day. Impossible. But those subjects wouldn’t be unusual in a high-school student’s schedule.

Another complaint about his rant is that in order to teach his way, the students would have to specialize way too early. If you’re going to learn the ‘real reality’ of, say, business administration, you have to focus on it. That means you stop learning, say, science. Great plan, if you’re sure you’re going into business (which Tom’s students are, I guess). But it won’t be too great for a high-school freshman, who won’t decide what he’s going to specialize in for some time (if he ever does).

I agree with him that some subjects are overdone purely through inertia. I agree that real-world experiences are a valuable way to learn. But I just don’t think you can make a whole education system out of it without reverting to the 18th century [when apprenticeship was often the only education a child could get]. What we really need is for someone smarter than me to figure out how to use all the useful methods of teaching in our schools, since it is clear that different methods have the best effect on different students.

Damn, I thought this was about cars.
leaves thread

He says he was an engineer. He doesn’t specify what kind of engineer, though, so I’ll use me for an example. I major in civil engineering. I had to take 3 calculus courses, leading up to a Differential Equations course. I thought it was all theory, and hated having to learn it, then we starting using differential equations in a later class to solve problems of finding out how much a beam bends under a certain loading.

Diff Eq makes no sense if you don’t have a good basis in calculus. Yeah, I hated learning it, too, but it proves to be useful, so I’m glad I learned it. I think he’s going a bit off the deep end.

However, I still take issue with why in the world I had to learn how to work with imaginary numbers in high school. Graphing imaginary numbers has got to be the most pathetic thing in the world.