[September 24, 2023] Fifteen years ago, when I lived in Brooklyn, New York, I was affiliated with one of their colleges near my home. I often talked with counselors who worked with incoming Freshmen to improve their math and reading skills. The college math professors told us that about half the students couldn’t do even High School math. Today, it is much worse.
We are now in a post-COVID world, where most incoming college students have had little or no education for the past three years, and it shows. In math, it shows how far basic skills have deteriorated to the point of embarrassment. These students cannot subtract a positive number from a negative number.
“We’re talking about college-level pre-calculus and calculus classes, and students cannot even add one-half and one-third.” – Maria Emelianenko, George Mason University, Mathematics Chair
Of course, if we look at math (and reading) scores before COVID-19, we see a failure trend before the pandemic. We need to stop using COVID as an excuse. There is a bigger problem, and it’s not just the kids; it’s the teachers and their unions. The priority in schools today has nothing to do with the kids.
A little story from my college experience. While working on an advanced college degree, I taught an introductory algebra class with mostly Freshmen around 1980. My tests were often word problems. One student approached me to admit he could not read and asked if he could take a different test. And this was 43 years ago. The problem goes back a long way. By the way, the student failed and didn’t get special privileges.
Here is the problem today in a nutshell. We are dumbing down schools so that everyone can pass. This means no one can excel. Meritocracy is seen as a racist concept, and most teachers don’t want to be called a racist and fired. And here is the result. Dumb kids that can’t subtract.
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