Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's not news, it's CNN

I love how every year, a survey comes out saying that college graduates in math and science fields earn more than other majors. What's more appalling is that some think this is news. The article here states that it is a matter of supply and demand, but this is not entirely true. However, this article inspired me to share a couple of stories from my own family and how the educational system in America is failing.

It is true that there is a "braindrain," which is largely the fault of the poor education in math and science being delivered by the public schools in The United States. Personally, my family has two stories: one from public school and the other is sadly, from private school. The public school story involves my little sister. Her calculus teacher was working through the details of a problem in class, and he must have been proud of his work because he stepped back from the board and stated, "You know, I should have taken calculus; I would have been pretty good at it!" The idea that someone can teach a subject by following along in the book or staying just a lesson ahead of the students is appalling. In order to teach a subject, you need to understand the subject on a level deeper than the book; otherwise, you will not be able to explain the subject in a different way than the book. One thing I've learned in teaching is to present the same subject material in several different ways because what works for one student may not work for another.

Another problem, which I find even worse, is that the teacher says he should have taken it solely because he would have good at it. If you only take on challenges because you are good at it, then you are not really challenging yourself. Imagine the impact of John F. Kennedy's speech if he said,

"And they may well ask why climb a small hill? Why, 35 years ago, fly from New York to Boston? Why does Rice play local high schools? Because these things are easy and we'd be really good at it!" (Original quote may be read here.)

Not exactly inspiring. Thankfully, JFK did not have such defeatist attitude, but believed we do things "not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal [of going to the moon] will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills." I get chills every time I hear this speech. No matter how many times I hear it, I am always inspired.

The other story, and maybe more shocking, involves my little brother. At a parent-teacher conference, his teacher told my mother that my little brother needed to stop working ahead of the class because "it wasn't fair" to the rest of the students. I am still amazed that mother did not bitch slap the teacher for saying that a student needed to stop learning.

There are more reasons that math and science majors earn more than liberal arts degrees than just supply and demand. I hope to discuss other reasons in a future post.

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