How dropping maths as a compulsory subject will harm SA

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brianvds (July 12, 2017, 09:09:39 AM):
If I had the money I would drop several hundred computers with internet connections into schools. Block all social media, torrenting sites, some of the more lurid fake news and sensationalist sites - and youtube - and force them to surf every day for a minimum of 2 hours.

Not a bad idea. Of course, some kids would quickly find ways round the blocks, but that's also a good thing: they'll learn something in the process. :-)

Some kinds of social media would actually also be a good thing. It could potentially greatly broaden a township kid's horizons if he could get chatting with people from all over the world, especially if the site is text-based, i.e. he has to type his messages.

One could also prescribe specific YouTube videos, either because a video is a good documentary, or because it is a bad one to be used in a discussion on critical thinking.

But then, I suspect critical thinking is at least partly a genetic thing which cannot be taught.
Spike (July 12, 2017, 17:58:33 PM):
There are numerous ways to socialise with peers on the internet other than social media, and anyway, if they want social media, Facebook provides free no-data access. If they need more, they can use the internet to learn skills to earn money to pay for tools to access more.

youtube can be very useful, I use it for work, but I know how easy it is to fall into the bottomless pit ... you start with 'how to tie a knot' and before you know it, it's 8 hours later and you've watched car accidents, funny animals, Judge Judy, opening a fridge without a key, how to take out the back seat of a Huyndai Getz, how to attach outriggers to a canoe, canning meat, the Knysna fire, making a belt from parachute cord, new tiny house designs, how to dye clothes with beetroot ....

They can always earn extra privileges by turning in new projects.

As If. Sigh.
brianvds (July 13, 2017, 06:01:48 AM):
There are numerous ways to socialise with peers on the internet other than social media, and anyway, if they want social media, Facebook provides free no-data access. If they need more, they can use the internet to learn skills to earn money to pay for tools to access more.

They could of course always join SA Skeptics online. :-)

Quote
youtube can be very useful, I use it for work, but I know how easy it is to fall into the bottomless pit ... you start with 'how to tie a knot' and before you know it, it's 8 hours later and you've watched car accidents, funny animals, Judge Judy, opening a fridge without a key, how to take out the back seat of a Huyndai Getz, how to attach outriggers to a canoe, canning meat, the Knysna fire, making a belt from parachute cord, new tiny house designs, how to dye clothes with beetroot ....

YouTube is the new TV, except it's more addictive. It is probably a good thing I have a cap on my internet data.

As you point out, none of this will actually happen. Incidentally, what happened to that hare-brained scheme to provide every pupil (yes, pupil, not learner. Pupil.) with a tablet? And have any schools been burned down yet because they couldn't deliver on the promise?
Spike (July 13, 2017, 08:01:05 AM):
I must have missed that promise (of many) - who? what? where?
Mefiante (July 13, 2017, 12:09:17 PM):
My own take on the matric-without-maths issue is that it would constitute an abysmal systemic failure of conscientious governance to remove mathematics from the list of compulsory subjects. I doubt any of the forum regulars will be especially surprised by my stance since my bias in this context is well known to them—or should be by now. However, my reasoning may hold a few surprises.

The insidious creep of accepting, promoting even, educational poverty is not new in SA, and it’s high time that it was arrested. Back in the good ol’ bad ol’ days, the Nats already had miseducation tempered to a fine art with their selective treatment of subject matter and content, aided by tendentious didactics. You don’t need to experience much of social media to see that, pretty much regardless of age group, SAns for the most part fall short on knowledge and education in many areas, including the very basics (the three R’s), often direly so. (MyNews24 paints a grim portrait, and those contributors are the better-educated people.) Mathematics education has already been significantly downgraded by introduction several years ago of that mortifying foolishness called “mathematical literacy” that fails even in upholding an utterly wretched pretence. The abject descent into outcomes-based education, especially in mathematics where rigour and precision are paramount, represents a similarly inane folly.

Mathematics is not just an essential pillar upon which much of progress in science, economics, politics and technology rests. There’s hardly a human endeavour where it doesn’t show its face, even if only in a cameo role. More broadly, it encompasses a formal way of thinking about and analysing real-world concepts, circumstances, situations and problems. It would be incomparably stupid to deny the intrinsic value of the subject. It’s a language, albeit an extraordinary one, that facilitates abstraction, examination and investigation, and as such it is a prerequisite for success in the modern age. And all human interactions are founded on language of some kind, which is why basic education universally makes at least one language compulsory.

But people typically are too much attached to their habitual fuzzy thinking, their intuitions and their gut reactions, and so they don’t want to bother. “Why must I study this? I’ll never use it again once I have the job I want,” one hears far too often. Maybe they won’t be solving quadratics or doing geometrical proofs but the meta-education these exercises contain, viz. a principled way of approaching and solving a problem, are of virtually universal application. And that would be the real harm in the mooted removal of mathematics: Being okay with sloppy and lazy thinking prevailing in ever-increasing spheres of endeavour. The overwhelming majority of countries have compulsory basic mathematics education for reasons other than being able to boast calculus-savvy sportsmen, musicians, lawyers and actors.

And, moreover, the anti-maths ethic in SA is a self-sustaining national tragedy that doesn’t seem to attract even a tiny fraction of the attention and remedial treatment it should merit. What’s worse, it’s being boosted by officialdom’s consideration of this latest proposal. The connection between adequate basic education and national success is not hard to see, yet it seems to escape the leaky cognition of the powers-that-be, likely because they themselves are the victims of subpar mathematics education.

Finally, and on a slightly more personal note, there’s a general view that mathematically inclined and talented individuals are by their nature not creative. The implied-but-unstated corollary is that forcing children to learn mathematics impedes their creativity. Aside from the fact that creativity in and of itself is not automatically a laudable trait and needs to be focussed, the claim of unimaginativeness doesn’t withstand scrutiny in two respects. First, it misrepresents what mathematics is all about by suggesting that it is entirely mechanical and devoid of inventiveness, whereas its strict methodical discipline is merely a reflection of the framework within which innovation can occur. Second, it’s my not-so-humble-in-this-particular-instance opinion that mathematicians who work at the frontiers of the subject are head and shoulders the most creative individuals humanity produces because they innovate with marvellous ingenuity at a level of abstraction and within strictures that not even music can rival, developing new ways of reformulating and recombining old ideas, and seeding new ones.

In short, this proposal must not be allowed to succeed because the resultant long-term harm will soon far exceed the discomfort of having many pupils fail the subject. Children must be exposed to the subject for a significant part of their basic education, even if they consistently fail and progress through school only on maturity-based criteria. If nothing else, they’ll learn much more about their own limitations and aspirations that way.

'Luthon64

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