Phi Beta Cons

Cut Algebra? Are You Serious?

In the New York Times, Professor Andrew Hacker argues for rethinking high-school curricula. Among his proposals, Hacker suggests a greater focus on practical math and on the history of math instead of a heavy focus on complex algebra and calculus.

I can understand this argument; I see college seniors who, after passing a few stats classes, cannot apply what they learned because their classes focused more on “sigmas and I’s” then on articulating the meaning of the correlation coefficient they just calculated.

Yet Hacker arrives at his stance through a route that will cause quite a bit of pushback. The bulk of the essay argues for reducing or possibly eliminating the teaching of algebra altogether because (1) it’s hard and many students fail; thus, it stands in the way of these students’ achieving a college degree and (2) it’s hardly used “on-the-job” today.


Why not cut history and literature while we’re at it? How vocational are those subjects? Also, many students get away with subpar writing in non-quantitative classes; if that writing were assessed with more rigor, we would see failing numbers akin to what we see in calculus classes.

Defenders of classical education need to fight back with rational arguments instead of emotion (make no mistake, Hacker’s article will stir up some anger). The current focus on the return-on-investment of education ensures that this will not be the last time you hear this debate. Be prepared.

Most Popular


The Book Comey Wanted to Write

Making the click-through worthwhile: the book James Comey had wanted to write, Facebook starts to feel useless to some writers, an infamous D.C. city councilman manages to make everything worse, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign finds its wish granted. What Did James Comey’s First Draft of A Higher ... Read More
Film & TV

Pro-Life Feminist

My paisana at the Human Life Review are hosting an event in NYC on Thursday, May 3, at the Sheen Center (18 Bleeker Street) for the airing of director Jim Hanon’s half-hour documentary, Pro-Life Feminist. After the viewing, he’ll join the trio of castmates -- Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, Aimee Murphy, and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Good News for Pompeo

Looks like he's in, as he should be. But this fight has been a hint of what life will be like for Trump if the Democrats somehow take the Senate -- they'd refuse to confirm anyone for anything. Read More

What Self-Help Guru Tony Robbins Was Trying to Say

Tony Robbins must have known immediately that he'd made a huge mistake in how he responded to a question about #MeToo. Last month, at one of Robbins's popular, sold-out seminars, audience member Nanine McCool told the self-help guru that she thought he misunderstood the #MeToo movement. You can see the entire ... Read More

Suicide of the West

Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again. -- Ronald Reagan, ... Read More