17 June 2013

Three interesting reads on education today

The Wall Street Journal captures the growth of IB programs here in the United States [article]. As an staunch advocate for the International Baccalaureate, personalized learning, international mindedness, inquiry-based coursework, and a thousand other progressive learning standpoints, it's great to see that schools of all varieties (so long as they are the ones who are making this choice for their local students and communities) are embracing the IB.

Both Education Week [article] and the New York Times [article] offer related articles on the state of Maths education here in the States. EdWeek's article has a balanced view on the new front in the debate over whether states should require students to take Algebra 2 in High School. What the article doesn't cover-which The Atlantic does quite well-is that Americans don't use a tremendous amount of Maths in their jobs.

In addition, it is the upper-blue collar workers (think craft workers, construction, and similar) who use the most advanced Maths. Yes, STEM workers will need the skills taught more advanced Maths classes. However, this assumes that there are even jobs available for advanced scientists or that we even have a STEM shortage here in the States in the first place.This is not to skirt the importance of Maths; far from it. However, one would hope that those who make and implement policies and practices are able to take a macroscopic and integrated view of how the learning of Maths fits into our larger social and political context.

The NYT article adopts a much more thoughtful approach. Highlighting the philosophical camps in contemporary Maths educational reform, Crary and Wilson ask us to go beyond a dichotomous, zero-sum arguments about how Maths education should be facilitated (or worse yet, which standards are better than others) and to examine Maths as a rigorous, distinctive, and continual intellectual exercise. This position is not only the most reasonable, its also the one that most corresponds more closely to reality. We are better at anything (Maths, playing guitar, speaking Hebrew, teaching, being a parent, and everything else) the more we practice it and the more we seek to improve our practice over time.