Hurdles to Education

In today’s New York Times, Andrew Hacker, the author of a book that has long been on my “to read” list: Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It wrote that in his opinion Algebra isn’t necessary for all students.  I really must agree.

As 21st century leaders and students we must ask ourselves whether the conventional wisdom of the mid-20th century applies to us.  Algebra is quite necessary for building of 21st century technology and solutions in programming, economics, engineering or research science – but is it necessary that everyone knows how to build these technologies?  I’m not talking about opportunity to learn – everyone should have the opportunity to take all classes – but as every student does not have the same skillset let alone the same interest, should every student be forced into the same math requirements?  And if so what should those requirements be?

Hacker brings up an alternative to the traditional algebra-geometry-trigonometry-calculus path that all high school graduates must make it at least halfway through before receiving a diploma:

Thus mathematics teachers at every level could create exciting courses in what I call “citizen statistics.” This would not be a backdoor version of algebra, as in the Advanced Placement syllabus. Nor would it focus on equations used by scholars when they write for one another. Instead, it would familiarize students with the kinds of numbers that describe and delineate our personal and public lives.

We as citizenry must decide how much information an individual can be required to learn before they can be a responsible citizen.  Currently, we blindly push everyone toward the same STEM career path without regard for their own skillset or the changing market dynamics that may require intellectual development in non-math fields.  Does this 20th century model really work?

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Temporary Permanence

I’m 22 years old.  In those years, I’ve moved somewhere around 19 times.  Yes, I’m an Air Force Brat; it’s to be expected that transience was a major part of my life.  Growing up in this way I came to value adaptability and independence in myself over the dependence on a community of neighbors or friends.   (This is perhaps counter-intuitive to some people who see the military as a tightly-knit group of families, but in my experience that is not always the case and besides that I have – for most of my life – been a fairly introverted person.)  My temporary existence in any one space led me to see the location where I happened to live in a very detached manner – it didn’t necessarily stir any feelings of pride or empathy but perhaps made good stories to tell people when I got to the next place.

It is a given that time breeds investment.  So having spent very little time in one place until my recent adult years I think it is safe to say that I have a keen understanding of the human need for investment in place.

Now, I am an architecture student.  I am learning to be a designer of spaces that people can invest in: PLACES.

But I find myself challenged with questions.  Who are these people?  Who invests in their neighborhood?  Who invests in their city?  Why would you invest?  Who is allowed to invest?  How do you define a cultural investment?  How do you define an architectural investment?

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