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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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  • 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.
  • 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"

  • 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).

  • 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, 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:4, Informative)

    by fifedrum ( 611338 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:11PM (#41682455) Journal

    The system in New York actually includes an opt-out for many kids, vocational training. It's a fantastic way for a kid to spend 1/2 the day at the training schools learning a real world job, many graduate with certificates and professional licenses, more are on their way to that state, and all get a great experience. There's IT, nursing, electronics, drafting/design, electrical/HVAC and whatnot, machining, farming, construction, auto-repair and quite a few other subjects. Some of my classmates were building heathkit robots and computers before our school had computers for students.

    IIRC, the kids in my graduating class missed chorus, band, and some science and math courses mostly because by the time they start vocational training they've already had algebra and geometry, and didn't need trig and calculus for state diplomas.

    Seemed pretty reasonable then, seems like a wise choice today.

  • 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.

  • by McGruber ( 1417641 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:49PM (#41682991)

    Maybe the father is some kind of religious loony^Wzealot or similar.

    It's worse than that.

    Dad is "a former philosophy major" who is "able to eke out a living" as "a nonprofit executive", per the article.

  • Re:Makes good points (Score:2, Informative)

    by LoadWB ( 592248 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:53PM (#41683037) Journal

    It's not necessarily about "useful" information, but more about turning enough basic information into knowledge and thinking skills for the child to elicit an interest in the subject or thought process at hand. My high school physics class was enormous fun an I learned quite a bit which laid a foundation for my college physics classes. Not that high school prepared me to pass a college physics test, but rather gave me some underlying principles to which I could refer in class with an, "oh yeah, I remember how this works" notion.

    Same with chemistry to chemistry, Earth science to atmosphere and geology, social studies to Western civilization, and so on. High school offers a number of electives which may more interest students and put them on a path toward their college degree. But then again, I know of a large number of students, myself included, whose major wound up not reflecting their high school elective curriculum because we changed our minds or found we were more interested in one subject and less in another than we originally thought.

    I wanted to be a fireman. Then a train engineer. Then I thought I'd do computer programming. Even though all of those are great interests of mine (I like to write programs that set trains on fire,) I am instead a criminologist who finds that those boring Western civilization and similar classes had some useful information for me. Oh, as did chemistry and physics for the investigative aspect.

    I didn't excel at all of my classes, even the ones I found interesting. Sometimes I excelled at classes I didn't like. In any case, at the end of the day I remember a ton of stuff to which I have been exposed and it makes me a more rounded person with better heuristic and critical thinking abilities. Or, if you prefer, I already possessed these innate abilities and the material to which I was exposed helped to better develop them. Much like playing sports did not for me but did for others.

    Had I only taken classes in subjects which interested me, there's a likelihood that I wouldn't be where I am today. I feel pretty lucky as I know several older adults who are only now getting exposed to materials in which they truly excel versus a previous career in which they had moderate interests and lack-luster productivity as a result. (I must also admit a tinge of jealousy toward some of the electives offered to kids in high school today: SharePoint administration and design, Cisco networking, network administration, network security, CSS in web design, database management, and the like. Some of these kids graduate high school ready to pass CCNA and MCSE exams.)

    As much as our public school system is being shredded by pervasive bureaucracy and unending political intrusion, it still is one of the best venues for a wide-breadth of exposure to subjects and at least semi-competent people to foster learning of those subjects.

    The author addresses a number of my points above, rather dismisses them off-hand with exaggerated examples, with the end result of turning high school into "speed dating" for education. High school is four years, grades nine through 12, with each year offering six to seven classes depending upon the school, for a total of 24 to 28 classes. If you consider a baseline each year of a science, English (reading and writing,) and math, that leaves 12 to 16 classes available. These classes may then be used for self-discovery and other requirements, such as two years of a second language, two years of social studies, two years of civics and history, etc. Not to mention the availability of "dual enrollment" allowing advanced students to enroll in college classes while still in high school.

    He speaks of "opportunity costs" of one choice over another, but at the same time fails to address what may lead to those decisions. In his example of selling tomatoes versus cucumbers, consider if said grocer chose to only learn about and ultimately sell tomatoes because he was attracted to the red color, dismissing the opportunity to learn about c

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spectre ( 1685 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @04:30PM (#41685861)

    You are wrong on numerous levels. I'm guessing that you forgot that Pi is not a real number, it's an estimation. You seem to have forgotten what a "Theorem" is as well and hell, you used the word!. Wtf? There are numerous types of "Math" that we simply can not prove true or untrue. We still use them, because to the best of our knowledge things work in a specific way.

    Since the above is true, Math "is" science. Your second statement in bold is a fallacy so just plain old wrong. No wonder you posted anonymously.

    I don't think you understand math ...

    "Pi is not a real number" -

    Wrong, Pi is a real number, it is an irrational number, but it is a real number. It is not an estimation, but there are many different approximations for Pi that are used for the sake of convenience.

    "There are numerous types of 'Math' that we simply can not prove true or untrue. We still use them, because to the best of our knowledge things work in a specific way."

    I'm not sure what you are talking about here. There are many mathematical statements that we know are proven, others that we know are provable (but have no known documented proofs) and likewise many that we know are false, many that we have shown to be unprovable, and many that we do not yet know if they are provable or not. But pretty much any mathematical statement that is used in any mundane fashion (typical engineering or simpler discipline) is rooted in proven theorems (meaning proofs exist - the fact that the word "theorem" is used does not mean "unproven").

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