Two Cultures Round-Up

Because I am a Bad Person who thinks and types relatively slowly, I have been lax about following up to the many excellent posts that have been written in response to this weekend’s two cultures posts. Let me attempt to address that in a small way by linking a whole bunch of them now:

My rant was actually anticipated by this post at “It’s The Thought That Counts,”, which was pointed out to me in comments.

Janet had the first direct response, with a later follow-up speculating about the reasons for the divide. As I said in one of my own comment threads, I think a lot of it has to do with academic politics: in my experience, scientists are less likely to take an interest in curricular matters, and thus the distribution/ general education requirements get written in a way that gives more emphasis to the humanities. This is a tricky area to write about in detail, though.

Razib provides examples of some of the things that upset people on both sides.

John Wilkins offers a defense of post-modernism, sort of. He’s got loads of links and examples, including two of the stupidest things I’ve ever read about physics (thankfully, he’s not citing them positively).

Tom says “Me, Too!”.

And, finally, I might be reading too much into this, but today’s Ph.D. Comic almost seems like an oblique comment on the same issues.

So, there you go. I’m sure I missed some– Technorati has been flaky as hell of late. If you wrote something brilliant on the subject and I didn’t link it, it’s just an oversight. Leave a link in the comments.

Comments

  1. #1 Bob O'H
    July 29, 2008

    I posted about this too, asking what we, as scientists, gain from a knowledge of the humanities.

  2. #2 Uncle Al
    July 29, 2008

    Public education worked from 1836 and McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer to ~1970. It manufactured productive functional citizenry from despicable immigrants’ children with meager resources and few paradigms. High school dropout rate was ~35%, largely shunted into manual arts and trades.

    American zero-goal education 1970 through yesterday is a $100+ billion/year atrocity. The high school dropout rate is ~50% and essentially none of it is salvaged. “Heteronormatism problematizes homosocial othering.” As Adam Savage of Mythbusters is oft want to say,

    “There’s your problem.”

    21st century public education is about process not product. It abundantly achieves its goals.

  3. #3 Jonathan Vos Post
    July 29, 2008

    I’ve taught remedial Math in corporations, college, University, middle schools, and high schools. It is far beyond mere scandal. The bankruptcy of the public school system in the USA system is being covered up, and at last the cover-up is disintegrating.

    ===========

    College remedial courses costing the state billions

    By Caroline An, Staff Writer
    Article Launched: 07/27/2008 10:13:29 PM PDT
    http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_10016305

    Remedial education classes for students enrolling in the state’s two-year and four-year public colleges and universities are costing California as much as $14 billion annually, according to a report released by the Pacific Research Institute.

    That figure was reached after authors of the report estimated several costs, including the $274 million the colleges spend providing remedial instruction.

    Institute researchers also factored in other costs it associated with inadequate preparation for college, including the $107 million to $447 million spent on job-training once a student finds employment.

    Local college officials said the report confirms that students need a stronger foundation in math and English.

    During the past two years, Pasadena City College has increased its offerings of “basic skills” math and English courses, said Juan Gutierrez, PCC spokesman.

    Incoming freshmen take assessment tests, which determine whether they need remedial classes and in what areas, he said.

    In the 2006-07 school year, the college offered 251 basic skills classes. This past school year, 256 basic skills classes were offered.

    The increase in remedial classes means more faculty have to be hired for the 30,000-student college, Gutierrez said.

    “When we see there is a need, we start shifting resources to fill it. It is part of our mission, in that we are an open college, so we provide the basic skills courses,” he said.

    Preparing students for college-level classes extends beyond students passing remedial courses. Many colleges have to offer tutoring and peer mentoring services and other resources to students, local college officials say.

    The two-year colleges receive funding through the Basic Skills Initiative, which provides money so that the colleges can provide remedial classes to under-prepared students.

    In the 2007-08 school year, the colleges shared $33 million in Basic Skills Initiative funds. For this coming school year, the colleges have requested $85 million, based on the growing need for remedial classes.

    In the proposed 2008-09 state budget, however, the initiative is slated to receive just over $29 million.

    Paul Parnell, vice president for academic affairs at Rio Hondo Community College, said the number of pre-collegiate and basic skills courses the college offers has decreased slightly, down to 176 math and English courses during the 2006-07 school year. During the 2004-05 school year, it offered 183 such courses.

    Parnell said college officials meet regularly with their K-12 school counterparts to discuss ways to better prepare students.

    Parnell said that the state’s high school dropout rate of 24percent shows that K-12 schools have many challenges to overcome.

    “These students need to go somewhere, and they usually come to us,” he said.

    Among the Pacific Research Institute’s recommendations, its report suggests the state begin testing students earlier – before the 11th grade – to measure whether they are on track for college.

    caroline.an@sgvn.com

    (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4494

  4. #4 Excited State
    July 31, 2008

    I’m a little late to the party, but I have a post on the subject at http://excitedstate.wordpress.com (also linked through my name above)

    Thanks for helping kick off this discussion. It’s been illuminating to hear what everyone else thinks about this topic, and to get my own thoughts down in a somewhat coherent manner.

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