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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").

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:33AM (#41681737)
    It seems like that article is nothing more than a soapbox to declare that his kid is special and precious. So your kid doesn't like chemistry and would rather take a class that's much harder, like public speaking. Fuck off.
  • 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 jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <> 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.

  • 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!

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

  • 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.

  • Foolish (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:38AM (#41681829)

    All art, theology, history, etc. majors should be required a minor in the sciences. All hard science majors should be required a minor in the arts, history, etc.

    When I attended Revelle College, this was their policy. It was a pita as you had more work to graduate, but I have drawn on my well rounded education many times, not just in my career, but generally in my life.

    This father is trying to short-change his children, and if successful, many other children as well.

  • 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.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Unknown Lamer ( 78415 ) Works for Slashdot <clinton@unkFORTR ... g minus language> 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 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 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?

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vanderhoth ( 1582661 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:52AM (#41682097)
    It's been my experience that if you didn't force kids to take science classes most wouldn't for two reasons. 1) religion, and 2) because the don't want to.

    I lived in the southern part of NC for awhile while in Junior High. It was extremely common for parents to write notes to get their kids out of Biology classes if the subject dealt with evolution. I spent most of the semester yucking it up with the other seven of 25 kids that didn't get out of Biology. So aside from the fact that most kids don't want to take science and math classes, because those classes tend to be harder than music appreciation, I think there could be pressure on other kids to skip science classes if the subject disagreed with a family members personal convictions.
  • by chad.koehler ( 859648 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:52AM (#41682111)

    Don't you feel that things like classic literature enrich your life? Even if it doesn't directly translate to a career? Frankly, I'm glad that I had the ability to experience things that weren't on the job training. You have 12 (or 13) years of mandatory school in the U.S., and probably 34-40 years of working. I'm glad that the first 20 years of my life weren't completely dedicated to my career.

  • 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.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:57AM (#41682171)

    How does the parent know what the child will like?

    Answer to both: they don't.

    But if you do a smattering of the major sections of a well rounded education you may find that chemistry is interesting. Or home economics intriguing. But the child has to try it first and the parent cannot and should not interfere. It isn't THEIR life they're manipulating, so stop it.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FictionPimp ( 712802 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:57AM (#41682185) Homepage

    I thought the purpose of primary school was to give a well rounded and basic education that would be used as a directional tool for your 'real' education as you pick a career and start your study.

    I think students need to be exposed to as much as possible over a focus on a single subject they are 'good' at. What need to get more focus on a after primary school apprenticeship programs and trade schools. These things should come after your HS graduation.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @11:59AM (#41682217) Homepage

    Biology is really chemistry.

    Chemistry is really physics.

    Physics is really math.

    And math is really hard.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:00PM (#41682231)

    Very few courses are useful if you don't pay attention.

    I've been out of school for a while, and one benefit from classes I scarcely remember are "seeing that before", which facilitated me digging out the information and interpreting it.

    You often see or hear about people spouting ridiculous ideas that anyone with a passing knowledge of science would find laughable, giving kids that level of base knowledge is useful.

  • 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'.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:04PM (#41682313)

    So your kid doesn't like chemistry and would rather take a class that's much harder, like public speaking.

    So the kid can become a great public speaker, get elected to public office, then make decisions about things like "climate change", "nuclear energy", health -- diet, smoking. with a completely clear (empty) mind. Even if you're not president, just a voter, you need to UNDERSTAND HOW THE WORLD WORKS to make rational choices.Or you end up just studying the Bible/Koran and that's sure to bring on an earthly paradise.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rufty_tufty ( 888596 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:05PM (#41682333) Homepage

    If the employer of the child/young adult/etc doesn't care about the child's knowledge then the employer is free to ignore their chemistry grade.

    If the child has an interest in public speaking he is free to join a club. If the child is interested in art above what is taught in school then he is free to do it in his own time.

    School shouldn't be easy, if it is not hard then the school is doing its job wrong. Future employers have a right to know that their mathematical whiz that they are planning to employ is rubbish at Music and English lit. Maybe it won't matter for the job, or maybe it will show someone who has problems they need ot be aware of because it will affect their ability to do the job.
    If the kid is showing an aptitude for engineering he should still be learning about Literature and Biology otherwise he'd end up a misbalanced individual (can I use the example of Sheldon?)
    Likewise I have no talent for music but I am glad I was forced to do it because if I hadn't then I probably wouldn't have met some of my more "interesting" friends. I hated foreign languages and was useless at them, but I still end up using the knowledge every time I go on holiday.

    You have the rest of your life to become good at something. Schools should be teaching you the basicas of balanced society.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:10PM (#41682431)
    I think they don't make the association from the lesson to real world things. I know i didn't. I just sat there bored. In one lesson we made a solution of water and ethanol, the set up some apparatus and then burnt off the reclaimed ethanol. A Still! I didn't know.. was just pointless at the time. I'd love all the kit now.
  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:11PM (#41682463) Journal

    But if you're not presented with a wide range of options, how exactly do you know what you're aligned for? In the real world there's no talking hat that shouts out "Griffindore!" when placed on your head.

  • 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.

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:15PM (#41682517)

    Because schools are no longer about teaching people to be well-rounded. Schools are now about teaching kids to be serfs; completely lacking in critical thinking. Furthermore, in the US anyways, there is a major push to make everyone feel they are equally talented when in fact they are talentless. In my opinion, this ultimately defeats the drive to find something to which they excel. In turn, training people to be serfs. Or course, the flip side of that is, it also teaches self entitlement. After all, if I'm dramatically inferior to you, yet told I'm your equal, what do you think my expectations will be when I find out your being paid a lot more.

    Basically schools are no longer about well-rounded citizens, rather, its about serfs and self-entitlement.

    Thanks failed sports programs who given every child a trophy, and no child left behind.

  • 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, Insightful)

    by arielCo ( 995647 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:25PM (#41682661)

    Physics *relies* on math, big time, but observation of the material world is nowhere in math's scope.

    See also xkcd: Fields arranged by Purity [].

  • 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.

  • Re:Translation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:30PM (#41682733)

    What you suggest is already possible.

    A) I don't think chemistry was required for people on the vocational track at my high school. People who didn't plan to go to college could take hairstyling or engine repair or AV tech or shop class instead. I was happy that I found time on the college track to fit in a year of shop as it served me well later when I framed houses during summers, and helps me now as I'm pretty well comfortable with building techniques and power tools.

    B) Chemistry wasn't required for people on the college track, either. I know this because I chose not to take biology as I didn't want to dissect things. Instead I chose to take two years of chemistry and AP out of it in college (a lifesaver as freshman chemistry at my college turned out to be the worst weed-out course and I already had credit).

    That said, presuming that a 15-year-old knows that he or she wants to be a mechanic for the rest of his life, and thus he shouldn't be required to take any more English or science or foreign language or history classes is woefully shortsighted and foolish. Most 15-year-olds don't know everything about what they plan to do; that's one reason why they are minors and still required to attend school and listen to their parents. It's also untrue and breeds an ignorant society to suggest that a person who truly has found their subject needs to training in anything else.

    The purpose of high school - check that, the purpose of all school before college - is to provide a well-rounded base of eduction for people so that they can be intelligent (as possible) well rounded members of society, able to acquire and hold a job and care for themselves and their family and pay their taxes. College (or a two-year vocational school) is for people to specialize and devote themselves to the subject of their choice. People who don't want to provide this base for their children (like Quakers) pull their kids from school early.

    Actually, I would argue that someone who at 16 knows what they want to do, and considers the rest of high school so unbearable and pointless as to be a waste of the next two years of their life, and isn't smart enough to test out of the rest of high school and graduate early should just drop out. If they can't or won't do the work they don't deserve a high school diploma. Then they should go get their job and be happy forever as you suggest. Or, later, when they realize that the lack of a well-rounded education and the inability to take advanced learning courses has hurt their life, they can take the classes they missed and get a GED. The purpose of a high school diploma is to show that someone has that well rounded base, so a person without it shouldn't graduate.

  • 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 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:3, Insightful)

    by Wandering Voice ( 2267950 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:41PM (#41682889)

    How many children know what they want to spend their lives on at the age of 15? Hell, how many even know that by the time they are 30, and haven't just been caught in the cycle of working to pay off school/house/car/medical loans and bills, for a career they were encouraged to pursue? Reading here at /., it seems that telling people to fuck off and letting the kid live and be a kid, would have been healthier for some of the posters.

    Personally, I wish I didn't screw off so much in HS (or played football, then half of my teachers may have acknowledged me), and would have learned chemistry and math. So many of my interests now as an adult require good math as a foundation to proceed further. It didn't help either that I had no one in my life who was either not too busy, or unable to articulate why these subjects are important.

    I'm 34 today, and back in school. Finally making the effort to learn algebra, so I may continue on and take courses in chemistry and geology, for my own personal interest. I can finally see worlds of my interests coming into reach, I have never been happier in my life. Please don't take those opportunities from kids in school today.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thomasw_lrd ( 1203850 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:43PM (#41682925)

    This isn't just a chemistry problem though. All my kids are learning are how to pass a test. Not how to learn. They have no problem solving skills, unless I teach them. They aren't even taught real long division anymore. While I don't find long division in and of itself a useful discipline, the problem solving that is learned in learning long division is very important (at least IMO) for the rest of math.

    It's like geometry. Proofs were stupid in high school, but when I took abstract algebra, I wished I had learned more. While I understand every student will not need to learn abstract algebra or even how to do partial fractional derivatives, the problem solving aspect is the most important.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:52PM (#41683029)

    High School is not about preparing you for your life. It's about giving you a basic understanding of the things a person should know in life.

    And basic chemistry is something everyone should have a basic understanding of. They should know what happens if you mix bleach and ammonia. Or that medication isn't "magic" (or worse, "bullshit").

    Everyone should understand what an atom is, and at least know what the periodic table of elements is (you don't have to know how it works, just have a very basic idea of what it means).

    Everyone should understand how basic scientific theory and experimentation should work, just so that they can recognize when someone is shoveling BS science at them.

    Yes, everyone should have some basic HS Chemistry under their belt. Even people who will never use it, or are not "good at it". Even a little knowledge is better than complete ignorance.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @12:59PM (#41683087)

    Not having an informed electorate will harm a democracy in the long run! Even with mandatory education we still have a significant portion of the population that is (at least seemingly) deliberately ignorant of basic science principals and so we can't have an informed discussion about a variety of subjects. The reason we have publicly funded education has nothing to do with preparing kids for a job, it's about having every citizen having enough of a foundation of knowledge that they can use to make an informed opinion about important topics of the day.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @01:02PM (#41683119)
    Math can be from very basic and easy to grasp in the beginning to something the best minds in our world struggle to understand and fail most of the time at its vanguard. Therefore, yes, math can be very hard.
  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by badpool ( 1721056 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @01:03PM (#41683131)

    I think it would be detrimental to society to have people specialize at such an early age. First, many excel at subjects that they were forced to repeat earlier in life. Second, even if the student never makes direct use of the knowledge, it provides them a better understanding of our society. Put another way: It's ok to suck at chemistry - it's not ok to not know what chemistry *is*.

    I think people need to be more comfortable with failure (or lack of excellence, for that matter). There's really nothing wrong with not being great, just do what you like and try your best.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JD-1027 ( 726234 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @01:24PM (#41683391)
    In this case, the father is trying to be the talking hat.

    It is funny, because as a parent of young kids, I think daily about getting my kids to try little bits of everything as much as I possibly can.
    "Tonight let's look at the stars"
    "Hey, are they playing Lacrosse in that field over there, let's go check it out"
    "Your friend is in Girl scouts? Want to give it a shot for a semester?"
    "Today we go fishing with Grandpa"
    "Help me hold this wood while we build this shelf"
    "Hmm, why did that float to the top? Science experiment time!"
    "Is that to hard for you to lift with that rope? Time to buy some pulleys and learn something."
    "Here, see what you can do with this trumpet."

    It takes effort (and money in many cases), but it is absolutely invaluable.
  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @01:49PM (#41683705)

    My friend and I chose thermite as our presentation in high school chemistry. We had a lot of fun playing with it to "gather data" by dropping balls of burning thermite into sand in order to make glass, then describing the reactions and results. We demonstrated the same thing in the classroom, I think we put a piece of paper in front of the thermite to lessen the brightness a little bit (turns out it's really, really bright). Pretty much everyone pays attention when you're using fire to turn sand into glass in a classroom. My friend chose liquid nitrogen for his project, freezing everything in sight was also fun. We didn't get around to dropping thermite in the LN though, although we did dump the remainder of the LN off a third-floor balcony in the school, onto concrete. Buying the thermite materials and the LN was also ridiculously easy (welding supply shops FTW).

    Anyway, who says chemistry is boring?

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @02:00PM (#41683871) Homepage

    A lot of that stuff Heinlein mentioned either falls into basic survival skills or knowledge you need in order to not be taken advantage of by specialists. Even if you outsource something, you need to have enough of a clue to be able to judge the results.

    Willful ignorance is an open invitation to those that would see to take advantage of you.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2012 @03:50PM (#41685341) Homepage Journal

    And a patronizing shitcock. Quoth TFA:

    There's a concept in economics called 'opportunity costs,' which you may not have learned about because you were taking chemistry instead of economics.

    As it happens I've not (formally) studied economics and indeed I took as much chemistry as I could at high school but I'm perfectly aware what opportunity cost is, thanks.

    P.S. When I copied from the article it changed the apostrophe in "there's" to "a-with-a-circonflex (TM)". What the fuck is that in aid of?

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