Whenever I meet anyone who wants to talk about education, I immediately ask them to tell me the quadratic equation. Almost no one ever can. (Even the former chairman of the College Board doesn’t know it), says Roger C. Schank, a cognitive scientist, artificial intelligence theorist, and education reformer, for the Washington Post. Yet, we all seem to believe that everyone must learn algebra. Why this religious zeal over algebra? It helps students learn how to think, people claim. Really? Are mathematicians the best thinkers you know? I know plenty of them who can’t handle their own lives very well. Reasoning mathematically is a nice skill but one that is not relevant to most of life. We reason about many things: parenting, marriage, careers, finances, business, politics. Do we learn how to reason about these things by learning algebra? The idea is absurd. Yet, we hear argument after argument about the need for more STEM education (pretending we don’t have lots of unemployed science PhDs). Everyone must study chemistry, memorize plant phylla and do lots of trigonometry…

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