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Parent Questions Mandatory High School Chemistry 866

Ollabelle writes "David Bernstein, a nonprofit executive who lives in Gaithersburg, Md., has two sons, ages 7 and 15. He has previously written about how schools fail students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Now he turns his attention to mandated curriculum in public schools, and argues that his sons shouldn't be forced to take any science class." From the article: "There’s a concept in economics called 'opportunity costs,' which you may not have learned about because you were taking chemistry instead of economics. Opportunity costs are the sacrifices we make when we choose one alternative over another. ... When you force my son to take chemistry (and several other subjects, this is not only about chemistry), you are not allowing him that same time to take a public speaking course, which he could be really good at, or music, or political science, or creative writing, or HTML coding for websites."
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Parent Questions Mandatory High School Chemistry

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  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:29AM (#41681671)

    My kid sucks at chemistry and, like all pussy-ass parents today, I don't have the heart to tell him that he's not incredible at everything (and don't want to risk him finding out by taking a class where he doesn't get an automatic "A").

    • Re:Translation (Score:5, Informative)

      by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:33AM (#41681733)
      Tell him he can use the knowledge to brew alcohol, make drugs and bombs. It really is taught in the most boring way possible. Learn the boring bits to make the exciting bits happen.
      • Re:Translation (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:36AM (#41681789)
        Brewing alcohol is more biology than chemistry. Chemistry is what you get when you mix alcohol with conc. H2SO4... from there you can make anything you want.
        • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Unknown Lamer ( 78415 ) Works for Slashdot <> on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:41AM (#41681899) Homepage Journal

          Conversion of the starches in malted grain to sugar is certainly a chemical process: you have to maintain the pH just so, the temperatures just right, to encourage particular kinds of conversion by various enzymes. Adjusting mineral concetrations and such in the water is also (not really intense) chemistry. Making wine involves even more chemistry: free SO_2 testing, pH adjustments, total acidity control, etc. involve lots of reagents and I found the basic recollection of even just learning how to e.g. do titrations from high school chemistry made things a lot easier.

          There's biology involved too in the fermentation process itself, and hey! Encourages 'em to learn that too ;)

        • by firex726 ( 1188453 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @03:43PM (#41685201)

          Billy was a chemist.
          Now Billy is no more.
          What billy thought was H20.
          Was H2SO4.

      • by Vanderhoth ( 1582661 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:39AM (#41681861)
        You forgot baking! Cookies and cake are the two most important things to use chemistry for.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:53AM (#41682113)

          You forgot baking! Cookies and cake are the two most important things to use chemistry for.

          Yeah, but I heard the cake is a lie.

        • Re:Translation (Score:5, Informative)

          by gninnor ( 792931 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:06PM (#41682353)

          Although modded humorous, the acid base reaction often used to raise these is a well known chemical reaction. The CO2 is produced in a temperature dependent way in double acting backing powder. CO2 absorption in the liquid is also temperature dependent (more apparent in yeast risen foods though). The browning is a controlled oxidation process, and there is a balance in water soluble and fat soluble components that must be balanced. The properties of the proteins in the flour (gluten) and other ingredients are also important.

        • Re:Translation (Score:5, Informative)

          by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:21PM (#41682609) Journal

          You might be joking, but chemistry is serious business in bread making. Check out this wizened tome; you can't traverse one page without chemistry. []

          I came across this while searching for the reference to another bread making tome my friend once showed me. The text was all in Chinese, but it didn't require knowing Chinese to see that every page had some chemical formula or table of chemical compositions or some chem eng processes. Hell, the first chapter was a primer on chemistry. I couldn't find the reference to the book because it had a very common name "Bread Making" and I didn't know the author or year, but the above link has a lot of the same flavor.

          • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Vanderhoth ( 1582661 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:52PM (#41683027)
            I was both joking and not joking. I love cooking and especially baking. I know most kids don't enjoy school because it seems like schools just cram useless facts down kids throats without actually explaining why the facts useful to begin with. I think teaching kids would work much better if you showed them something they're interested in, then explained it works because...

            Physics as an example was a class I wasn't mildly interested in in high school because it was all, If block A is placed on a wedge that has a 20 deg slope what are the component forces distributed in the X and Y directions, what factor does friction play blah, blah, blah. Had someone said sit on this slide, now tell me why you slid down and what determines the speed at which you slide, or compared using a swing to rotational forces, it might have made more sense as to why I needed to know what the component forces were in that block siting on a wedge.

            Now if only someone could have came up with a reason I needed to know the actual dates of historical events I'd be all set. I mean sure it's important to know what happened in the past, but is it really necessary to know it happened Tuesday 24, February 1903? What's the point of memorizing dates when the point of history is to know what happened and the sequence of events that lead to it. Yet there it was on every history test "What days and year did Jean Carteaux fight against the rebels during the french revolution?", WHO FUCKING CARES!? It's not enough to know who he is and what he did when you don't even care about the French revolution in the first place!? What possible application does knowing he defeated a small royalist Provençal rebel force July 16, 1793 have?

            I've got to cut back on the coffee.
      • Maybe the father is some kind of religious loony^Wzealot or similar. In which case, he should get ready to exuberantly congratulate his spawn for coming last in chemistry, with the words that "the last shall be first" or some such nonsense.
    • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rsmither ( 221910 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:36AM (#41681805) Homepage

      I don't think this has to be the case at all. It is true that there are a lot of courses that we force students to take, especially at the high school and college levels, that won't really help them in their career choice. For example, when was the last time you needed to convert moles to something else (how many just went to google to find the formulas)?

      I would agree that there should be a basic understanding, but really, most of what you need to know for daily life could be done in a month or two at most freeing up time for other subjects.

      Granted, I have no idea how this would play out in a normal high school setting. But as I see it, we aren't exactly doing the greatest job teaching skills that are needed to compete in today's world and perhaps more choice/customization of a learning curriculum would produce more viable people for the workforce.

      • by GungaDan ( 195739 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:43AM (#41681951) Homepage

        This summer I had to convert a dozen or so moles to mulch. I tried to convert them to cat food but the reaction failed for insufficient feline catalyst.

      • Re:Translation (Score:4, Informative)

        by tom17 ( 659054 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:46AM (#41681997) Homepage

        For example, when was the last time you needed to convert moles to something else?

        Oblig: []

        Which of course leads to the 2nd strip down after you search for this: []

        Ugh (And yeah, it was just a few days ago that I searched :) )

      • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jythie ( 914043 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:03PM (#41682297)
        The thing is, they are intended to be generalized education, to give students a little bit of everything. Skills specific to career choice can be picked up later at places designed for that, but in general people benifit from a nice broad base to build the more domain specific skills off of.

        Over the years I have worked with people who went through specialized high schools, ones that narrowly focused on STEM or art or other areas that prepared them more directly for their preferred careers. I have hated working with them, they can't adjust, they can't get out of their box, they have little empathy or respect for people outside their domain... every time I work with one I hold them up as an example of why over specializing in early education is destructive, even if it gives you 'better workers'.
        • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:08PM (#41682401) Journal

          Exactly. The point of teaching sciences, and indeed even home economics, is to expose students to a wide range of knowledge. Obviously most people are not going to go on to be industrial chemists or biologists, but still, even passing knowledge of a subject allows at least some ability to evaluate, and more importantly encourages some ability to generalize.

          What this guy is looking for is an excuse to remove his kids from hard courses, make their lives easier, and that's just about the biggest mistake at all. Basically the guy is saying "My kids are so fucked up, all I can expect is that they'll be able to blabber to a crowd or make web pages." I feel sorry for those kids.

        • by fallen1 ( 230220 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:38PM (#41682851) Homepage

          I've dropped this quote on /. before in a similar conversation, but it applies just as much if not MORE here:

          “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
            Robert A. Heinlein

        • Re:Translation (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Ironhandx ( 1762146 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @01:09PM (#41683191)

          High school isn't "early education". This father has the same perspective on high school that I have had ever since I did it. By the time you hit the end grade 9, you're DONE with generalized education. You've had time to do your book reports on the all-mighty shakespeare(heaven forbid we should teach our kids about anything current that might actually get them interested, some kids will like this for the history aspect, but thats what a damned history class is for, and they have that) and you have more or less developed into whatever type of person you are going to be.

          High school should be about trying out new things and entirely about figuring out and eventually working towards what you want to do with the rest of your life. Having these programs available is a must, having them be mandatory is one of the worst possible things that any society has ever done to their following generation.

          When I and most of my class mates were in grade 9 we still enjoyed school for the most part(there are always exceptions) but once I hit high school I became extremely disheartened. This was the place I wanted to start trying out things to see what I might like to do, and I had a direction in mind already, as did everyone I went to school with, barring a very small minority. Thanks to mandatory credits however I ended up missing a lot of the things I wanted to try, and doing another 10 reports on various dead peoples poems, books, and plays.

          Those highly specialized STEM schools are intended for the extremely gifted and taught by the extremely gifted. Most of those people develop many personality quirks over the years as a result of being so focused on one particular thing, but its not what I(or, I believe, this guy) are talking about changing every school into.

          Admittedly in my case it probably would have largely resulted in a high STEM focus but it would have been taught by high school teachers, not people who have been paid exorbitant amounts of money to stop researching or teaching at a university in order to teach your kids.

          In my paricular case my high school years probably would have looked something like this:

          1st Year:
          and maybe intro to plumbing or some such... then I'd have narrowed it down from there, or tried something else in the second year.

          There is a huge opportunity cost to me in the fact that I was forced to take french(I'm in canada... where the only place french would matter is if I was trying to get a job in retail or customer service in quebec), english, and a Drama class in high school. Turns out I'm really good at French and Drama but I had and have zero interest in either one. These aren't short courses either. We're now talking about 15+ hours per week of teacher time completely wasted. Chemistry and Biology may have been a waste as well(those were the things I couldn't do due to time restraints, as well as some of the more advanced math courses that I was interested in but couldn't see myself benefiting from in anything but an academic realm) but they were something I had an inclination towards and I still regret not doing.

          Also, anyone should know the sheer amount of mental energy totally wasted forcing yourself to do something you have absolutely no interest in doing. Its like slogging uphill through knee-deep molasses. Its even worse than house work. You do it because it needs to be done. You may have zero interest in(and potentially hate) doing it, but at least you have an interest in the end result.

          In my case in the second year of high school when I was forced to endure over 20 hours of classes every week that I had no interest in I lost all will to go to school or do anything with it at all. I went from an A+ overall average to a C because I just did things that interested me outside of school. I was short on time so I sacrificed at-home sleep for sleeping at my desk in school. I even perfected sleeping with my eyes open for a couple of teachers that hated what I w

    • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Magorak ( 85788 ) * on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:36AM (#41681807) Homepage Journal

      This is another case of a parent who doesn't want their kids to fail in anything until they get to the real world and realize that, uhm, people fail at a lot of things and your daddy isn't going to help you any.

      Seriously, I took chemistry twice and sucked at it and just got through it. We can't all have classes that are picture perfect for us. Some things we're good at and others we're not. Deal with it.

    • Re:Translation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by borcharc ( 56372 ) * on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:50AM (#41682083)

      My parents did this to me when I was a kid because the teachers convinced them I would be unable to learn math, chem, etc due to an alleged learning disability. It took me years after high school to get caught up on 10 years of missed math courses. I still hate them for it...

    • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Random2 ( 1412773 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:55AM (#41682153) Journal

      Knee-jerk reaction detected! Didn't RTFA to boot! No wonder slashdot's moderators love you!

      That's not what he's saying at all, but the poorly worded ./ summary and article set up so people, like yourself, can flame him easily without actually understanding what he's saying. He's not talking about his kid sucking at chemistry, nor is he blaming anyone for it, or even saying his kid should be good at it. What he's saying is that a distinct lack of variation in public education will only harm students in the long run. Perhaps high-school is a long time ago for you, but looking at the current American curriculum shows a very distinct lack of variability. For a personal example, the only time I actually got to choose a class I wanted to take in high-school was around senior year, every other class was part of some 2, 3, or 4, year plan that every student had to go through in order to graduate. 3 years of science, 4 years of English classes, 3 of a foreign language, 3 for history/civic involvement, etc. There was barely any time to do what I wanted to do.

      This is not to say that students shouldn't be exposed to a variety of courses. That diversity allows for a students to explore a range of topics and find one they're interested in. But, once they've found that subject, they should be allowed to pursue it. If a kid wants to be an auto mechanic for the rest of his life, then let hem learn about that. If they're into business, then let them take the courses about business. Locking them into a 'standardized program' doesn't magically make them a successful adult or magically teach them the skills they need to know in order to be a member of society.

      Basically,a 'cookie-cutter' approach is not the proper way to teach, but that's how the system is currently designed.

      • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

        by borcharc ( 56372 ) * on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:06PM (#41682351)

        The approach used in most high schools is college prep. You have no idea as a parent or a high school student where your studies will bring you. The system's goal is to prepare you for further study in any field. Many people want high school to be retooled as technical schools so students will pick a job at a young age and be funneled into, far before they are old enough to decide what their life should be like, but foreclosing the option of higher education without major additional effort. Kids do not have the capacity to choose their own path, they need to be given the tools so that when they are able, they have as many opportunities as possible available to them.

        • by Random2 ( 1412773 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:50PM (#41682999) Journal

          The ability for a kid to 'choose their own path' or seek a trade school is a marginal topic and isn't what the article is discussing. But, in relation to 'college preparation' what exactly does that mean? A 'college' is very loosely defined, and there are a variety of ways to 'prepare' for one. A large state school might favor one type of application, Harvard certainly favors another, a technical college looks for other qualities, while a liberal arts school goes a completely different direction. Since there are so many different types of institutions and things one needs to learn, how does a standard and generic education over all of them? How can it even cover most? For example, that chemistry or automotive class might foreclose the option of a pursuit in the arts or entertainment. That situation will occur no matter how the curriculum is designed. However, limiting the variations of those foreclosures won't produce a group with a variety of interests and skills, it will produce a very narrowly focused group with all the same skills. That should not be the focus of high school. High school should focus on providing the skills students need to decide what they want to do, but that is such a vague and general concept that it has endless variations on how to fulfill it.

          Is it better to have achieved a depth of knowledge and later realize that it wasn't needed instead of never knowing in the first place? Probably. Is there more than one way to attain that knowledge? Certainly. He's saying we should allow for other ways to obtain that depth of knowledge in public schools, and conversely that limiting the educational choices impedes success in other useful and enlightening areas.

      • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:28PM (#41682707)

        But, once they've found that subject, they should be allowed to pursue it. If a kid wants to be an auto mechanic for the rest of his life, then let hem learn about that.

        Exactly how many high school students have you actually met that knew what they wanted to do for the rest of their life at age 15? I guarantee you the answer is a pretty good approximation of zero when compared with the student population. Oh sure there are a few, but not many. I work with high school students as a coach and most of them simply aren't anywhere close to that focused. While I agree that there needs to be room for electives there also needs to be a substantial core curriculum, some of which may not be interesting to a given student. I don't really use calculus in my daily life but I'm glad I was required to take the class. I understand more about the world around me and I was forced to think about things that I might not have if given a choice.

        Locking them into a 'standardized program' doesn't magically make them a successful adult or magically teach them the skills they need to know in order to be a member of society.

        Nor does it obviously hurt their ability to become a productive member of society. Even with a customized curriculum most of what you learn in school will not play much of a role in your daily life. The most important things that are being taught are how to learn and how to work - not specific subjects. I have a degree in engineering but don't think for a moment that I was fully prepared for my current job the moment I finished school. It would not have mattered a bit how flexible or not my curriculum happened to be. The reason employers care about whether you have a college degree is that it tells them that you have at least some capacity to work. They don't assume for a minute that you are perfectly trained for whatever career you seek. Furthermore if a student really wants to pursue a special interest they are welcome to do so outside of school. Never confuse schooling with education.

      • If a kid wants to be an auto mechanic for the rest of his life, then let hem learn about that. If they're into business, then let them take the courses about business.

        A kid doesn't have enough experience to decide what he wants to do for the rest of his life. The more you let people specialize at young age, the harder is for them to change their minds and pursue different interests later on.

        There's nothing wrong with letting kids choose a few specialized classes (and that's done today, to a certain extent), but letting them decide they don't want to take any science classes (or writing classes, etc.) is an incredibly bad idea.

    • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:20PM (#41682599) Journal
      We seem to be living in a world where people seem to think that you can only be perfect, or completely suck, at any given skill or subject, and that if you're not perfect then you should give it up entirely. I think this is a destructive attitude. Knowing even what little I know about kids and their attitudes, I think it more likely that his son isn't even really applying himself to the subject of chemistry, which is also an attitude that is destructive. His son will have many years to study subjects he "feels" is better suited to his temperament; for right now he needs to learn the personal discipline to apply himself to things he doesn't necessarily like; after all, he's likely going to end up having to do tasks he doesn't like for people he works for that he doesn't necessarily like either, should we send the message to him that it's OK to quit a job just because there are parts of it you don't like doing?
    • Re:Translation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @01:42PM (#41683615) Homepage

      My kid sucks at chemistry and, like all pussy-ass parents today, I don't have the heart to tell him that he's not incredible at everything (and don't want to risk him finding out by taking a class where he doesn't get an automatic "A").

      And then the kid will take economics and "management" courses through his education and become a manager who will likely have little or no appreciation for the reality of science. I've seen similar things personally: Managers who make scientifically impossible demands on R & D departments. When R & D doesn't deliver the impossible, smart honest people are turfed, and naive and inexperienced (but "energetic") people are brought in, and the company spirals into oblivion. I have seen two first-hand examples of this in two different companies. Both managers were MBA's. Both were eventually fired, but not before they did deep harm to their companies.

  • Now I don’t begrudge chemistry, which has brought forth many of the great inventions of our time, from the pain killer I took an hour ago to the diet soda I’m sipping on now (I’m actually sipping on Scotch. In fact, my very own mother, who if I am lucky will never lay eyes on this article, is a chemist, and believes that chemistry is the most noble of human pursuits and doesn’t understand how I, a former philosophy major, was able to eke out a living.

    And if you wouldn't have wasted your time on that public speaking course and instead used that opportunity cost to take a class in a Lisp language like Scheme you'd understand why your failure to close that left parenthesis is driving me bat shit insane right now.

  • by parallel_prankster ( 1455313 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:33AM (#41681727)
    This guy is acting like as if his son will be forced to take chemistry all his life. There are some basic classes everyone takes and then as kids progress through school the curriculum becomes more and more flexible. Now if he is super interested in other classes I am sure he can point his kids towards simpler startup classes in coursera etc that might help. May be some thing is available for public speaking also. Or he has the option of homeschooling his kid.
    • At least at my school, there were different levels of chemistry: regular, honors, and advanced placement (AP). Most students took AP as a 2nd year class mostly after honors, so ya there's room for those who are interested or not, but I'd also say its a good thing to learn WHY you can't mix bleach and ammonia, rather than someone just telling you it's bad.

    • by dave562 ( 969951 )

      Or he could do what my parents did and sign the kid up for some classes at the local community college. If the kid is really interested in all of those other subjects, there are plenty of opportunities. The dad apparently does not care about chemistry. If his kid brings home a D in the class because he was spending time after school on other "more important" studies, well then who cares? Or ROP. My first networking class was at ROP. It was me, the 14 year old kid and a bunch of older guys in their 20s

  • by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:33AM (#41681739) Homepage

    Chemistry class isn't just about chemistry. It also teaches critical thinking and problem solving skills. Having to balance chemical reactions, though it may be useless to 95% of people in the real world, is one example of a skill that improves one's thinking ability when they learn it.

    I also feel it's essential for people to know the basics on how the world works. High school chemistry isn't exactly hard.

    • by SirGeek ( 120712 )
      Not to mention it CAN be done in a way that is fun AND educational and JUST might help his child to be "better". A Chem example I still remember almost 25 years later (from College) and it STILL amuses me. It was essentially how much sand would you need to replace the gold idol and NOT trigger the gigantic marble. He gave you the volume for the gold statue and you'd need to figure out the mass (since it was 24K gold, etc.) Chemistry can also help improve math skills since its formulaic and it can also he
    • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:42AM (#41681905)

      I also feel it's essential for people to know the basics on how the world works.

      This is the heart of the matter. If you don't believe in (and understand) science, anything could happen; the world could spontaneously collapse into a black hole, a hobo on the street could discover a way to turn lead into gold, every case of cancer in the world could suddenly disappear, or every healthy person could develop AIDS for no discernible reason. Without understanding the science behind why these things are impossible (or at least statistically unlikely over the lifespan of the universe) how do you hope to understand where your electricity comes from or how pharmaceuticals are researched? Not understanding science is like living your entire life based on Last Thursdayism (the idea that the entire universe, was created last Thursday, including all evidence to the contrary).

      • by davecb ( 6526 ) <> on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:34PM (#41682779) Homepage Journal

        This is a classic misunderstanding of what school is for, made by at least one person in every town on the planet, at least once per generation.

        School teaches you how to learn stuff, by making you learn a really broad collection of occasionally-useful information. The process of learning how to do X different things is how you get practised at learning new things. The important part is that you're taught wildly different kinds of things, like chemistry and public speaking, so you get lots of practice doing different variations of "learn how".

        It's mildly helpful if what you learn is something you will use later, but high-school chemistry is not really going to help you make wine. It will help you learn to make wine, though.


    • by Random2 ( 1412773 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:14PM (#41682499) Journal

      You've basically said his point, but drew a different conclusion

      What he's trying to say is that chemistry isn't the only way for a kid to learn those skills. For example, programming is good for learning logic, but so is a philosophy or a debate class. But, if a kid is stuck in a 'standardized' program that only allows him to take programming, then he may never know that he actually likes debate or philosophy. Perhaps the other classes would convey information in a way that he can better understand, or perhaps they could even lead to more. But, without the option to try them out, he'll never know.

      Chemistry, the specific example used for a general case, isn't the only class which will teach critical thinking or problem solving and it is pure folly to believe so. It is also not the only course which examines the fundamentals of how the world works, and focusing solely on it will disallow study in other fundamental or interesting areas. But, that's how the curriculum is currently designed, and is continuing to advance in that direction. David is saying that's not the proper way to handle education.

  • by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot@ja w t h e s h a r k . com> on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:33AM (#41681743) Homepage Journal
    That's scotch he is drinking... Chemistry: fermentation. Process of distillation: Pure chemistry, I tell you.

    He is insulting the education (and probably passion) of his own mother. He should simply shut up.

    Besides, ADHD is overdiagnosed. He probably just has a spoiled kid that never learned to sit still for half a minute.

  • by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:34AM (#41681767) Journal

    ...not elementary, middle, and high school curricula.

    You may just have to accept that your kids are going to suck at things.

    Think of all the money you'll save from buying your own "Congratulations on 10th place!" ribbons.

  • Makes good points (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ranton ( 36917 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:35AM (#41681783)

    Before jumping to some assumption that he is a bible thumping moron (I made the same assumption at first), you should read the article. He doing make very valid points. He actually says he would like to replace full classes on topics like chemistry with several survey classes that expose students to many subjects before they choose the ones they are interested in. This sounds like a great idea. I was a physics major in college, and even I found my high school Physics class hardly useful at all. Not nearly enough depth to gain useful knowledge, and those who will never use it weren't paying attention anyway.

  • Dear sir.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phrackwulf ( 589741 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:36AM (#41681801)

    Sounds fantastic.. want this kind of granularity, homeschool the kids for a year or so yourself, then have them rejoin the public school to finish up Junior and Senior year. Present it as a compromise with the school folks. They might just go for it! NEXT!

    • Re:Dear sir.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:43AM (#41681959)

      Yeah, I was going to say, you want your kid to take public speaking? Behold! [] Not everything needs to happen in school.

      Besides, we don't need to cram every damn thing into high school. I took a public speaking course in high school. It was an elective. There were other electives I would have liked to take as well... I took them in (drumroll, please...) college! I also took a worthless Chemistry class in high school - but the teacher was horrible, not the subject (I think our class collectively scored a 40% on the state Chemistry test).

  • by MitchDev ( 2526834 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:36AM (#41681803)
    K-12 is for BASICS. College is for options...
  • by ubergeek65536 ( 862868 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:37AM (#41681809)

    Student need to be exposed to all sorts of topics so they can find out what they like and are good at. His kid might be good at public speaking but might have a passion for chemistry. Chemistry is also a good life skill, how else would you be able to read the ingredients on the cereal box?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:39AM (#41681855)

    I fully support the "students should be allowed to choose more subjects that specifically interest and fit them" part of his argument. I, a nuclear scientist, would even go so far as to say no, most students shouldn't have to take high school chemistry. I would completely support replacing 3-4 high school science classes in various subjects with one very strong, well designed course on the scientific method; that would be a wonderful step towards having students learn the philosophy that might stay with them the rest of their lives instead of reciting formulas and tables they'll forget a week after finals. But to just say "take out science" is a terrible idea.

  • by bjdevil66 ( 583941 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:40AM (#41681875)

    Maybe he needs to consider the lost opportunity cost of not taking a chemistry class when it's available to his children in school. How many people have a full-blown, school-level chemistry lab with cool chemicals and tools to work with in their homes (with hoods and acids that can eat your face off)? How much will it cost to do it in college, with textbook and lab costs along with tuition?

  • by chad.koehler ( 859648 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:42AM (#41681909)

    He states very bluntly that his 15 year old son "will not be a scientist". How does he know that?

  • by quag7 ( 462196 ) <> on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:42AM (#41681927) Homepage

    I'm 40 now and I can't think of a single thing from chemistry I've ever used. I can't even remember anything from the class.

    Then again as a counterpoint I've never really used electronics, which I had 4 years of in high school, but I swear I think back to that class frequently when problem solving, from "split-halving" a problem to logic gates to make flowcharts and so on. Probably more than any class I had, electronics really taught me how to break down a problem and put together a solution.

    I get the idea of a "core curriculum" to expose students to things, but I remain unsure as to whether things are currently makes much sense. I took chemistry, which went fairly into depth, but at the cost of not taking physics (chemistry satisfied the requirement). I'd rather have had a class which touched on each of these subjects for perhaps a quarter to half a year, spread out over two years, than a full year of chemistry, with the option to take a more in-depth science course for years three and four.

    But I have to say, nothing I learned in chemistry stuck or was useful like electronics was.

    I love history but I think it is taught poorly -- that's an area ripe for consolidation and studies and English in general.

    • So you didn't learn "electronics", but you learned from the Electronics class? Sounds like a good example of how wrong the guy is in the article.
  • by clinko ( 232501 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:43AM (#41681939) Journal

    The summary here is saying the exact opposite of the article. He's saying the kid shouldn't be forced into Chemistry if he can survey OTHER science classes... Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

    From the summary:
    "... argues that his sons shouldn't be forced to take ANY science class."

    From the article:
    "Maybe kids can survey several science classes over the course of a year or two, and explore various options"

  • Simple Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:45AM (#41681987)
    There is a really simple answer to this problem. If you don't like the educational priorities selected by those who determine them in school curricula, teach your children yourself. While you still might have to meet these criteria, the amount of actual time spent doing so would be at your discretion.
  • by redmid17 ( 1217076 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:48AM (#41682035)
    How do they work? Yes your child and every other child in the school system is required to take a certain number of classes to graduate from high school. There are other optional classes which one can take whenever they want. THESE ARE WHERE YOUR CHILD CHOOSES PROGRAMMING or PUBLIC SPEAKING COURSES. FFS, if you're really desperate about getting him out of chemistry, make him take it during the summer when it's easy. Then he can take cake classes during the school year with the additional elective credit that opens up.
  • by chowdahhead ( 1618447 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:49AM (#41682055)
    It was high school chemistry, particularly organic, that really got me to where I am today. Had I not been required to take at least one introductory class, I don't think I would have had the pragmatism at that age to sign up on my own. I also had to study Shakespeare, which I can't really say has contributed to my career, but it's made me a more well-rounded person. Being educated doesn't only mean being scholarly, it also means being open-minded.
  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:53AM (#41682125) Homepage Journal
    The money is for the people that play in the stock market, after all, why study anything else and just focus everyone education full to economy? Uh, and lawyers, specially IP related. Why to be part of the 99% if we could all be in the top 1%?
  • by Exit_On_Right ( 2466888 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:56AM (#41682167)

    Other than the obvious point of high school, which is to provide a prison-like environment for our children so we can all take a little break from them, he's truly missed the point of high school.

    High school has nothing to do with what you are going to do in real life. Oh, it may seem that way in your last year, but in truth, all you really end up deciding at that stage what you might do in the grossest of terms.

    No. High school is supposed to be about building mental abilities that will allow you to go out into the world and function as a reasonably useful person. What you learn is somewhat important, but learning how to learn and apply material effectively is what you are really there for.

    Think of it this way. Athletes spend a lot of time on the practice field learning their sport. But they also spend a lot of time in the gym building muscle. If they didn't build those muscles up with time in the gym, they might understand their own sport, but they'd have a hard time succeeding at it because they didn't spend time building up the general muscle required to apply that knowledge.

    Never once at a football game have I seen a quarterback call for the reverse arm curl play. But I doubt you'd get any arguments from a football player that time in the gym was time well spent. The same applies for academics. You may never need to know how to do trig, or compose a sonnet, but doing those things in high school helps build up mental muscle for later.

    So yes. You do have to do things you suck at, because, not surprisingly, you get the most out of learning how to do things you suck at. As to who decides what you'll take, well, that's easy. Gather your facts that describe why you think a change should be made, put them together in a cohesive argument, write a paper that shows how your plan will provide positive change, and then present it to the folks who decide. (Of course, you might find this hard if you didn't take Math, Science, English and Social Studies in high school...)

  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:04PM (#41682311) Journal
    Chemistry class: 39 minutes per day
    Teaching a kid a variety of subjects so he will have something to talk about when he does take public speaking in college: 18 years
    Cleaning up chemicals spilled by your ADD kid who wasn't paying attention: 6 minutes
    Getting acquainted with the flow rate of the emergency eyewash station: 5 minutes
    Teaching a kid that ignoring science can be hazardous to your health: Priceless

    There are some things you will never find time for. For everything else, there are pretentious self-important jerks like David Bernstein.
    • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @01:45PM (#41683649) Journal
      OK, on a more serious note, this part of TFA really gets me:

      When you force my son to take subjects which which he doesn’t connect, you are not allowing them that same time to take a public speaking course, which he could be really good at, or music, or political science, or creative writing, or HTML coding for websites.

      Point for point (in bold):

      • I learned public speaking through my decision to be involved in Key Club [] (extracurricular community service) and took that to the state level without any classes on it.
      • I was in concert band, marching band (assistant drum major), and orchestra for four years of high school, and I took AP Chemistry in 10th grade. Music and Science are not an either-or proposition. If your school is making kids choose between the two (which I doubt), they're doing it wrong.
      • I was terrible at AP Chem. I used to get back tests with "you should drop this class" noted at the top. But the AP Chem teacher was also very interested in politics, which I learned outside of the class periods. I'd spent my lunch periods when he was on hall-monitor duty talking about politics articles we'd both read in The New York Times that morning, and he planted the seed that got me interested in political journalism. For two years after that class, I still met up with him between classes and after school, bouncing ideas off of him and effectively sharpening my tools.
      • I developed creative writing on my own, largely by reading The New York Times seven days a week and writing parodies of events in the newspaper and at my school, getting people to look at situations from a different perspective. I failed at it sometimes, but I didn't need a grade or a class to know when I failed at it.
      • I taught myself HTML by taking apart other people's code on real Web sites and making small changes to see what happened. Within a couple years I had knowledge of HTML you wouldn't find in any book that gave me a huge advantage over people who took a class on it. In my sophomore year of college, I was teaching a 300 level class on online journalism because my 30,000-student university didn't have anyone more qualified to teach it.

      All of the above, taken as a whole, resulted in an internship and a salaried job working at the very publication that is hosting TFA (ironically, I was reading Slashdot back then, but hadn't set up an account, and now Taco's working where I was). I used to run the business [] and technology [] sections, and later developed HTML for the site that loaded faster than code by the "certified experts" they hired to "improve" my code. Then I left for a job in Silicon Valley, making HTML do things the engineering staff said weren't possible because they hadn't read them in a book.

      The point is that kids need a variety of experiences... especially the ones they will fail at. The failures open you up to other things which you pursue in your spare time. And if this guy's kid actually does have ADHD as TFA claims, the biggest problem he has is figuring out how to fill all his spare time. People I've known who have ADHD are constantly trying to squeeze as many activities as they can into every waking moment of their day... and at least one of them taught herself to develop Web sites and sits up late at night coding when her ADHD won't let her sleep.

      If you let your kids eat whatever they want three meals a day before they, they'd probably die of scurvy before they were able to figure out what they really liked and what they really need. If you let them throw out whatever classes they "don't connect with," you're doing the same thing to their brains.

  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:05PM (#41682335)

    When you force my son to take subjects which which he doesn’t connect, you are not allowing them that same time to take a public speaking course, which he could be really good at, or music, or political science, or creative writing, or HTML coding for websites.

    Turns out the whole argument is rather weakened by the editor's note stating that chemistry isn't specifically required, just a certain amount of science of which chem is one option.

    I still find it hard to believe that there are so few elective hours available that the kid couldn't fulfill the science requirement and take music, political science, creative writing or programming. Maybe I'm really old and things are much different now, but I didn't miss out on the electives I wanted to take just because I took chemistry and physics. There was still time for band, foreign language, a political science course (required) and even programming.

    But my son is not being exposed to chemistry, he’s spending a year of his life studying chemistry every day, which translates into a year of misery for him and our entire family, and paying for tutors who just get him through the course.

    I think this is the real complaint: "The kid doesn't like chemistry and might not get an A. Therefore, he shouldn't have to take it."

  • ... a time when general ignorance of things like chemistry, biology, physics, and geology permitted people to be suckered in to believing that the world was flat, the sun, moon and stars went around it, that it was around 6000 years old and created in six days by an Old Guy with a proclivity to go off on rants and wipe out entire populations with floods or fire and brimstone if he got pissed off (and nearly anything pissed him off).

    Oh, wait, that's still true today for 46% of the population of the US, according to at least one horrific poll. And you want permission to add your own son to the list of the terminally ignorant... shame on you.

    I have a son who has serious ADD as well -- so much so that he will likely never finish college (he's started it several times but his dysfunction is too severe to make it through, at least so far). It plagued him through high school. He sucked at science and math in high school. But he benefitted enormously from taking the courses -- even when he failed or did very poorly while passing. Even in failure or a low pass, he learned that the science is a consistent statement of knowledge and not casually to be rejected on the basis of faulty or non-existent or hearsay evidence (like the Book of Genesis). Even in failure or a low pass he learned enough chemistry to be able to appreciate the molecular description of the quotidian universe. Even in failure or a low pass he learned enough math and math concepts to be able to hand the math needed in the everyday world, enough to engage in conceptual reasoning and to use logic, geometry, visualization in argumentation.

    With that said, every student is unique, and with some students (including all students with mild mental retardation as well as many with reasonable intelligence but serious learning disabilities) math/science requirements are indeed pissing into the wind. However, dealing with this isn't a matter of modifying the general curriculum -- it is a matter of accepting the fact that your kid is LD and needs a special curriculum, perhaps one with a specialized and limited treatment of science, which in fact is often available in schools now.

    But enrollment in those courses stigmatizes and traumatizes the enrollee, marking them as relatively "dumb". So instead we should just dumb down the curriculum for everybody else to match...

  • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:11PM (#41682453)
    There are several states which do not require the teaching of science []
  • by SEE ( 7681 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:11PM (#41682461) Homepage

    you are not allowing him that same time to take a public speaking course, which he could be really good at

    Right, exactly. Because, see, K-12 education is not about having your kid do really well at things. It's about instilling a modicum of basic skills and understanding. This is why the kids who suck at math still have to take math, and the kids who suck at writing have to take English, et cetera. A public speaking class won't teach him anything about how the most powerful approach to discovering knowledge humanity has ever tried works, and a multi-science survey course will do so much less effectively than a single in-depth look at one science.

    Not that he's likely to actually learn anything given your attitude, but, at least it's a better chance than if you were being allowed to make the decisions.

  • by fygment ( 444210 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:13PM (#41682489)

    High school gives you a broad overview so you enter adulthood with half a clue, so you can understand to some degree what the media, advertisers, etc. are telling you. After high school nothing prevents additional education, in fact, shouldn't education really be an ongoing process? If the author really sees high school as a last chance to learn something like 'public speaking', what a sad sad statement.

    Mind you, that kind of attitude does pave the way for the fulfilment of Ayn Rand's vision of how things should be.

  • by readin ( 838620 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:20PM (#41682589)

    ...mandated curriculum in public schools...

    If you go to school on the public's dime, the public has every right to tell you what classes you have to take. If the guy were arguing against government regulations on private schools I would be willing to entertain arguments about whether parents and educators should be choosing the curriculum without government interference. But he's talking about a public school.
    Americans have two interests in forcing the child to study chemistry. The first is that we have a huge need for chemists and other people in STEM fields. Arts are nice, but long term strength and viability of country lie more in the ability to produce new technology.

    The second is that people vote and serve on juries. Voters and jurists need to have a well-rounded education.

    As for public speaking - who does that benefit other than the speaker? Sure its important to for people to be able to communicate, but once you get past basic competence public speaking become used more for persuasion than for information dissemination. How does it help society for advertisers and politicians to become even better liars? If the kid specializes in public speaking, how does it help society that he knows nothing but can talk about it extremely well?

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