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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sex, Math, and Videotape

Its that time of year again, where I rant about the absurd math score competition issue. This quote is from USA Today:

If there were a math-and-science Olympics for elementary and middle schoolers, USA students could hold their heads high — they're consistently better than average. In math, it turns out, they're improving substantially, even as a few powerhouse nations see their scores drop.

At the same time that I was reading this, I also saw this item (from Information Week):

One in five teen girls has sent a revealing photograph of themselves via cell phone or e-mail or posted nude or partially nude images of themselves online, according to a survey released this week. Eleven percent of them are 16 or younger.

How are these items connected?

What do we give school children to think about all day? We want them to think about the Quadratic Equation, and logarithms even though hardy any adult that they know knows what those are. They try to do math, but they don’t do that well at it. They know they are in a competition but that can’t figure out why it matters. (I assure you that no adult knows why it matters either, we are just sure that it does, kind of like who wins the discus throw matters.)

At the same time we give them lots of time to think about how people don’t like them, whether or not they are attractive, and what they can do to become attractive. Adults are horrified that they are doing this while they make sure that they all have the equipment to do it.

What is the problem? The problem is school. School enables children to set the standards for other children because children live in a world of children where the losers feel really bad about losing no matter what the game is. Children also learn to pretend that they care about the standards set by adults, like math scores, when all they really care about is getting into college.

We must stop this. Stop teaching children that math matters when it does not. Math in these tests means algebra, trigonometry and such, which almost never come up in anyone’s life. And stop teaching children that getting other children to like them matters. This only results in stupid behavior by which they try to impress and gain favor. We must stop grouping adolescents in schools and pretending to teach them math that no adult knows or needs to know so they can instead engage in dangerous behavior that no adult condones.

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