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Essential Science Courses?


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So I was talking to a chemistry teacher at our high school yesterday and he expressed his belief that high school teaches a lot of the wrong things. For example, he asked "how many people are actually going to need calculus in the real world?" (Engineers don't count because they can learn it in college instead when they specialize.)

 

This brings up an interesting point. School has always seemed to be about cramming as much knowledge as possible down students' throats. While I think it's good for students to know math and science and English and history and so on, school has evolved from "let them know some math" to "let them know advanced calculus very well". The question: does this serve students well?

 

I'm inclined to favor teaching everything possible, simply because I'm a nerd, but it leaves me wondering: do we really need to be teaching detailed world history and physics, or should high school focus more on "what you need to know in the real world"?

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The problem is that there are new information being discovered each day. If the rate of school learning were to remain constant, you might not have enough time to learn the such information by the time you finish college. At least, that's true in some of the sciences.

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When do you start teaching them these things they will only need for specific carreers?

 

In the UK the education system is getting easier, and universities are finding it harder and harder to teach people everything they need to know, here for example the first semester is basically a catch up course, and what used to be a single semester maths course now covers two semesters because it has to teach what was previously thought of as the basics...

 

Also, you have the issue that if people do not know what is involved in certain courses, they can't really choose to do them, how do you know whether you'll be a good engineer or not if all the maths you've done is algebra?

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So I was talking to a chemistry teacher at our high school yesterday and he expressed his belief that high school teaches a lot of the wrong things. For example, he asked "how many people are actually going to need calculus in the real world?" (Engineers don't count because they can learn it in college instead when they specialize.)

 

 

when you're AT school, you don't usually know what you're gonna need to know later on in life. Anyway, calculus can easily be applied in every day situations if you try.

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Regardless if you decide to choose a career that involves 'calculus'; i've always though it beneficial just to go through learning something because you 'can'.

 

What use is history to the majority of the students? Geography? Compulsory language courses?

 

We forget most of the stuff we learn in school that we don't complement with follow-up courses, but the process of learning certain things makes us more capable people, and trains our brains.

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Learning math provides a tailor-made environment to learn and practice problem solving. Math is a perfect environment because the tools are well defined, and until you get to some very high level math, there are only right and wrong answers, and every well-defined problem has an answer. Read-world problems are rarely so perfect, but the skills developed in solving problems in a good practice environment still translate.

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What high school did you go to that everyone learned advanced calculus very well?

Over 100 students in our graduating class of 500 have taken AP Calculus. They actually had to cut down the classes because there were too many people signed up to take it.

 

I agree with Bignose somewhat on this; I think that most people's assessment of "where will I use this skill?" is rather narrow-minded and ignores dozens of everyday possibilities. I use my math skills in unlikely places, certainly.

 

But I think this view is also too idealistic -- a lot of mathematics is learned by students as "this is how I solve this kind of problem" rather than "this is a method I can use to solve all sorts of interesting problems." That's a fundamental flaw that's common everywhere in education.

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