Do we need algebra? Are you kidding me?

And now for something completely different…

Well, not really, but kind of different.

I realize that my niche here has become discussing science-based medicine, evidence-based medicine, and the atrocities committed against both by proponents of so-called “complementary and alternative” medicine, but every so often I need a change of pace. Unfortunately, that change of pace was something I came across in the New York Times on Sunday in the form of a commentary so bad that I seriously wondered if it was a parody or a practical joke. Alas, it wasn’t. I’m referring to an article by Andrew Hacker, and emeritus professor of political science at Queens College, City University of New York, entitled Is Algebra Necessary?

The short answer is yes (actually, hell, yes!). The longer answer follows. First, though, let’s start out with the premise, which hits you in the face in the very first paragraph of this incredibly misguided and, quite frankly, mind-numbingly silly proposal:

A TYPICAL American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? I’ve found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldn’t.

Hmmm. I wonder what Hacker would say if I were to rewrite his paragraph thusly:

A typical American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with English and English composition. In both high school and colleged, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? I’ve found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldn’t.

Or substitute history or science for algebra in the same paragraph. Actually, come to think of it, if we deemphasize algebra, we might as well add science to the mix, because without algebra it is damned near impossible to become proficient at any science. It’s the very minimal that is necessary to understand basic physics, for example, and perhaps not even enough for that given how much of physics is based on calculus. However, algebra is probably enough to undergird a basic understanding of classical physics that is adequate for an average educated citizen to need to know. Of course, without algebra, chemistry would be completely indecipherable, at least anything quantitative. Forget about reaction stoichiometries, kinetics, and the like. That will be out of reach, except for mushy generalities. Then forget about biology and biochemistry as well. No enzyme kinetics, membrane potentials, half-lives, or anything quantitative. And for you budding doctors out there, forget about medicine! A solid understanding of all these sciences, and more (pharmacology and human physiology in particular) is beyond your understanding if you don’t understand the basics of algebra.

It’s not just science, though. Without the basics of algebra, it’s really difficult to understand the basics of statistics. We live in an increasingly data-driven world, and our citizenry is already pretty statistically illiterate anyway. But, heck, it’s too hard; so let’s drop it.

Hacker’s “logic” (such as it is) for recommending that not everyone should be required to have a basic competence in algebra is strange, too. Get a load of this:

This debate matters. Making mathematics mandatory prevents us from discovering and developing young talent. In the interest of maintaining rigor, we’re actually depleting our pool of brainpower. I say this as a writer and social scientist whose work relies heavily on the use of numbers. My aim is not to spare students from a difficult subject, but to call attention to the real problems we are causing by misdirecting precious resources.

The toll mathematics takes begins early. To our nation’s shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most of the educators I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason.

For someone claiming to rely heavily on the use of numbers, one can’t help but note that Hacker’s arguments are not particularly powerful and play a little bit fast and loose with numbers himself. He cites a lot of statistics, but his interpretation of many of them leaves something to be desired. (Hey, that’s something that a good grounding in algebra and other mathematics would help those of us reading Hacker’s little proposal guard against, isn’t it?) For instance, Hacker says that “most of the educators” that he’s talked with cit algebra as the major reason why our high school dropout rate is so high, but he doesn’t cite any actual…oh, you know…figures that support such a blanket statement. For example, he cites various failure rates at algebra proficiency tests but doesn’t show evidence that these are the primary reason why these high school students dropped out of high school or, more importantly, compared these figures with the numbers of students who fail other core topics that all high school students are expected to demonstrate minimal proficiency at. That is the very minimum information necessary to put the figures describing students’ difficulty with mathematics and algebra into proper context. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if students who drop out don’t just fail algebra. They probably fail a lot of other major core curriculum topics as well.

True, hacker does cite some numbers that suggest that seem to indicate that freshman mathematics is a barrier to retention in college, but a better question to ask is: Why are freshmen so woefully unprepared in something as basic as algebra, such that they have difficulty learning it as a college freshman. If a student arrives in college without a basic understanding of algebra, as far as I’m concerned that student is not ready for college, any more than a student who can’t read and write at a sufficiently high level. I can understand, although not necessarily support, an argument that perhaps calculus is not necessary for all college students. Perhaps, it could be argued, students who are not majoring in a science don’t need to take calculus or that perhaps a year of statistics could be substituted for a year of calculus. One could even make the argument that in the “real world” statistics is a much more useful topic to have been exposed to for most people. Those would not be unreasonable arguments.

Instead, Hacker claims that mathematics is “used as a hoop, a badge, a totem to impress outsiders and elevate a profession’s status,” giving examples that veterinary technicians are required to be proficient at algebra for their certification but never use it in diagnosing or treating animals. (Oh, really? How do they scale up drug dosages?) He also cites Harvard and and Johns Hopkins medical schools as requiring calculus for entrance, “even if it doesn’t figure in the clinical curriculum, let alone in subsequent practice.” Well, there are a lot of things required to get into medical school and taught in the first two years of medical school that do not figure in subsequent clinical practice or the curriculum. Much blood has been spilt on the floor, metaphorically speaking, arguing what sciences should be required in order to be a good physician. Hacker might have a point that physicians don’t need to be proficient in calculus (although it helps if they wish to go into, for instance, radiation oncology), but that is a separate issue than whether students need to know algebra. Physicians, for instance, do need algebra for many things, including calculating blood gases, drug dosages, half-lives, cardiac outputs, and a number of other parameters. True, there are now many minicomputers and medical instruments that automatically calculate these numbers, but to understand the significance of the results, and, more importantly, changes in the results requires an understanding of the underlying equations, which in turn requires an understanding of algebra. Perhaps that’s why Hacker mentioned calculus instead of algebra. In fact, one wonders if what we have here is a big case of math envy, given that he harps on the use of mathematics as a means of adding prestige to a field.

Be that as it may, what does Hacker propose instead? Well, this for one:

Quantitative literacy clearly is useful in weighing all manner of public policies, from the Affordable Care Act, to the costs and benefits of environmental regulation, to the impact of climate change. Being able to detect and identify ideology at work behind the numbers is of obvious use. Ours is fast becoming a statistical age, which raises the bar for informed citizenship. What is needed is not textbook formulas but greater understanding of where various numbers come from, and what they actually convey.

So, let’s see. Quantitative literacy is critical to being an educated citizen who can weigh public policies, but algebra isn’t necessary? Silly Hacker, what he is arguing here is not that a basic understanding of algebra isn’t of critical importance to all citizens, but rather that it’s taught badly. And I agree! Mathematics and algebra are all too often taught badly, with no good hook into the real world usefulness of the disciplines. No wonder students lose interest! They’re never taught just how deeply mathematics of all types underlies, well, pretty much everything quantitative in society. Later, Hacker proposes:

Instead of investing so much of our academic energy in a subject that blocks further attainment for much of our population, I propose that we start thinking about alternatives. Thus mathematics teachers at every level could create exciting courses in what I call “citizen statistics.” This would not be a backdoor version of algebra, as in the Advanced Placement syllabus. Nor would it focus on equations used by scholars when they write for one another. Instead, it would familiarize students with the kinds of numbers that describe and delineate our personal and public lives.

It could, for example, teach students how the Consumer Price Index is computed, what is included and how each item in the index is weighted — and include discussion about which items should be included and what weights they should be given.

Except that it would be rather difficult to understand in the first place what a weighted average like the CPI is if the students don’t understand the basics of algebra to begin with.

The bottom line is that we as a society have to decide what it means to have a well-rounded education. In general, we all tend to agree that reading at a certain level is essential. We can argue what, exactly, that level should be, but in today’s society it’s no longer possible to function well if you can’t read and write, particularly in this increasingly Internet-driven world. Similarly, an understanding of mathematics is essential, and, from my perspective, algebra is actually a pretty low bar. True, many, if not most, people will never use much algebra, but the habits learned and the methods of using mathematics to solve problems will be useful almost no matter what a person does in life. Then, of course, there are the sciences and humanities, in particular history. If one-third of students are doing poorly at a subject that is so basic, such as algebra, then the answer is not to drop the requirement or to absolve those students who are having trouble passing it, but rather to find ways to teach it better. No one expects that everyone can excel at every topic, but there are certain topics that one should have a minimal proficiency at in order to be considered educated.

Comments

  1. #1 Chris
    Neither here nor there...
    August 6, 2012

    It basically shows that immunity can wane in a very short time. And I notice you are ignoring the larger study from Senegal.

    This part of the data points near the origin of Figure 6 in the paper you posted. Notice that line did not start after “10.”

  2. #2 AdamG
    August 6, 2012

    Sid, you’re completely dodging the question, and everyone here can see it. I am not going to explain to you in great detail how exponential curves relate to that document when you can’t even be bothered to define what algebra is. I am not entering into a debate with you about whether or not to vaccinate. That wasn’t my point. My point is that if you truly want people to make that decision for themselves, they need at minimum an understanding of how to read and interpret graphs. Being able to read and interpret graphs is a core component of high school algebra curricula.

    Are you saying the only way to make a decision is your way. Then I must be making a mistake no vaccinating.

    How did you personally come to this decision, Sid? How can I be sure that it did not involve an understanding of basic algebra, given that you said earlier you have taken algebra and even help your daughter with it?

  3. #3 dedicated lurker
    August 6, 2012

    Sid is using some form of this equation. “Risk to myself from vaccination” is X. If X > 0, then the answer is “no.”

    Mind you, I’m an English major who got a C in algebra and a D- in geometry. It drives my sister crazy when I do simple math by counting on my fingers.

  4. #4 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 6, 2012
  5. #5 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 7, 2012

    So simply knowing that an epidemic is ongoing doesn’t tell me I’m at an elevated risk? And knowing cases per 100K this year as opposed to a normal year has no meaning? Besides incidence is irrelevant if the illness causes no worry to the person considering a shot.

    As to the mercury example, algebra can be useful to some but I’ve not found it to be relevant. I’m quite comfortable in my rejection of the .

    Finally, you still haven’t shared your specific though process with us. Did you even have one. Not being able to support your assertions IS a weakness.

    Three hints, Sid:

    1) You asked for any algebraic equation relevant to vaccines. Receiving one, and then asking for one specific equation and for all the variables to be plugged in for you, is moving the goalposts, a sign of failure.
    2) What you are doing now is essentially the famous creationist “god of the gaps” fallacy, applied to mathematics. It does not fool anyone, except those who are so desperate that, like you, they will sprinkle sugar on the **** of failure and chomp down on it pretending it’s the brownie of success.
    3) Merely being stubborn in abject failure does not constitute an “impasse.” There is no “impasse” between those who recognize The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as the plagiarized racist fiction that it is and those who stubbornly cling to the belief that it is authentic evidence for their anti-Semitic paranoia (or am I overestimating you, Sid, by guessing that you are reality-based enough to be in the first camp?)

  6. #6 Denice Walter
    August 7, 2012

    Allow me to speculate a little about how I think anti-vaxxers might be cogitating:

    I will use hugely rounded numbers ( you may substitute “small, medium, large”, if you like). SBM/ vaccine advocates postulate that a small risk is associated with vaccines ( 1 in a million) but that the illness itself would have serious consequences about 1 in a thousand times ( medium risk). So, easily we accept the smaller risk ( i.e. vaccines)

    Here is where anti-vaxxers depart from commonality of thought with the SBMers: they have been led to believe that autism is caused by vaccines AND that autism occurs about 1 in 100 children ( large risk).Thus they believe that vaccines ‘damage’ is 1 in 100 ( plus the 1 in 1 million we accept). This is obviously a much greater risk than the medium risk of the illness itself: they cannot accept the large risk of vaccines as they see it.

    Why we cannot get through to them is because that 1 in 100 risk is inscribed deeply in their souls as an article of faith. Reasoning and mathematics will not put a dent in that because it has nothing to do with reasoning: it is an emotional reaction to figures ( large risk) not based in reality but on spurious research and propaganda.

  7. #7 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    August 7, 2012

    AdamG:
    “When making my decision regarding the Tdap booster, I used the following concepts:

    A1E Exponential functions

    A3:Function Characteristics
    A3A Relations, functions, domain, range, roots, inde/dependent variables.
    A3B Representations: symbolic, graph, table, words, connections between

    A6: Data and Distributions
    A6A Use summary statistics, compare data sets
    A6B Make valid inferences based on data

    And finally,
    A8E Read & interpret graphs”

    This, for which I thank you, underpins what I said earlier in the thread about algebra being the basis for understanding statistical concepts – which are all written in algebraic form. The impression I get is that your state is using the algebra stuff to provide the basis for a good understanding of symbolic manipulation in things like statistics and demonstrate statistics as a very socially important application of algebra skills. A bloody good aim, as far as I am concerned. And – absolutely – those are the key algebra skills I would expect people to need in order to understand the data in order to make a sensible decision based on that data.

    Which is why I feel sorry for any offspring that Sid Offitshead might have, given that he has an obvious lack of these very important skills.

  8. #8 herr doktor bimler
    August 7, 2012

    algebra can be useful to some but I’ve not found it to be relevant.

    Ah, so what Sid is seeking is an application of algebra that is relevant to him. Alles klar.

  9. #9 Liz Ditz
    Nowhere near a ball park
    August 7, 2012

    Novalox, thanks so much for introducing me to the Mendoza Line — a wonderfully handy image.

    Anecdote:
    While I had a very talented teacher for Algebra I and II in high school, I made it through only by rote memory and brute force. I hated it.

    Six years later, I took an algebra review course before attempting the GREs (Graduate Record Exam) and the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test). To my great surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the course and did very well, and went on to take undergraduate classes in Algebra I and II while waiting to start my graduate program.

    Surmise: for some reason, my brain hadn’t matured enough at 15 and 16 to think algebraically easily, and by 22 it had.

  10. #10 Liz Ditz
    Ignoring the fire science guy
    August 7, 2012

    Out here in California, the University of California has a series of coursework requirements, commonly known as the a-g requirements. Here’s what UC says about the math requirement (3 years minimum; 4 years encouraged):

    The intent of the mathematics requirement is to enable students to develop the ability to think mathematically as well as to provide background and skills for classes and disciplines with specific mathematical content.

    More important than the topics covered, or even the skills used directly in class, are the more general abilities and attitudes that should be gained in the effort of mastering the content. These include fostering:

    1. A view that mathematics makes sense: it offers ways of understanding and thinking; it is not just a collection of definitions, algorithms, and/or theorems to memorize and apply.

    2. A proclivity to put time and thought into using mathematics to grasp and solve unfamiliar problems that may not match examples the student has seen before. Students should find patterns, make and test conjectures, try multiple representations (e.g., symbolic, geometric, graphical) and approaches (e.g., deduction, mathematical induction, linking to known results), analyze simple examples, make abstractions and generalizations, and verify that solutions are correct, approximate, or reasonable, as appropriate.

    3. A view that mathematics approximates reality and mathematical models can guide our understanding of the world around us.

    4. An awareness of special goals of mathematics, such as clarity and brevity (e.g., via symbols and precise definitions), parsimony (removing irrelevant detail), universality (claims must be true in all possible cases, not just most or all known cases), and objectivity (students should ask “Why?” and accept answers based on reason, not authority).

    5. Confidence and fluency in handling formulas and computational algorithms: understanding their motivation and design, predicting approximate outcomes, and computing them — mentally, on paper, or with technology, as appropriate. Mathematics is a language, fluency in it is a basic skill, and fluency in computation is one key component.

    How can one become “fluent” without algebra? I submit it cannot be done.

  11. #11 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 7, 2012

    It seems pretty obvious that thinking algebraically is necessary to correctly understand the world, which explains why Sid, who wishes to misunderstand it instead, wants to keep algebra at arms’ length.

  12. #12 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 8, 2012

    Perhaps Sid would like to tell me how I figured these stats out without algebra: http://justthevax.blogspot.com/2012/08/washington-state-pertussis-outbreak.html

    I guess if anti-vaxxers could actually think, they wouldn’t be anti-vaxxers.

  13. #13 Narad
    August 8, 2012

    I imagine group theory represents frank restraint of trade in Sid’s mind. Think of the Rubik’s Freedom Cubes!

  14. #14 Sid Offit
    August 8, 2012

    Science Mom, do you use algebra when cleaning out the rat cages?

  15. #15 Chris
    August 8, 2012

    Mr. Schecter, have you figured out when the line starts on the x-axis on Figure 6 of the paper you referenced?

  16. #16 sid offit
    August 8, 2012

    Yes Liz , that’s why kids are deeply in debt after graduating college: they spend precious years studying irrelevant concepts they shall never use. Time to cut off taxpayer money from the university system and let these self indulgent concepts die a natural and well deserved death.

  17. #17 Chris
    Neither here nor there...
    August 8, 2012

    So neither you nor your daughter know how to read a graph. A failure we have witnessed here from you repeatedly. We can all now assume she does not have the qualifications to apply to the University of California, or any other real college. Because most serious centers of higher education actually value math skills.

    My daughter’s acceptance in the university she starts at soon would have been rescinded if she did not take a math heavy course her senior year of high school, even though she had algebra in the eighth grade. Her last high school math course was pre-calculus, but that was her junior year. Her last year of high school was at a community college (there is a similar program in California), where she completed the math heavy course for the university by taking statistics.

    Really, I am surprised that someone who does real estate speculation like yourself does not understand the concepts used in compound interest. That is just bad business, and your lack of basic math background should be enough to keep anyone from ever engaging you in any business deal.

    Here it is: Robert Schecter does not know how to do basic algebra, so anyone who wants to deal with his commercial real estate business should know this.

  18. #18 sid offit
    August 8, 2012

    I have no commercial real estate business. I invest in the commodity and equity markets. I have nothing against math or algebra. It is simply not essential for most people and should not be forced on kids and students. I don’t think formal coursework in algebra is necessary to read a graph. My daughter and I have both taken and passed algebra, so if we can’t read graphs it simply means even if you force a child to take a subject you can’t force them to retain the information contained in that class. I wish your daughter much success in college and afterward and hope she gets some use out of the math courses she attends.

  19. #19 novalox
    Definetly above the Mendoza line
    August 8, 2012

    @Liz Ditz

    You are welcome.

    Guess from his comments, he’s trying to surpass the titanium sombrero.

    @sid

    And we see why you had to go to fire school. Thank you for that piece of unabashed stupidity.

    But yeah, someone dealing with commercial real estate who doesn’t value the use of basic algebra isn’t anyone I, nor anyone with some common sense, would want to deal with.

  20. #20 Chris
    August 8, 2012

    Okay, my error. You just can’t read a basic graphs.

    My daughter will be majoring in linguistics by taking Swedish. This is her third non-native language after Japanese and French. Since she will be going for a degree in the psychology of language, she will be using statistics, and that includes the ability of reading a graph. Because one of the pre=requisites to take a basic statistics class is to understand the basic equation of a line: y = mx + b (m = slope, and b = y-intercept).

    Which seems to be a skill that handicaps your family. You should work on that. Because it is making you look like a fool on this blog.

  21. #21 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 8, 2012

    My daughter and I have both taken and passed algebra, so if we can’t read graphs it simply means even if you force a child to take a subject you can’t force them to retain the information contained in that class.

    Oh this is just precious. Of course it has to be someone else’s fault you and your special snowflake can’t navigate basic graphs. And your insults well, aren’t. Try a bit of honesty Sid, for starters concede that you made a gross misstatement about the utility of algebra and how it can relate to vaccines. Or not and no one will be shocked.

  22. #22 Chris
    In the land of typos...
    August 8, 2012

    pre=requisites should be prerequisites

    Good luck to those who apply to university who actually forget the basics!

  23. #23 sid offit
    August 8, 2012

    Forgetting useless information isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

  24. #24 novalox
    August 8, 2012

    @sid

    Yawn, another ill-inspired attempt at insult.

    Do try again, you amuse me.

  25. #25 AdamG
    August 8, 2012

    I don’t think formal coursework in algebra is necessary to read a graph

    Sid, do I really need to re-paste the state algebra 1 standard that includes ‘reading and interpreting graphs?’ You may not think that formal coursework is necessary, but every state standard I’ve looked up disagrees with you.

    Where did you learn to read a graph?

  26. #26 Narad
    August 8, 2012

    They spend precious years studying irrelevant concepts they shall never use.

    As compared with not studying irrelevant concepts so that they can later be comically misapplied?

  27. #27 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    August 8, 2012

    Sid Offit 1:04 am: Science Mom, do you use algebra when cleaning out the rat cages?

    LoL .. Arsehole!

    Sid Offit 1:45am: My daughter and I have both taken and passed algebra, so if we can’t
    read graphs it simply means even if you force a child to take a subject you can’t force them
    to retain the information contained in that class.

    No, it means either that you are both too lazy to remember important stuff, or that you bribed
    the living crap out of the external assessor(s) involved (and given the amount of money that
    would be involved in the second of these options, I’m going to bet on the first one!).

    Chris 1:56am: Since she will be going for a degree in the psychology of language, she
    will be using statistics, and that includes the ability of reading a graph. Because one of the
    prerequisites to take a basic statistics class is to understand the basic equation of a line:
    y = mx + b (m = slope, and b = y-intercept).

    Absolutely, Chris! The first thing one learns how to solve in basic algebra is the linear equation,
    which is the basis of linear regression work in statistical analysis. I work with my ex-missus on
    training days to teach people about testing methods and data analysis for checking who it is
    really that’s writing in FC stuff. And the most recent of these was given to a group of
    mostly speech therapists, whose training in Finland involves studying for a master’s degree.
    During this degree course they study many things, including a lot of psychology (it actually
    forms a very substantial minor subject in their transcripts), and an entire subsidiary in statistics
    for the behavioural sciences. And yet they cannot get their heads around the science that
    demonstrates beyond all doubt that FC just doesn’t work at all. So much for the usefulness of
    Offishead’s tactic/strategy/anti–intellectualism of forgetting what he deems to be useless stuff.
    As has been repeatedly stated here, were he to actually be bothered to retain that stuff and
    use it to inform his decision-making, he’d not find much of any appeal in the anti-vax stupidity
    that’s going on just now. His attempts at rebuttal of this point are less than jokes, and show
    more about his own personality failings than any constitutional inability to comprehend
    mathematical concepts (such as we find in both dyslexia and dyscalculia). Offishead simply
    does not want to learn anything that goes against his preconceived and ill-conceived
    idea of how the universe works, and resists any information that would demonstrate that he is
    just plain wrong about something. It’s definitely a personality flaw.

    Chris 1:56am: Which seems to be a skill that handicaps your family. You should work on that.
    Because it is making you look like a fool on this blog.

    Well, the lack of which skill is the handicapping issue in his family, really. But your point
    remains valid and accurate.

    Sh*t Offishead 2:08am: Forgetting useless information isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

    Except that information that you claim is useless is more useful that you’d wish it to be. See
    above note about your personality flaw. See, in my master’s degree in education, we learned
    about learning difficulties and how to differentiate between those issues and people simply
    being too stupid to bother learning. We all know which one of these issues handicaps you.

    Same imbecile 1:45am: I don’t think formal coursework in algebra is necessary to read a
    graph

    Thankfully, you don’t get to decide this stuff. People who understand this education stuff better
    than you do get to decide. I feel sad for your family. They must miss out on so much.

  28. #28 Lawrence
    August 8, 2012

    Wow, Sid has degenerated into simple insults now – and drive-by ones at that. He must be getting frustrated that the country hasn’t bowed down to the glory of his libertarian politics….

  29. #29 flip
    August 8, 2012

    I’m curious to know if there are any subjects that Sid feels should be compulsory: if so, why and if not, why not?

    Are there any subjects at all that every kid must learn?

  30. #30 herr doktor bimler
    August 8, 2012

    Forgetting useless information isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

    I never understood why people go to the trouble of forgetting things. It seems such a waste of time. You only have to re-learn them later.

  31. #31 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 8, 2012

    Science Mom, do you use algebra when cleaning out the rat cages?

    Why don’t you try spelling out your syllogism, Sid? I think we’d all find that real interesting. Here, I’ll do most of it for you:

    1. Algebra is not necessary to clean out rat cages.
    2. ?
    3. Therefore, algebra is unnecessary in almost every adult profession.

    Please fill in 2. for us, Sid, please do. I’m sure we’ll all just be fascinated by what you come up with. “There are few adult professions that require any other skill but the cleaning of rat cages”? Sheds new light on the value of a fire science degree.

  32. #32 Denice Walter
    August 8, 2012

    I have something in common with Sid: investing. Not that it was my idea: it was foisted upon me and I got stuck ( but NO commodities, ever)- now I love it. However, I was- like quite a few other folks in my family- recognised to have abilities in mathematics. I never had any problems, took advanced courses including applications to economics/ psychology graduate work. All of this has come in handy.

    What I can’t wrap my head around is how he can comprehend the arcane and mysterious indices and valuations proclaimed by the financial oracles ( praise them!) about the economy, prices, trends and other facets of reality that often land upon our ( metaphorical) doorsteps saying, ” Guess what’s bad news today?” Nearly 4 years ago, I recall waking up nervously every day to see what the libor was doing. Or vix. It was a frightening time.

    How anyone can comprehend and deal with this stuff without a decent mathematical background is beyond me. How can you understand someone else’s analyses and apply them to your own interests? And graphs? Turn on any financial television channel, what do you see? Go to any website that provides information, what’s there? Endless.

    And let’s be entirely frank: people who are skilled in this area earn more than those who aren’t . Engineering, computer science, medicine, industry, research, banking, trade,…

  33. #33 Chris
    Neither here nor there...
    August 8, 2012

    Mr. Schecter’s inability to read a graph does explain his total confusion over Figure 6 in a paper he posted. So, yes, it is a “bug” to forget simple useful things like how to read a graph.

  34. #34 Beamup
    August 8, 2012

    @ Denice:

    I suspect he’s one of the “investors” whose strategy is just “pile into whatever did well last week.” Doesn’t bother to actually understand anything.

  35. #35 Militant Agnostic
    August 8, 2012

    Chris

    So, yes, it is a “bug” to forget simple useful things like how to read a graph.

    On the contrary, it is a feature for a contrarian or a libertarian as is any other form of ignorance.

  36. #36 Denice Walter
    August 8, 2012

    @ Beamup:

    Oh, I see, he attended the Last Week’s School of Economics ( LWSE). Not that other place.

  37. #37 Liz Ditz
    Doing the happy dance
    August 8, 2012

    Writes Sid Potatohead, exhibiting reading comprehension fail

    Yes Liz , that’s why kids are deeply in debt after graduating college:

    What I copypasta’d was the requirements for applying to the UC system.

    they spend precious years studying irrelevant concepts they shall never use.

    Oops, Siddo, Grammar fail. (I don’t have Narad’s facility with describing the error, though, which is reminding me to brush up.)

    Time to cut off taxpayer money from the university system and let these self indulgent concepts die a natural and well deserved death.

    The usual libertarian nonsense. The US’s lack of investment in education will be hampering our economic growth for decades.

    I wonder if Sid Potatohead can tell us what percent of the UC’s budget is comes directly from state revenues (that is, taxes). I doubt it. I was surprised by the figure myself.

  38. #38 Chemmomo
    Where knowledge is valued
    August 8, 2012

    sid offit @2:08 am Aug 8

    Forgetting useless information isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

    Declaring information you’ve forgotten is useless is an excuse.

  39. #39 Denice Walter
    August 8, 2012

    @ Liz :
    * they will never use* ( “shall” with “they” is only for sarcasm)

    One of the most hilarious memes I have encountered in Woo-topia-
    ” the educational systemn is so poor/ it produces people who can’t think” ( therefore customers)
    This is Dunning-Kruger- tainted meta-cognition on a societal level: an under/ barely-educated woo-meister believes his level of education is superior to the average person’s as well as that of doctors, biologists, educators et al based on his usual critiques of science.
    Executive dys-function, they has it.

  40. #40 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    inside Sid Offit's brain
    August 8, 2012

    *shivers*

    bloody hell – it’s cold and empty in here….. and the lights don’t bloody work!!!!!

  41. #41 Sid Offit
    August 8, 2012

    M. Ed., C. P. S. E.

    If that were my picture, I would have gone with the generic avatar.

  42. #42 Sid Offit
    August 8, 2012

    @The Ditz:

    The US’s lack of investment in education will be hampering our economic growth for decades.

    Silly, unsubstantiated nonsense>

    M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    too lazy to remember important stuff

    Too smart to retain irrelevant stuff

    FC
    I’m curious to know if there are any subjects that Sid feels should be compulsory: if so, why and if not, why not?

    Are there any subjects at all that every kid must learn?

    It is a parents decision

    Denice Walter
    As I said before, a year or two of algebra is not required to read a graph or understand a balance sheet

  43. #43 Gray Falcon
    August 8, 2012

    Remember, this is the same Sid who, despite having an education in “fire science”, forgot how fire worked for the sake of an argument in favor of privatized fire departments.

  44. #44 Gray Falcon
    August 8, 2012

    More on topic:

    Are there any subjects at all that every kid must learn?

    It is a parents decision

    What if a parent decides not to educate their daughter because they consider females incapable of learning such things?

  45. #45 Lawrence
    August 8, 2012

    @Sid – given that most countries are pouring money into their educational systems, been using a year-round model highlighting the math and sciences, and perform both academically and economically better than our country, I’d say your opinion is about as relevant as the the crap on my shoe.

    Parents are free to home-school, if they wish. I, for one, prefer a world in which we challenge our children with advanced subjects at the earliest possible age – because other countries are most certainly doing it, and if you want to maintain a technology-based economy, I’d prefer that we continue to develop it on our own & not become as reliant on China for IP as we have for manufacturing.

  46. #46 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 8, 2012

    If that were my picture, I would have gone with the generic avatar.

    If you had had a relevant argument to make, you would not have bothered with an irrelevant attack on someone’s appearance.

    So what about that syllogism, Sid? Please provide the missing premise which makes your argument non-irrelevant, if you can.

  47. #47 AdamG
    August 8, 2012

    a year or two of algebra is not required to read a graph or understand a balance sheet

    Now THIS is “silly, unsubstantiated nonsense.” Reading and interpreting graphs is part of the state standard of algebra 1. I’ve already demonstrated that to you.

    Where did you learn to read and interpret graphs, Sid?

  48. #48 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 8, 2012

    So what about that syllogism, Sid? Please provide the missing premise which makes your argument non-irrelevant, if you can.

    I wouldn’t be holding my breath for him to even know what a syllogism let alone fill in the blank. This is a fellow who has to resort to silly insults and name-calling in lieu of any evidence. But while we are on the subject and I’m feeling cheeky, Sid I’ve seen a picture of you; you are not someone who should be making recommendations for personal photo avatars.

  49. #49 lilady
    August 8, 2012

    Offal…did you really say this?

    “Yes Liz , that’s why kids are deeply in debt after graduating college: they spend precious years studying irrelevant concepts they shall never use. Time to cut off taxpayer money from the university system and let these self indulgent concepts die a natural and well deserved death.”

    Excuse me Offal…aren’t you a graduate of John Jay College…which is part of the CUNY system?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_University_of_New_York

    “CUNY is the third-largest university system in the United States, in terms of enrollment, behind the State University of New York (SUNY), and the California State University system. CUNY and SUNY are separate and independent university systems, although both are public institutions that receive funding from New York State. CUNY, however, is additionally funded by the City of New York.”

    So you got your *fire science degree* paid for by New York State and New York City taxpayers…then hightailed it out to California. So now you are bitching that some of your precious money is supporting the California State University system. What an ingrate you are.

  50. #50 Denice Walter
    August 8, 2012

    About parents deciding what students need- rather than school systems, advisors, students themselves…

    How does a parent know in advance in what areas a student might have interest or perhaps, hidden talents?
    If kids are exposed to a liberal selection of subjects, there’s more of a chance that they might find inspiration and even, their niche. What if your child wants to be a surgeon, software designer, translator or an architect, do you really think that their studies start suddenly when the enter higher education? Or is it more likely than their experiences in grammar school set the pathway for later work.

    I am personally a mentor ( of sorts) to a young architect: she had to study science, mathematics ( lots), art history, design, beside liberal arts: she has had internships, practicums et al, worked in an art gallery and an architectural firm: she creates plans and 3d models.

    And sometimes kids don’t know what they want and need counselling. In a high tech world that will not magically revert back into an idyllic small town fantasy at the turn of the previous century, no one will be hurt by learning MORE rather than less mathematics/science. And as the world gets smaller, how wrong can it be to learn a foreign language: at the very least, it might help clean up grammar in your native one?

  51. #51 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 8, 2012

    Sid,

    You never bothered to answer my little word problem, suggest how to solve it without algebra, nor say it was irrelevant to the decision to immunize.

    How about this one: someone with a contagious disease enters an area. People who catch this disease are asymptomatic but contagious for some number of days. In any given day, a person may com into contact with, say, 30-40 people. Assuming those people are not immune to the contagious disease, what is the expected progression of that disease throughout the population?

  52. #52 dedicated lurker
    August 8, 2012

    You know, seeing Sid here is making me realize that my D- in geometry isn’t really all that bad.

  53. #53 Sid Offit
    August 8, 2012

    @Denice Walter

    How does a parent know in advance in what areas a student might have interest or perhaps, hidden talents?

    Yes, in your utopia children are put into universal preschool at 2 months of age. So how could parents know anything about those children and their interests.

    Expose children; don’t force children.

    @Mephistopheles O’Brien
    I don’t generally respond to gibberish.

    Mephistopheles O’Brien is incapable of intelligent though
    Mephistopheles O’Brien has a thought
    That thought is unintelligent.

    @dedicated lurker

    How’s that F in life making you feel?

  54. #54 novalox
    August 8, 2012

    @sid

    Yawn, another half witted insult from the racist and idiot sid, how utterly predictable

    Batting way below the Mendoza line again in terms of intelligence and logic as well as in insults, but then, what would I expect from a guy who had to go for a “fire science” degree.

    If you keep striking out in terms of intelligent thought here, I guess you’ll be aiming for that platinum sombrero in terms of intelligence, eh?

  55. #55 Chemmomo
    Not a utopia
    August 9, 2012

    Sid Offit @August 8, 4:28 pm (my emphasis)

    Are there any subjects at all that every kid must learn?
    It is a parents decision

    No, Sid, it’s not.

    Ultimately, it’s the decision of the individual – in this case the child.

    If you’re advocating restricting a child’s access to education you’re a bigger fool than I thought.

    My beef with the notion of “do we need algebra?” is that I believe that when you set out to achieve a low standard is that’s what you get: achieving a low standard.

    We can do better.

  56. #56 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    @ SidOffit:

    Every firefighter needs to know basic algebra. Any less would make him a danger to himself and others. Fire science is a job where if you are not up to par with your math, you can get others killed, not to mention yourself.

    http://firefightermath.org/

    I don’t see any reference in your comments that you are a firefighter, which is great. I doubt that you are from what I have read. But if you slipped through the cracks,, I suggest you get the hell out before you kill yourself or other people.

  57. #57 Sid Offit
    August 9, 2012

    @novalox

    Normally, I would not deign to address you, but the thread appears to be winding down and I require some entertainment.. What is your obsession with the Mendoza line. You repeat it incessantly.

  58. #58 Sid Offit
    August 9, 2012

    Thanks for your input, Black-cat.

    Most of those entering the fire academy have no recollection of algebra. One can take the test 10 or more years after graduation. As such relevant concepts would have to be taught or re-taught in the academy. Allow kids who dream of being firefighters take it in school and leave everyone else alone.

    I took fire service hydraulics in college and unless you use it on a regular basis you forget it. When you get a high school grad who got a C in algebra you’re basically starting from scratch. You think a lot of kids who took French in school remember any of it after the final exam?

  59. #59 Sid Offit
    August 9, 2012

    @Chemmomo

    Ultimately, it’s the decision of the individual – in this case the child.

    Individual decision? Interesting concept coming from this blog. Yet you advocate forcing both school and algebra on a child. Seems contradictory. Since parents would likely be paying for the education (in a free society) after a certain age (and your correct here) a collaboration would have to occur. For example a parent may have the leverage to implement piano lessons but after a certain age parental desire may have to give way to a child’s/young adult’s resistance. It would be great if we could circumvent human nature / genetics and inculcate into our children an interest in that which we see value but that’s not how the world works. There are a lot of interesting methods of education that could emerge if education were not such a top-down endeavor. Kids don’t dislike learning. They like to read – if it appeals to them. Sadly due to the material presented kids learn to hate, rather than appreciate, both learning and reading.

  60. #60 Chemmomo
    Leapfrogging Posts (haven't read 12:47 yet but I know it's there)
    August 9, 2012

    Sid,
    I understand you are on the Libertarian side of the political spectrum. I can understand advocating the Libertarian viewpoint for an educated and well informed population: that kind of population could probably succeed under self determination with fewer government regulations.

    However, here you are now proudly proclaiming your own ignorance.

    Could you explain to me how being ignorant goes along with advocating self determination?

  61. #61 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    Sid,

    This is not about taking a language and forgetting it.

    http://www.firehouse.com/news/10462630/san-francisco-firefighter-killed-in-blaze

    Here is an example of two firefighters that made a mistake. They should have known better but sometimes in EMS there is no second chance and you die.

    They did not apply math to the situation and they are dead as a result.

  62. #62 Sid Offit
    August 9, 2012

    Chemmomo, since there are an unlimited number of topics that may, at some point be useful, the entire population can be said to be ignorant of some discipline. I’d like to be able to survive a plane crash in the Amazon like the survivalists do on TV. But since such a scenario is unlikely to emerge , learning to deal with it would be a poor use of time and resources.

  63. #63 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    Sid, are you working in fire science?

  64. #64 Sid Offit
    August 9, 2012

    I was a fire inspector with the FDNY for about 2 1/2 years. I moved to California ~22 years ago and now invest in the financial markets and write about the vaccination issue.

  65. #65 Chemmomo
    Reading and learning, always
    August 9, 2012

    Here’s the deal Sid: As a parent, it’s my obligation to give my child as much educational opportunity as my child desires by whatever means are appropriate. It’s not up to me to decide exactly what my child decides to study. My obligation as a parent is to provide the opportunity.

    That, however, does not negate the need for educational standards for society – particularly for a society where we’re expected to maintain a certain level of self-determination. If we wish to continue living in a democracy, we need to provide our children with the tools to understand information. That does in fact include algebra.

    My argument is (and always has been: you can go upthread and check) is that we need to challenge children to achieve more earlier, rather than making excuses for poor performance later.

    As you said – children don’t dislike learning. What’s wrong with giving them the tools to do it, and incentive to try? Your dismissal of algebra is a dismissal of education in general. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: we can do better.

    Your attempt to sidetrack into Amazon plane crashes (1:17 am) is a really lame diversionary tactic.

    Seriously, Sid, what do you have against an educated population?

  66. #66 AdamG
    August 9, 2012

    Sid, do you believe in educational standards at all?

  67. #67 Chris
    Neither here nor there...
    August 9, 2012

    Chemmomo:

    However, here you are now proudly proclaiming your own ignorance.

    I am amazed, but not surprised, that Mr. Schecter is actually proud of his own ignorance.

  68. #68 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    Sid,

    So as a fire inspector, can you tell us whty these two men lost their lives. They should not have.

  69. #69 novalox
    August 9, 2012

    @sid

    Oh sid, your blatant insults and half-witted attempts at mockery are truly funny. I do like to poke at trolls, and you seem like good entertainment right now.

    Please, do try a little harder before attempting such childish insults, and do try to attempt to actually engage in some actual intelligent conversation here without resorting to insults. It just makes you such an easy and target for me to laugh at and mock.

  70. #70 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    Sid, you may have worked as a fire inspector for FDNY 22 years ago but you are not one now. You may live in California but you are not working in the EMS as a fireman, paramedic or EMT.

    Please do not ever pretend to be one of us. We work very hard and put our lives on the line and don’t expectthanks. It really sucks to have idiots out there pretending to be us.

  71. #71 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    @Sid Offit:

    So you say that you were a fire inspector. Explain to me the mistake that was made here, where the two firemen were killed.

  72. #72 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    Sid,

    I’m still here. Why were these two men burned to death? What was the mistake?

  73. #73 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    Did it have to do with math? Can you answer this, Sid?

  74. #74 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    Sid, I’ll give you a hint. It did have to do with fire science math and if they were thinking they would still be alive.

  75. #75 Militant Agnostic
    August 9, 2012

    Sid Offal

    I moved to California ~22 years ago and now invest in the financial markets and write about the vaccination issue.

    In other words, you produce nothing, design nothing, create nothing, provide no useful services and write about a subject in which you are profoundly unqualified, possessing only the arrogance of ignorance. You are a useless f*cking parasite and a complete waste of air.

  76. #76 Narad
    August 9, 2012

    I understand you are on the Libertarian side of the political spectrum.

    More of a pole in the plane, I’d say.

  77. #77 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    Sid, you are not one of us and how dare you pretend to be; you know nothing about us:

  78. #78 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    You are a horse’s ass. You really are.

  79. #79 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    August 9, 2012

    Sid Offit 4:18 pm: M. Ed., C. P. S. E., If that were my picture, I would have gone with the generic avatar.
    If I were as ugly as you, I’d go with the generic avatar….

    Fuckwit 4:28: Too smart to retain irrelevant stuff
    No. Too stupid to retain useful stuff. Deal with it, fuckwit.

  80. #80 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    August 9, 2012

    response to S(tup)id in moderation….

  81. #81 lilady
    August 9, 2012

    I really *doubt* the Offal worked as a NYFD “fire inspector” for 2.5 years.

    As I recall I had to remind him about the Federal Life Safety Codes when he was complaining that his mother had to leave her bedroom during a fire drill…and the bedroom door was automatically locked behind her….when she was residing in a licensed elderly care facility. (And I did not have a *degree in fire safety* as Offal claims to have).

    Several of my brother’s colleagues (he retired from the NYCFD) were NYCFD Marshalls, who inspected the premises of the scenes of “suspicious” fires or where there were serious injuries of deaths attributed to these fires. They too, had also attained the rank of Lieutenant within the NYCFD after years as firefighters on the front lines.

  82. #82 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    @liady: I can research the records in the SFD but I need some names…. Not sure how to do it but I can find out.

  83. #83 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    never mind: this is just stupid. why would somebody claim to be something that they are not?

  84. #84 Black-cat
    August 9, 2012

    @ sid offit: You are indebted to the two firemen that died in San Francisco to give you life….. you need to get on your knees and bow….you fat asshole….how dare you claim to be a fireman.,,,you are not worthy,,,,,,

  85. #85 herr doktor bimler
    August 9, 2012

    More of a pole in the plane, I’d say.

    Narad’s attempt to apply complex analysis to the political plane is all very well, but it implies that most of the occupants of that plane are at least partially imaginary.

    I am informed that many of the daytime inhabitants of DC actually commute from outside the Beltway, which rules out the theory that they are quaternions.

  86. #86 flip
    August 9, 2012

    @Sid Offit
    August 8, 4:28 pm

    “It is a parents decision”

    Well, that’s nice and definitive.

    No seriously Sid: let’s say you’re homeschooling your children. What subjects would you consider absolutely necessary for their education?

    I’m not asking whether or not all parents should follow this, I’m asking *you* what *you* think is absolutely necessary to *your own kids’* education.

  87. #87 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 9, 2012

    never mind: this is just stupid. why would somebody claim to be something that they are not?

    Well, you’ve ever heard the saying “better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt?”

    Sid has a psychological defect of some kind that makes him believe entirely the opposite. He would rather say something that makes him look moronic, bigoted, or just outright vile than acknowledge that anyone he’s arguing against has a point about anything. If he sees a photo of a young girl who has been scarred for life by a vaccine-preventable disease, he will say “Isn’t she pretty” rather than acknowledge, like a compassionate human being, that the disease was obviously not “mild” for her and she has suffered harm from it. Moronic, bigoted, outright vile – somehow Sid thinks it’s better to be all these things than to ever concede even the most blatantly obvious truth.

  88. #88 Shay
    August 9, 2012

    Blackcat, I can understand your ire…I work with first responders all the time and they are a great bunch of people.

  89. #89 Denice Walter
    August 9, 2012

    Who in the great, spinning world would advocate for universal preschool at age 2 months? Isn’t that an unfortunate economic necessity for some parents? Or a way to hold on to their current job? Do you really think that people do this because they *like* it? I think it’s horrible.

    Oh Sid, you miss my entire point! An ideal education would expose kids to a variety of subjects while they acquire the basics of language/ mathematics/ general information skills and then allow *their* choices to influence their later studies. In industrialised so-called western cultures, this is quite common for affluent students, even in governmentally sponsored schools.

    And what does *force* mean? Did you *force* your daughter to speak English, use a fork or wear clothes? Or did you conform to societal standards in those areas? What is the difference? Because NOT having basic skills makes a person just as disadvantaged socially as one who doesn’t use conventional eating utensils, wear clothes or speak the common language: an outsider without many prospects.

    It takes a while for kids to learn that sometimes you have to do things that you don’t like because they’re necessary and have important consequences that occur over time.. Parents and teachers can guide them : it’s called ‘delay of gratification’ and ‘long term goals’- and yes, it becomes hip once you get the hang of it.

    I often read health freedom advocates ( e.g. @ Natural News, PRN, AoA) who also skewer our elitist education, so I ask: read what some of my sister and fellow representatives of the orthodoxy write @ RI ( especially our most esteemed host) and then read the web woo-meisters’ articles-
    who would you rather your children sound like when they’re adults?

    -btw- learning foreign languages comes in very handy when you’re a teenager abroad and want to meet the locals, eat and buy stuff… as I can personally vouch. Business travelers make use of it as well.

  90. #90 Rose
    August 9, 2012

    I have found through reading Alain’s blog that LEARNING a foreign language, as opposed to sitting through classes in a foreign language with glazed over eyes, means the language stays with you even after decades of not using it. I can still read French. Algebra is the same way. Learn it, it stays with you. Everything you do in life that is based on algebra does not come with a sticky note that says “Algebra needed here.” Reading graph is such a basic example
    i learned algebra and use it often even with a job that is not science-based. I am one of those people who struggled for Bs and Cs in algebra and trig and calculus but easily got an A in geometry. I did take algebra I in eighth grade, not college. I had a hard time accepting that algebra is taught as a college course.

  91. #91 JGC
    August 9, 2012

    So as far as I see, the argument is that we should stop teaching kids difficult subjects like algebra in order to keep them from dropping out of school.

    Of course if we’re not going to actually be teaching them anything difficult–something they need time, instruction and effort to master–why is it that we’re concerned they’re dropping out?

  92. #92 Raging Bee
    August 9, 2012

    Oooooh, Sid invested in the financial markets! That puts him at the innelekshal level of Donald Trump and the people who gave us deregulation and subprime loans! I just can’t begin to tell you all how impressed I’m not.

  93. #93 Sid Offit
    August 9, 2012

    I have no interest in living in a “democracy.” I want to live in a free country. A country where on group cannot vote themselves the wealth of others.

    Give me a break with the “society” nonsense. Society is people and children are in trust of their parents unless the negate that trust by egregious violations of that trust.

    challenge children to achieve more earlier

    There is a difference between challenge and force and the parents not the government are those who challenge

    what do you have against an educated population?

    What do you have against the renunciation of force against innocent people?

    Militant Agnostic
    you are a child. The allocation of resources is vitally important to an economy. Something the top-down planners in government are incapable of.

    @creepy baglady
    you do love your little licenses and certifications don’t you

    @black-cat
    run, don’t walk, to the nearest mental health institution

  94. #94 Sid Offit
    August 9, 2012

    Denice Walter

    I’ll have to get back to you tomorrow.

  95. #95 Narad
    August 9, 2012

    I want to live in a free country.

    Nonetheless, you seem to fail utterly when confronted with the free exchange of ideas. And it would really help if you could blockquote or something. I realize that inventing preposterous grammar stylings requires effort of some sort, especially when intended seriously, but still.

  96. #96 Sid Offit
    August 10, 2012

    test

  97. #97 Sid Offit
    August 10, 2012

    I agree. I’ve been slacking on the blockquoting on the new site.

  98. #98 Shay
    August 10, 2012

    No, Sid, you do not want to live in a free country; I think you’ve made it plain to everyone here that you want to live in a place where you are free to do as you please, and screw everybody else.

    Try Somalia.

  99. #99 Narad
    August 10, 2012

    No, Sid, you do not want to live in a free country; I think you’ve made it plain to everyone here that you want to live in a place where you are free to do as you please, and screw everybody else.

    While I do not want to step on anybody’s turf, I’ll advance that it’s more than that: I think Sid codes “free country” not just as absence of crude external hindrances (negative liberty), but as some sort of added lifting of internal ones. In short, the psychological diversion that negative liberty will somehow plop out positive liberty while it’s at it.

  100. #100 flip
    August 10, 2012

    Well, Sid’s ignoring me. It’s just as well I pre-drafted a reply because I suspected that he’d duck my point:

    Sid, if you answer in some vague manner I’ll simply consider a) you haven’t thought about it and don’t care to think about it, b) you’re ducking the question because you don’t want to admit that you might actually yes, teach them some sort of maths. Or reading. Or whatever.

    My bet is that what you really mean is “I’ll help my kid if they have a question, but I won’t make them learn anything because that would take away their choices”. It’s a fair thing to want to give your kid options and allow them to pick their own path – but surely we can all agree that teaching a kid to read, write and calculate is necessary for *any* path they take?

    Also, I say more to myself, why do I get the feeling that Sid is so totally of the “pull yourself up by your socks” deparment of thinking that he really just thinks education is a waste of time and that people would be better off learning whatever whenever they need it and with whatever resources they can find that doesn’t cost them anything. (Ie. not a library I guess… that would use taxes. One wonders how anyone will get books… Oh yes, in Sid’s world, no one is poor because free markets took care of that)

  101. #101 Lawrence
    August 10, 2012

    Sid’s vision of the world is no more realistic than the old communist view of the world – both may look good on paper, but in practice, they ignore fundamental aspects of human nature & ultimately fail.

    I mean, Somalia is a libertarian paradise – no government, no one telling you want to do & you can do whatever you like – oh, but that’s always the caveat with Sid, it is okay until someone violates his rights, then it is perfectly fine for the government to get involved – but let’s throw all of the “preventative & regulatory” crap out the window, right?

    I mean, we wouldn’t want to take steps to protect ourselves, we’ll just wait until bad things start to happen, then we’ll deal with it (but not until people have been injured or died, because we wouldn’t want to interfere with the markets now, would we?).

    As for education – we can easily see that a more educated population is a more successful population – advanced degrees lead to higher salaries, more job opportunities, and overall, a society that focuses on education is more successful overall & able to compete in the global marketplace.

    Of course, Sid ignores the fact that the most dynamic economies in the world today, like China & the other South Asian nations, have highly effective and government run/supported educational systems with extremely rigorous standards…..Sid’s goal would be to take us in the opposite direction & basically write off huge swaths of the US population (probably minorities – given his past posts) – which would lead to exactly the situation he doesn’t want – larger numbers of people reliant on the government for support….anyone see the disconnect here?

  102. #102 Gray Falcon
    August 10, 2012

    Denice Walter:

    If kids are exposed to a liberal selection of subjects, there’s more of a chance that they might find inspiration and even, their niche. What if your child wants to be a surgeon, software designer, translator or an architect, do you really think that their studies start suddenly when the enter higher education? Or is it more likely than their experiences in grammar school set the pathway for later work.

    Sid:

    Yes, in your utopia children are put into universal preschool at 2 months of age. So how could parents know anything about those children and their interests.

    Typical Sid behavior. Whenever somebody makes a perfectly reasonable statement, replace it with an entirely ludicrous one.

  103. #103 JGC
    August 10, 2012

    ” I want to live in a free country.”

    You’re going to have to define exactly what you mean by “free country” here, I’m afraid. You can’t possibly be speaking of a nation where no citizen is subject to any restrictions on their behavior whatsoever, nor has any obligations to their fellow citizens whatsoever, beyond what they themselves choose to embrace–can you?

  104. #104 Composer99
    August 10, 2012

    Sid’s desires are inchorent. He appears to be labouring under the illusion (delusion?) that freedom is, well, free. It most certainly isn’t.

    You can’t guarantee the foundations of freedom, respect for rights to person, property, and transaction, without the ability to enforce them (that is, use coercion). Just examine what happens whenever there are breakdowns in social order and of enforcement of basic rights.

    In addition, specifically with regards to the topic of this post, you can’t maintain a free society in a socially and technologically sophisticated world unless a critical mass of the citizenry have a decent ability to communicate effectively, to think critically, and to understand the circumstances they find themselves in. As a foundation of other mathematics, algebra is essential to an informed citizenry. An ill-informed or un-informed (or, like Sid, deliberately ignorant) citizenry is liable to manipulation by demagogues, charlatans, scamsters, and would-be tyrants.

    But because humans tend to be lazy, we can’t assume that people will go out and become well-informed or develop the skills they need to succeed and to become citizens capable of advocating for their rights over and against the ambitions of others (whether as individuals, business or other private organizations, or government agencies).

    Sid thinks he is a libertarian, but IMO the inevitable consequence of adopting his race-to-the-bottom preferences are either anarchy or authoritarianism.

  105. #105 Chemmomo
    Where knowledge is valued
    August 10, 2012

    Sid @ August 9, 11:27 pm
    You’re still missing the point (your response is bolded)

    challenge children to achieve more earlier
    There is a difference between challenge and force and the parents not the government are those who challenge

    Nobody’s talking about forcing children to do anything here. We’re talk about setting educational standards. No one is forced to graduate – if you don’t want to pass algebra, go ahead and drop out. Just don’t expect any school board to grant you a diploma if you haven’t learned the minimum knowledge that diploma represents. And lowering the standards for acquiring that diploma accomplished nothing.
    Then there’s this response of yours (bolded again).

    what do you have against an educated population?
    What do you have against the renunciation of force against innocent people?

    What on earth does that have to do with my question?

  106. #106 Chris
    Neither here nor there...
    August 10, 2012

    Chemmomo:

    Just don’t expect any school board to grant you a diploma if you haven’t learned the minimum knowledge that diploma represents.

    Aw, but Chemmomo, Mr, Schecter is a special little snowflake and doesn’t wanna complete the minimum! He wants to take advantage of the herd immunity, clean water, roads, general police protection and all the other perks of living in a modern society without contributing.

    I would love to see him try living in some of the places I have seen, and especially some that my brother has seen as an employee of the US State Department (where one house overseas came with a distillation apparatus because the tap water was literally full of crap).

  107. #107 Beamup
    August 10, 2012

    @ Composer99:

    I’d assert that Sid is in fact a totalitarian already. He thinks he should get to do anything he wants, but nobody else should be allowed to do anything he doesn’t want them to do.

  108. #108 ArtK
    Shrugging
    August 10, 2012

    @JCG

    You can’t possibly be speaking of a nation where no citizen is subject to any restrictions on their behavior whatsoever, nor has any obligations to their fellow citizens whatsoever, beyond what they themselves choose to embrace–can you?

    That’s almost exactly what Sid is advocating. It comes from a place of “you’re not the boss of meeeeeeeee!” and is made holy by the chant “There are no rights but property rights and Ayn Rand is their prophet.” Yes, it’s naive to the point of childish. I know 5yos who have a better grasp of how the world works.

    @Composer99

    An ill-informed or un-informed (or, like Sid, deliberately ignorant) citizenry is liable to manipulation by demagogues, charlatans, scamsters, and would-be tyrants.

    But they’re freeeeeeee! and that’s all that matters. If they get manipulated then that’s their problem. Again, the naivete comes through in the idea that Sid thinks he can insulate himself in every way from the consequences of that. Reminds me of another troll here at RI who seems to think that avoiding illness is as simple as “don’t get infected.”

  109. #109 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    August 10, 2012

    Beamup: I’d assert that Sid is in fact a totalitarian already. He thinks he should get to do anything he wants, but nobody else should be allowed to do anything he doesn’t want them to do.

    No-no-no-no-noooooo! That’s not a totalitarian…. that is a pillock!

  110. #110 herr doktor bimler
    August 10, 2012

    If kids are exposed to a liberal selection of subjects

    DW used the L word!!!

  111. #111 Denice Walter
    August 10, 2012

    @ herr doktor bimler:

    I actually said it twice! Why not? Say it loud, I’m L and proud! ( not *that* L- although where would ladies tennis and feminism be without them? and I am eternally grateful to them) I think Sid is reaching out to us because he realises that we’re fun. I am expecting a response, which I was promised.

    -btw-
    While a person’s appearance is totally irrelevant to the quality of their argument- someone has to say it, so I will.
    David is good-looking ( and believe me , I know men). More importantly, he’s smart and can swear better than anyone @ RI ( and that’s quite an accomplishment!)
    Not exactly the right person with whom to pick a fight, if you ask me.

  112. #112 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 10, 2012

    Gosh, Sid, I certainly don’t know what I did to inspire that little tirade. Your syllogism would be enlightening if the premises weren’t patently false.

  113. #113 Sid Offit
    August 10, 2012

    @Lawrence
    The Somalia thing is nothing more than a silly leftist talking point. Who would be so foolish to believe the destruction of a government would somehow lead spontaneously to a libertarian society – especially when those in that society likely have no concept of the word. Besides, rightly or wrongly, the majority of libertarians see police, courts and the military a legitimate government functions.

    China is prospering because it is moving away from statism. It risks its gains by an infatuation with central planning
    —————-
    @Flip
    I’m all for education. Sometimes people don’t want to be educated. Sometimes the subject is of little use. And sometimes a person is not cut out for a certain path. And learning can occur should one become interested later in life. So do I feel kids MUST learn algebra at a certain time in a certain way? No
    ——————–
    @Shay

    and screw everybody else.

    How do I screw everyone else by asking to be left alone???
    ——————————
    @Chemmomo
    Are you familiar with compulsory education laws?
    ————————–
    @Flip

    No seriously Sid: let’s say you’re homeschooling your children. What subjects would you consider absolutely necessary for their education?

    Reading and basic math would be the two I’d be most concerned about and they can be taught quite easily and while parental leverage makes their teaching rather easy. I spent many years teaching my daughter Spanish and German as well. She understands both but would never speak them. By middle school it became obvious she had no interest of her own. Additionally teens cannot be influenced as can toddlers. Besides what was I going to do , move in with her when she got married to speak Spanish to her? We also did piano for a number of years but the same problem presented itself. You can take a horse to water but you can’t make them drink
    ———————
    @JGC

    No positive obligations

    Jefferson sums up my views on what freedom is:

    Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others…
    ——————
    @composer

    You can’t guarantee the foundations of freedom, respect for rights to person, property, and transaction, without the ability to enforce them (that is, use coercion).

    You use coercion against those who violate the rights of others, not the innocent

    People are not inherently lazy
    ————————
    @Denice Walter

    And what does *force* mean?

    The initiation or threat of violence against innocent persons.

    Did you *force* your daughter to speak English, use a fork or wear clothes?

    From what I understand, language is hardwired into the brain and develops when a child hears it spoken – no force needed.

    When a child eats and is exposed to a fork it learns to use the fork – no force needed

    I never needed force to get clothes or diapers on. We can discuss specific examples and parenting strategies next time.

    ——————————

    @Chris
    He wants to take advantage of the herd immunity, clean water, roads, general police protection and all the other perks of living in a modern society without contributing.

    He wants to take advantage of the herd immunity, clean water, roads, general police protection and all the other perks of living in a modern society without contributing.

    Water and roads can and should exist without the government – then people could pay willingly. I have less of a problem paying taxes for these programs because everyone can use them. Getting away from the state will take time and the aforementioned expenditures would be some of the last to go. As for the police, they probably violate as many rights as they protect: see the war on drugs. Those functions could be cut back dramatically and could be paid for either voluntarily or through some type of fee for use. what about the poor you say. They’re the most victimized and least protected under the current system

    I would love to see him try living in some of the places I have seen, and especially some that my brother has seen as an employee of the US State Department (where one house overseas came with a distillation apparatus because the tap water was literally full of crap).

    What you’re describing sound like a society with heavy government control
    ————————–
    Beamup

    I’d assert that Sid is in fact a totalitarian already. He thinks he should get to do anything he wants, but nobody else should be allowed to do anything he doesn’t want them to do.

    See Jefferson for who can do what to whom
    ———————–
    ArtK

    I know 5yos who have a better grasp of how the world works.

    I’d rather be a five year old than insane. What is the definition of insane? Doing same thing over and expecting a different result. Statism always fails yet your side wants more of it. Failed stimulus? Let’s do a bigger one. Green job failure? Let’s pour more money into it. See Spain for a country that learned about “green jobs” the hard way.

    Hope that answers everyone questions. I won’t be responding to this thread any longer since I’ll be leaving for San Francisco tomorrow. We’ll have to pick up any further questions on new threads when I return.

  114. #114 Narad
    August 10, 2012

    I actually said it twice! Why not? Say it loud, I’m L and proud!

    In other news, something something nice kwashiorkor, Jello something something Phil Ochs.

    Oh, and I hope Sid hasn’t actually managed to italicize the thread.

  115. #115 Sid Offit
    August 10, 2012

    Mephistopheles O’Brien

    Sorry. These threads get overly vitriolic at times.

  116. #116 dedicated lurker
    August 10, 2012

    Why should water, roads, and fire departments exist without the government, but police and military should not?

  117. #117 Narad
    August 10, 2012

    I’d rather be a five year old than insane.

    Given this, you strangely enough seem to have crafted a self that includes strong elements of both.

    What is the definition of insane? Doing same thing over and expecting a different result.

    Why, no, it’s not. And attempting to argue by aphorism is just plain sad.

  118. #118 herr doktor bimler
    August 10, 2012

    especially when those in that society likely have no concept of the word.

    Are we to understand that a functioning Libertarian society relies on its members being sufficiently educated to have a concept of the word “Libertarian”?

    A less charitable interpretation would be that the Somalians have failed to seize the opportunities offered by having a minimalist government because they have the wrong skin colour.

  119. #119 Denice Walter
    August 10, 2012

    Sid manages to catch precisely half of my drift: parents guide children towards language and social customs ( forks and clothes) rather than by using force so that they will be able to navigate and fit into their own milieu…… but he leaves out what I hinted: that it is rather negligent to not manoeuvre them towards BASIC skills that they will need in order to function in the same social milieu- if you can’t read well and haven’t reasonable numerical skills, you won’t get too far and have few choices. I don’t know about his experiences but no one ever forced me to learn anything.

    @ Narad:
    About that definition of “insane” ( -btw- isn’t that legalese?)
    Ugh!

  120. #120 dedicated lurker
    August 10, 2012

    How do I screw everyone else by asking to be left alone???

    Unless you live on an island by yourself, grow all your own food, provide your own electrical power, and never leave, you aren’t asking to be left alone. You’re not alone now, and won’t ever be.

  121. #121 Chemmomo
    Still where knowledge is valued
    August 10, 2012

    Sid @ August 10, 9:54 pm

    @Chemmomo
    Are you familiar with compulsory education laws?

    Sid, you’re still avoiding the question (and I’m going to paraphrase because I’m combining both issues):
    what is your problem with an educated population, or having educational standards that may challenge some students?

    I honestly just don’t understand your objections.

  122. #122 alison
    still climbing walls & nearly at the ceiling
    August 10, 2012

    Another reason why algebra is useful – the coming zombie apocalypse! http://cdn.iwastesomuchtime.com/892012145214892012031479.jpeg

  123. #123 Narad
    August 11, 2012

    ( -btw- isn’t that legalese?)

    As an archaism. Would that some of the reformist mental-health codes of the late 1970s still meant something.

  124. #124 Chris
    Neither here nor there...
    August 11, 2012

    Mr. Schecter:

    What you’re describing sound like a society with heavy government control

    And you are very very wrong. But from you, that is to be expected. It is also a country where about 40% of the population is illiterate. You’d like it.

  125. #125 herr doktor bimler
    August 11, 2012

    BASIC skills that they will need in order to function in the same social milieu

    DW is way behind the times. At the very least you should be teaching children Pascal, or Python, or some other decent structured language.

  126. #126 flip
    August 11, 2012

    @Sid

    “Reading and basic math would be the two I’d be most concerned about and they can be taught quite easily and while parental leverage makes their teaching rather easy.”

    Wow, you actually answered my question. Thank you.

    Ok, so what do you consider basic math?

    And why would you “force” your kids to read and learn math but have issues with a public/private school system that does the same? What reading and writing is only necessary for your special snowflake?

    Why do I get the feeling it’s all about not liking the government telling you what to do, and has nothing at all to do with actual educational standards and improved mobility for people?

    (Anecdotally, I hated my parents for trying to introduce me to ballet. I loved doing certain subjects and they removed me – against my protestations – from those classes in order to try new things. I understand why now, but I still wish they’d left me be. However, I am always grateful to them for pushing me to do better in the classes that mattered more, such as maths. I fully understand and agree with the idea that preferences should be taken into account for *some things*)

    “When a child eats and is exposed to a fork it learns to use the fork – no force needed”

    How does one learn maths? It’s certainly not something you can easily learn from exposure. By the way, many people have difficulty using chopsticks, even after being ‘exposed’ to them.

    “Those functions could be cut back dramatically and could be paid for either voluntarily or through some type of fee for use. what about the poor you say. ”

    I love how you seem to believe that all people everywhere can afford to, or would, pay for these things. That selfishness or simple inability to raise more money than just buying food and having housing seems to suddenly disappear under your worldview. If only we could put you in the business of writing laws, Sid, for I suspect your magical wand that makes all problems go away would quite possibly save the world. I can see the headlines now…

    “What you’re describing sound like a society with heavy government control”

    Bwahahahaha…. way to prove my point.

    Learning history is evidently not a requirement in Sid’s world either.

    See he starts out perfectly reasonable, and then goes off the boil somewhere between an idea and the application of it.

  127. #127 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    August 11, 2012

    DW: “While a person’s appearance is totally irrelevant to the quality of their argument- someone has to say it, so I will.
    David is good-looking ( and believe me , I know men). More importantly, he’s smart and can swear better than anyone @ RI ( and that’s quite an accomplishment!)
    Not exactly the right person with whom to pick a fight, if you ask me.”

    Wow … *blushes* thank you, thank you and thank you …. and … thank you xx

  128. #128 Denice Walter
    August 11, 2012

    Flip says: “… it’s all about not liking the government telling you what to do…”
    I think you got it!
    I notice something interesting in libertarian speech that resembles research in attributions of causation:
    people might attribute success ( and failure) to a variety of causes- internal/ external, controllable/ or not- when you attribute a person’s ( or a social groups’) economic and/ or
    occupational success ( or lack of it) PURELY to that person’s ( group’s) *actions* or some ingrained ‘goodness’ or ‘talent’ – you’ll have a very skewed vision of the world. *Tres* Rand. Very young children often say ( social cognition research) that people are poor because they’re “bad” and rich because they’re “good”. As kids get older, they begin to take account of other factors like effort, difficulty of the task and blind luck- even prejudice and stigma ( of course, I’m really getting this down to basics- tons of research there) and consider results to be based on multiple factors: in other words, which I nicked off my prof- they get “more liberal”. Not everyone, apparently.

    Despite my liberalism and artsy, atheistic internationalist attitude, I am desended from / related to *business people*- loads of them, I know details of businesses ( in 2 countries ) from about 1880- 1890 and tales about earlier ancestors- some of them hilarious- I could write a book.

    -btw- I am watching Olympic men’s hockey: AUS/ GBR- 2/1..

    Libertarians despise considering external factors – especially ‘governments’ that assist a person- because you can’t say you’re a success solely based on your own effort, will and amazing talent ( which is ego-enhancing) if your government/ other people provided great schools, outreach to bright kids, encouragement/ goading et al,

    @ herr doktor bimler:
    I am timeless.
    Languages/ technology like those you mention are why schools are necessary: most parents would be lost.

  129. #129 Denice Walter
    August 11, 2012

    @ David N. Andrews, M.Ed., C.S.P.E.:

    Well,it’s true.
    And I have been recently watching various sports where nice-looking, toned young men run around in short pants.
    LIke hockey- current score Tanned/ Not So Tan: 3-1.

    Seriously, I could have children that age, Scarey thought.

  130. #130 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 11, 2012

    Sid – thanks for the apology.

  131. #131 flip
    August 11, 2012

    @Denice

    I agree – and also think a lot of it is down to pride. Of course, Sid makes the mistake in assuming that people actually *want* to be on unemployment, or be reliant on the government to pay for health services. However, we’ve discovered as a society that pride doesn’t pay the bills and it’s comforting/relieving when your neighbours pitch in.

  132. #132 JGC
    August 13, 2012

    “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others”

    In other words the system currently in place, n’cest pas?

    Or do you have some strange idea that without an enforcement mechanism–i.e., without the reasonable expectation that restrictions upon one’s actions which preventing the infringing of the equal rights of others will be enforced– people will uniformly elect to voluntarily limit acting on their own interests and act instead in the interest of the greater community?

  133. #133 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    August 15, 2012

    flip: Sid makes the mistake in assuming that people actually *want* to be on unemployment, or be reliant on the government to pay for health services.

    I have no problem with governments footing the bill for social and health services, because these can be paid for out of revenue raised in taxation. I’m going to offer Finland as an example of how it shouldn’t be done:

    1- you pay for health and social services via local and national taxation;

    2- you then pay for health care via a yearly charge on top of the part of your tax that goes towards this facility.

    Finland likes to make itself out to be a model state. It is anything and everything but that.

    The assumption that Offalgit makes in assuming that everyone on unemployment wants to be on unemployment is… well, bloody offensive.

  134. #134 flip
    August 16, 2012

    @David

    I also am in agreement for having social security/universal health care. In my case – Australia – the model is good. Taxation pays for these services. If you want private coverage for health care, you can, but it’s not done through taxes but a yearly charge. You also get a payment back via taxes or subsidisation of any private health care you purchase.

    I have no problems with that. Having experienced both public and private hospitals, I’m glad I have both choices. Service had been good at both, but as we know… it’s not the customer service that counts but the medical skill and expertise.

    As for Sid… well, who know what his problem is.

  135. #135 Composer99
    August 16, 2012

    Topically, this post over at Sharon Astyk’s blog documents her ancestors’ (and their communities’) making sacrifices to be educated (including learning – gasp! – algebra) in mid- to late-19th-century New England.

  136. #136 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    August 16, 2012

    flip: As for Sid… well, who know what his problem is.

    I do. He’s a prick.

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