I think I have some folks with some experience as educators who stop by here occasionally so I am seeking your opinion on something today. Anyone, of course, is welcome to chime in.
It seems as if for the past couple of decades or so, our elected officials, especially on the federal level -- and I seem to remember this at least back to the Clinton administration, maybe longer-- have espoused the need for our young folks to do better in math and science if we are going to stay competitive in the world market/global economy/choose-your-impressive-sounding-phrase.
I am probably not getting this exactly right but I believe there are some statistics out there as to how we lag behind in this area and with technology such as it is today, math and science are vital.
I will not argue with that. Technology has changed so much in my lifetime that it boggles the mind. I am thankful for the folks who are wired in such a way that they can grasp all of the details required to keep all the digital stuff going.
But I am not inclined that way.
I did fine in math until about fourth and fifth grade when we got to fractions. I was able to plod through it but, not only were fractions difficult for me to understand, I also hated them. I still do. It's not personal but I really, really dislike fractions. I break out in a sweat to this day when my banker colleagues talk about interest rates.
I did OK in Algebra and Geometry but it became evident to me, as well as my parents, that I was not strong with numbers. I stopped high school math after Algebra II my junior year, which I barely passed.
It was similar with science, though not as bad. To this day I love the "idea" of science. I love to read about medicine and the human body and I have always been fascinated with outer space. I am equally fascinated by the opposing arguments over the environment and global warming. When my chlidren were little I really enjoyed helping them with their experiments they did in school such as making volcanoes.
But once the science progresses into its mixture with math, like anything beyond basic chemistry, I am woefully inept. I can do enough to get by but it is just so obvious that my inclinations are not toward this area.
In college I was in the College of Arts and Sciences and I took the basics of math and science that were required. I did OK but I completed those courses as quickly as I could.
I had a buddy across the hall from me one year, an engineering major, who had to take a Technical Writing class. To be crass, he sucked as much at written communications as I did with math and science. He brought me his papers and I edited them for him. This was one of my first "ah-ha" moments, coming to realize how we are all created differently and how we can compliment each other. He was miserable trying to put words together and for me it was (and still is) a joy. He had mild effusive celebrations when equations would balance and I would just be glad to be done.
Today, at age 52, I can add, subtract, multiply and divide, all without a calculator. When I ran a cash register years ago, I could make change without having the register tell me how to do it. I know the very basics of biology and chemistry (working crossword puzzles has helped keep my knowledge somewhat current there). I seem to function just fine with these basics. I could not balance a chemical equation, solve a theorem or whatever, or complete an algebra problem if my life depended on it. And I don't want to.
That brings me to the point of this post. Younger Son appears to be wired much as I am. He has struggled mightily with math since about fourth grade. He has had a tutor for the past couple of years. He has done a little better with science but, now in his second semester of high school chemistry, he's sweating that a bit now too.
On the other hand, he excels in English and History and has done well in Spanish also. He's writing for his high school newspaper and thinks he will major in journalism in college (as I did).
A few weeks ago he was required to select his classes for next year, his senior year in high school. He came to his mother and me and we reviewed what he would be required to take to graduate. He asked if we thought he should take math his senior year, which would be some form of trigonometry.
Younger Son has already taken the ACT and, though he defnitely didn't knock it out of the park in math and science, he showed basic proficiency. He is not anywhere near needing any kind of remedial learning. And in all the other areas he did quite well.
Wife and I mulled it over. We talked to our older two about it. I thought back to my own experience. We decided that, given what his natural inclinations appear to be and the way he has struggled, it would be just fine for him to take a couple of electives in subjects that interest him (like Creative Writing) next year rather than suffer through another year of math. For science he's going to take an ecology class that looks pretty cool.
Yesterday Younger Son shared that he met with his guidance counselor last week and she was very upset that he had not enrolled in a math class next year (even though it is not required). He told me that he explained to her that he had conferred with both of his parents and we had made the decision thoughtfully.
Apparently she went into the whole thing of how important math is and how he'll need it for college, etc. Younger Son said I should probably be expecting a call from someone at school about this.
So, I ask you: am I wrong here? Is he going to be penalized later for not taking math his senior year in high school? Should all of our young folks be forced to take as much math and science as possible because that's the way of the world these days?
And what should I say if and when I get that call from the school?