Those of you who have followed my blog posts know that I sometimes express my views about education. I have argued for the value of broad-based education and in particular I have advocated both that scientists should receive quality education in the humanities and that those in the humanities should receive quality education in science. Now I am ready to again argue for inclusion of broad educational requirements and in particularly disagreeing with a man named Andrew Hacker who has, for some years now, argued against the required teaching of algebra. Andrew Hacker is a professor emeritus of political science at Queens College of the City University of New York. Mr. Hacker notes that some students drop out of both high school and college and that others fail courses. These contentions are most certainly factually correct. But Mr. Hacker than goes on, with an amazing disregard for citing actual evidence, to identify mathematics in general, and algebra courses in particular as the reason for students who fail to complete or succeed in their education. In an opinion piece published in 2012 by the New York Times. Hacker argues that making mathematics education mandatory is a barrier in developing young talent and a major obstacle to their continued education. He claims without data or attribution that eight million high school and college students struggle with algebra every day. He indicates that one in four fails to finish high school and again without data or attribution indicates that “Most of the educator’s I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason.” Not this educator. He does cite the agreement of a teacher named Shirley Bagwell of Tennessee who is apparently another anti-algebra crusader.
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