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August 19, 2003
And a mastery of differential calculus will turn you into Hitler

Follow the rumour from her, to him, to this:

I'm sick of all this whining following good A-level results about what second-rate subjects students choose. What did the older generation learn with their supposedly breathtaking mastery of long division etc? They learnt to attack and exploit the poor all over the world, abandon the vulnerable of their own society, and generally not give a damn about anything apart from the statistics of "progress".

Maybe with our more humanities-based curriculum, with its emphasis on finding something for everyone, we might learn that numbers are to serve people, and not the other way around.

Says Peter Briffa:

There's one for the root causes brigade: long division turns you into a rampaging capitalist.

If only it were that easy.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:20 PM
Category: Education theory

The complaint goes back to Neal Postman and beyond, of course. (Grizzled grumble: "The trouble with today's youth is they don't even know the history of the New Left...")

But.. There is truth in it, you know. Numeracy and practice in logical thought do undermine one's faith in all the emotionally plausible miseration of the soi-disant humanitarians.

There seems to besome unecessary pessimism about the capacity people have to learn and think. Why not learn long-division and history, logic and heuristic, as well as "finding something for everyone"? (If finding something for everyone is your bag.) Or would that lead to the danger of independent thinking that reaches the wrong conclusions?

Comment by: Guy Herbert on August 20, 2003 08:48 AM

Well I taught myself the integral and differential calculus with the aid of a small book by Ramsey and Kleppner. This experience didn’t turn me into a very modern major general. Far from it.

Whiners about A levels being as good, if not better, than they used to be, will soon find that the math they need at university, and in the professions of science, is hard! Harder as they have not done the work at school. Or am I being politically incorrect here? Damn! I didn’t mean to offend the A level humanitarians. Many will find that they need books by authors like Jenny Olive, who actually know how to write math textbooks, to repair the damage of a moiety of a donkey’s arse of an education at most state schools.

As for attacking the poor you don’t need an education for that, merely a good grounding in applied Marxism.

Comment by: Howard Gray on August 20, 2003 11:50 PM

"This experience didn't turn me into a very modern major general."

Perhaps not. But surely it must have turned you into the very model of one?

Comment by: Andy Wood on August 21, 2003 12:16 PM

“But. There is truth in it, you know. Numeracy and practice in logical thought do undermine one's faith in all the emotionally plausible miseration of the soi-disant humanitarians..” Brilliantly put by Guy Herbert.

Andy Wood just might be clever.

There is something for everyone in making the world a better place, logic helps in that regard and so does a little math.

Comment by: Howard Gray on September 1, 2003 04:57 PM

"Andy Wood just might be clever."

I'm not sure what you intend to mean by that, but I'll take it as a compliment.

And in case you're wondering, I too taught myself integral and differential calculus, and barely a day goes by when I don't make use of it.

PS Brian, I still can't put HTML commands in my comments.

Comment by: Andy Wood on September 1, 2003 10:27 PM
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