Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

Game_boy
Posts: 1314
Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 7:33 pm UTC

Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Game_boy » Sun Oct 12, 2008 4:58 pm UTC

This is UK-centric, but I'm sure Americans can identify with this.

A recent trend in our GCSE (age 16) and A-level (age 17-18) courses has been towards 'soft' subjects (see below). To me, this is worrying, since the number taking these things is far more than our economy requires or could support and I feel that people are neglecting the sciences and purer arts.

Our exam boards, who write courses, have added and promoted courses like:

When looking at my rough figures, know that we get two options at GCSE plus compulsory RE, Maths, English, Science, and a language and four options at A-level with compulsory General Studies only.

- Psychology (about 30% of my GCSE year took this - but our country doesn't have 1 in 4 people employed as psychologists and I don't see these skills being very transferable)
- Sociology
- Leisure Studies
- Sport Studies (20% took it at GCSE and then A-level - because they thought it was going to be Football. Note: This isn't PE.)
- Media Studies (20%)
- Business Studies (again, I'd say 30% took it)
- Child Development
- Critical Thinking and General Studies A-levels (most universities don't accept them because they are compulsory courses and act asfallback grades for people that failed 'real' subjects)
- Health and Social Care (It's "worth" 2 GCSEs. That's why people took it.)
- Public Services (GCSE. It consists of copying out of the textbook for only 5 minutes per hour's lesson for a year and doing nothing for the other 55 minutes. The actual jobs it is meant to train you for do not accept it. But it's "worth" 4 GCSEs)
- Applied Science (i.e. Science for people who wouldn't get a E if they really took Science.)
- RE (Compulsory GCSE - List six memorised Bible quotes per answer and get 100%. That's what I did, anyway.)

This has been accompanied by a decline in those taking the sciences, maths and pure arts/humanities like English, Geography, History and modern languages like French. People are avoiding the subjects which could give them a career in favour of an easy time.

I have just started A-level. I took Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths. The numbers in each of these subjects were very low to start with compared to the number of jobs that need these skills - and then in five weeks, we have had half of our Chemistry class, two thirds of our Further Maths class and a third of my Maths class quit - and almost all of them transferred to Psychology, Business Studies or Leisure. My school is a good school - some of the best results in the country. If you want a bad school, then know that several other high schools near us don't even offer Science A-levels.

What do you think the consequences will be, and is it neccessary to reverse this trend?
The Reaper wrote:Evolution is a really really really long run-on sentence.

User avatar
Kabann
Posts: 270
Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2007 8:33 am UTC
Location: 30.5254XX / -97.8344XX

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kabann » Sun Oct 12, 2008 5:18 pm UTC

I don't think the trend is all that disturbing, when taken in a certain context. Not that I know all that much about how UK schools compare to US schools, but...

When you consider that not every student at that level is headed for a University, some of the 'softer' subjects could actually be useful. Child Development, Business studies, etc. might give people a little bit of background knowledge that would help in a day-to-day life. I know the US educational system (in some states, anyway) has been criticized in many ways for trivializing such subjects... as a result, a horrifying number of adults cannot do simple things like 'balance the checkbook' or 'fill out a form'. So there's something to be said for offering non-intensive classes that help with real life for the non-college-bound.

I don't think the situation is all that worrying, if you think of it in those terms. Yes, I'm a real fan of teaching 'pure arts and sciences,' but a lot of that could be held off until the university level, where most people are there purely to gain knowledge applicable to a career. On the high school level, just teaching people how to not be stupid isn't really a bad thing.

Now, if they started taking away the sciences and intensive arts, in favor of more required 'don't drop a baby' and 'ooh, rain makes rainbows' courses... that's when it's time to panic.
My goal in life is to have money, power, fame, wisdom, and love.
So far, I've got a sense of humor.
It's a good start.

User avatar
Sungura
When life gives you banananas, make bananana bread
Posts: 3918
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:32 am UTC
Location: AL

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Sungura » Sun Oct 12, 2008 5:19 pm UTC

Yup this happens in America too. I like to call said "soft" classes (based on the level) either "basketweaving" or "underwater basketweaving" (obviously, doing it underwater is harder). People would rather take a blow-off class (at my high school, these was art, film, shop, creative writing, and sociology) than something like Physics, much less an AP class of any kind (AP = Advanced Placement for those who don't know...taught in high school at the end of the course you take an exam, depending on your score and the college you go to, they give you credit for it). Heck, my high school only required you get through geometry to graduate. Oh, and geometry was the "normal" freshman math (here, for 9th-12th grade it goes geo > advanced algerbra > functions/stats/trig > precalc). A lot of kids graduated barely knowing how to factor, the quadratic equation, etc. much less solve something like 3x + 4 = 6 even though that should have been learned in middle school. And I went to high school that was "highly ranked" too.

As to if the trend should be reversed and how, I don't know. It seems to just show more of a trend towards lazyness I think. But, we do need people in these "lesser" fields so I don't think you can say studying such things are bad, either. My friend who didn't even go to college is making more working at a day care than I made working in a lab doing research, so there you go. If it's a money thing, maybe not taking courses in "higher" fields is actually a good thing, as I know plenty of people who make way more than I do who didn't go to college, just did an easy degree at a community college, etc.
"Would you rather fight a Sungura-sized spider or 1000 spider-sized Sunguras?" -Zarq
she/<any gender neutral>/snug

User avatar
qinwamascot
Posts: 688
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:50 am UTC
Location: Oklahoma, U.S.A.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby qinwamascot » Sun Oct 12, 2008 7:31 pm UTC

We had the same problem at my school. For instance, we had about 20 people taking Multi-variable calculus in my senior year. 2 more people (I was one of these) took a higher-level course. Probably about 100 people took some form of calculus and another 100 took pre-calculus or statistics. The last 100 or so people took some form of algebra, geometry, or nothing at all. In my opinion, algebra is something that you should do in 10th grade at the latest. Geometry is a 9th grade subject at the latest. Yet we had 12th graders in those classes. Most jobs I can think of require at least algebra. Unless you want to become a writer or an artist. And there aren't going to be 100 of those from my school of about 300 people.

Instead of doing reasonable level math and science (I don't even want to talk about science) courses, people would take classes like AP history and AP literature. They're fine classes, but honestly how many historians or literary critics can one school produce? And colleges look at them the same way as AP Physics C. One person from my school got into Harvard without getting past Algebra 2 in high school, purely because he took all the classes that are specialized (psychology, literature, history, art history, music theory, etc.) and did well in them (but didn't excel in them overall). He was picked because of a "unique and diverse set of talents." I think that they should pick people with useful talents. So yeah, it's just as bad here overall[/rant]

edit: just a question but should this be in the school forum? It seems to be in a sort of overlap between the two.
Quiznos>Subway

User avatar
Nath
Posts: 3148
Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2007 8:14 pm UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Nath » Sun Oct 12, 2008 8:27 pm UTC

The way we got around this issue in my school was to have a roughly fixed number of seats for each 'stream' in the last two years: science (with biology), science (with computer science), commerce, and 'arts' (history, sociology, psychology). The top 60% were eligible for science stream, and got to choose whether they wanted to study biology or CS. The next 20% qualified for commerce. Whomever was left studied the arts. Within each stream, the subjects you studied were mostly fixed. (You had some choice over what language you studied.)

Most people took the highest stream they qualified for, because you can usually study the so-called soft subjects in college without having done so in high school, but this is harder with science. Also, you'd have a more competitive peer group. On the whole, I think the system worked OK.

That said, though, I think the problem at your school isn't that more people are studying soft subjects than the economy calls for; it's that fewer people are studying science. There are many reasons to study a subject other than for professional reasons; generally, the more that one is exposed to, the better. Studying a given subject can be rewarding, or even useful, even if your future career will have nothing to do with it.

But, alas, people have finite time. The fact that they are studying psychology etc. is great, but the fact that they are doing so at the cost of science is not. Fixing the number of seats in each class and having people compete may be the answer.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:56 pm UTC

There's some related discussion in this thread, but it's off topic for said thread.

http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=28343

In particular there's a lot of talk about how higher level math is not very useful to the considerable majority of students (the professions they will go into). Note that a lot of that is coming from me.

As for the courses you listed:

- Psychology (about 30% of my GCSE year took this - but our country doesn't have 1 in 4 people employed as psychologists and I don't see these skills being very transferable)


Psychology is an important field for everyone, in the same way health and physical education are important for everyone. Just because not everyone will go on to those fields doesn't mean that the content doesn't have important implications for them as individuals, their health and wellbeing.

Sociology


To someone who is going into a sociological field (including even common professions like teaching), this would likely be more valuable to them than certain core classes, likely even core classes that they one day planned to teach.

- Leisure Studies
- Sport Studies (20% took it at GCSE and then A-level - because they thought it was going to be Football. Note: This isn't PE.)


These I don't think should be opt-out courses for people who don't want to take science or language courses.

- Media Studies (20%)


While 20% may be a bit high, I don't see anything wrong with this. I would imagine this to be a practical research and writing course if it were more geared towards journalism, which are highly transferable skills. If it's just about various forms of media, those skills are at least as transferable as many of the core classes.

- Business Studies (again, I'd say 30% took it)


Good.

- Child Development


Fantastic. Infinitely more students will be parents than mathematicians, engineers, and scientists. If they want to enter into those professions, they'll just have to do a bit of catchup in college. Child development is also an important course for anyone who wants to enter many prominent fields.

- Health and Social Care (It's "worth" 2 GCSEs. That's why people took it.)


Any classes that deal with health education are ok in my book. Granted, I live in America, where obesity is running rampant, and the health industry is huge.

- Applied Science (i.e. Science for people who wouldn't get a E if they really took Science.)


I'd have to know more about the content of the course to comment.



The core ("pure" as you put it) curriculum is becoming increasingly irrelevant as professions diversify. Technology is making math education less relevant for many fields while making it more relevant for specialized fields. It's an outdated curriculum that hasn't changed with the times. I think it's great that your school is offering more practical application courses.

*Note that I have an M.A. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, but then I never took trigonometry, calculus, or physics, so I may be too dumb to deserve it.

User avatar
Griffin
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2007 7:46 am UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Griffin » Sun Oct 12, 2008 11:34 pm UTC

I think there's a fundamental flaw in your thinking when you start treating high school as some sort of vocational school. the goal of mandatory public education is to create productive well informed citizens. Preperation for involvement in advanced careers is a part of that, yes, but not the primary part.

History classes, psychology classes, and most home ec classes are classes that are actually a) interesting and/or b) relevant to creating citizens with the ability to understand their culture and their place in it.

Most classes in high school aren't for creating professionals - they're for creating context. As long as they're still offering the "pure" courses, don't see a problem with this. In fact, all of the classes you listed are far more meaningful to the average person than, say, advanced calculus, so I don't see a problem with people taking them.

Whether or not they're GOOD classes is a completely seperate question, of course.

- Psychology (about 30% of my GCSE year took this - but our country doesn't have 1 in 4 people employed as psychologists and I don't see these skills being very transferable)
- Sociology

We may not all become psychologists, but understanding how and why people think is, believe it or not, a useful life skill. At least when taught correctly. Teachers, social workers, business people, all use psychology professionally, and everybody uses it to a certain extent in everyday life. Most basic Psych classes I've seen weren't that good, focusing for some unknowable reason on the field of abnormal psychology which is useless for most people except as a point of interest. I don't know what your school teaches in sociology, the curriculum varies widely, but I have heard of good sociology classes.

- Leisure Studies
- Sport Studies (20% took it at GCSE and then A-level - because they thought it was going to be Football. Note: This isn't PE.)

Can't comment, as I don't know what their about. But I don't see why school shouldnt offer things people are actually interested in learning about, and they seem like that might be what they're doing.

- Media Studies (20%)

Understanding how the media works? Useful for everybody.

- Business Studies (again, I'd say 30% took it)

This is the ultimate job destination of most people, working as part of a business, so I don't see a problem here.

- Child Development

As was already commented on, most people do end up becoming parents. Hell, I'd support actual for reals parenting courses in high school, with mandatory enrollment. Even among people who don't plan on having kids, accidents do happen, and its nice to have some idea how kids work.

- Applied Science (i.e. Science for people who wouldn't get a E if they really took Science.)

Not sure what this is about, unfortunately, but most applied science courses I've taken have actually been MUCH better for both my personal and professional aims than the pure science ones (which mostly serve as a point of interest with little real relevance).

I'd just wish my schools voc courses had been open to college bound students, and that I could have wasted a lot less time taking chemistry and biology to instead learn welding and mechanical stuff (especially since I researched both fields far more thoroughly in my free time previously, I have yet to actually use them for anything to the extent I've forgotten it all, and they were my worse classes because I hate hate hate chemistry teachers, who I have found without exception to be the worse human beings on the planet. Your mileage on that front my vary.)


Regardless, despite BEING in a science field, and still hoping to become a researcher, if I had not had art and writing courses available in high school I likely would have failed our of my science courses simply because I wouldn't have bothered with school. I took them even throughout college, to give me balance. Every year I've gone trying to focus on "pure science" (two attempts so far) I've done terribly, and I don't think its a coincidence. And most of my science courses have been ultimately complete waste of times - at least my art courses make me happy.

Basically, if you want happy productive students, its nice to balance useful classes, pure classes, and classes in which the students are actually interested.
Bdthemag: "I don't always GM, but when I do I prefer to put my player's in situations that include pain and torture. Stay creative my friends."

Bayobeasts - the Pokemon: Orthoclase project.

User avatar
Gunfingers
Posts: 2401
Joined: Wed May 30, 2007 7:15 pm UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Gunfingers » Mon Oct 13, 2008 12:13 am UTC

I don't know how it is in TUKoGBaNI, but in the US you'll have to relearn most of what you learned in high school when you get to college. It's required. This has proven particularly problematic for me, as i did not take high school seriously and as such missed out on a lot of learning. I'm a comp-sci major with only the most basic training in math. What the crap?

User avatar
Elvish Pillager
Posts: 1009
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:58 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere you think, nowhere you can possibly imagine.
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Elvish Pillager » Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:19 am UTC

qinwamascot wrote:Most jobs I can think of require at least algebra. Unless you want to become a writer or an artist.

Being an artist without Algebra is harder than you'd think. 8)
Also known as Eli Dupree. Check out elidupree.com for my comics, games, and other work.

GENERATION A(g64, g64): Social experiment. Take the busy beaver function of the generation number and add it to your signature.

User avatar
InstinctSage
Posts: 1012
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:19 am UTC
Location: Australia

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby InstinctSage » Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:31 am UTC

In Victoria, Australia, your entry to university from school is governed by your ENTER score, and high level science and math courses are given a flat bonus regardless of your mark in them, in an effort to promote taking those courses (or at least they were when I graduated in 2000).

This handily solves your problem of people taking soft courses, because if you take drama, lit, RE, music, sociology, etc. then even if you get top marks across the board, your highest score might only be 75-80/100. Compare that to the hard science courses, where you can reach the 99.5s and so on.

The end result? Every guidance counsellor, pretty much regardless of your interests, recommended you take highest math, physics, chem, bio, and one other course that didn't penalise your score. If you had an interest, it could be a course that suited that, say psych if you wanted to do psych, or computers if IT was your bag.
And the students that DID take soft courses out of genuine interest? They wound up with scores around 60 or so, which cut them out of plenty of courses.

Then again, 2 years out of high school your ENTER score doesn't matter anymore, and you can simply take an entrance exam. I needed an ENTER of 85+ to get into basic psych in 2000 and I had 55 after doing music, drama, psych and 2nd tier maths. In 2005, I scored 98% on an entrance exam and got into Behavioural Neuroscience. High school is NOT the be all and end all, and I see no problem with offering courses to graduating students that teach them something useful. Most of the courses you mentioned have definite career paths behind them. If those careers don't accept the qualifications of the course, then the course needs to be updated, but not struck out.
nightlina wrote:We get stick insects here.. they're pretty cool and stick-like.

hopefulcynic
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:23 am UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby hopefulcynic » Mon Oct 13, 2008 3:50 am UTC

Soft courses can be quite useful. Language courses in HS are usually based on reading and writing well, necessary skills for many jobs. I'd love to see more voters with a good understanding of history and government, not to mention Philosophy and Economics. Now, some may be pathetic, but those courses are there for those who either cannot perform well enough in the harder courses or would rather not try. Either way, there's nothing that can be done there. The only problem is if people are stuck in systems where they cannot take hard courses, but barring that, I see no problem.

Another consideration in the US is that some colleges (including the one I'm at) won't let you get out of some courses based on AP credit. So for me, the intro Physics course is mostly a repeat of high school.

I'm not really worried about people not taking math and science classes, because they might get by just fine without them.

User avatar
Belial
A terrible sound heard from a distance
Posts: 30450
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:04 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Belial » Mon Oct 13, 2008 5:39 am UTC

- Psychology (about 30% of my GCSE year took this - but our country doesn't have 1 in 4 people employed as psychologists and I don't see these skills being very transferable)


A working knowledge of psychology is helpful in most business settings. Or anything where you're interacting with people. And since psychology courses also tend to involve neurology, count medical as well.

And really, why wouldn't it be a good idea for people to know how their minds work?

- Sociology
- Media Studies (20%)
- Child Development


And really, why wouldn't it be a good idea for people to know how their societies work?

- Business Studies (again, I'd say 30% took it)


Terribly useful.

- Critical Thinking and General Studies A-levels (most universities don't accept them because they are compulsory courses and act asfallback grades for people that failed 'real' subjects)


This class should be taught in elementary school. The fact that people wait until college to take it is criminal. People don't know how to think. That's fucked up. Why object to fixing it?

As for the rest, they may just be throwaway courses. Those happen. But I think you're selling a ton of these courses short.

Personally, my high school taught a lot of "soft" courses *in addition to* the "hard" ones. Along with the required science, math, history, and english courses, we got required art, theatre, film, music, dance, and various other interest stuff. It made for a more well-rounded and knowledgeable student body. Seemed like a good idea to me.
addams wrote:A drunk neighbor is better than a sober Belial.


They/them

User avatar
GhostWolfe
Broken wings and scattered feathers
Posts: 3892
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:56 am UTC
Location: Brisbane, Aust
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby GhostWolfe » Mon Oct 13, 2008 6:13 am UTC

When I graduated, university entry was based on 2 factors: your OP1, and pre-req courses. For example: if you wanted to get into Creative Writing at uni, you needed an OP 4, and you had to have taken English in your senior years; Chemistry had an OP requirement of 6, and you had to take Chem and Maths A at school; etc.

All of the "core" subjects (English, Sciences2, and Arts3) counted towards your OP, and you needed to have a minimum of 5 subjects enrolled that counted towards an OP. Languages, manual arts, business studies, "TAFE Maths", etc didn't count.

Not knowing what I was really planning after school, but deciding that I wanted the best selection of pre-requisites for uni, I choose English, Maths B, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. In the end: I hated it, I did poorly, I dropped out of Physics, and I got a terrible OP (I still qualified for an OP because I was also taking Art).

The moral of the story is that not everyone is suited to taking core subjects, and taking them can turn out to be somewhat a waste of time.

/angell

1 Overall Position: All students graduating from year 12 in that year are ranked and stuffed under a bell curve. They are then assigned a number from 1-23, an OP1 being the highest result.
2 I think we had physcis, biology, chemistry, and comupter science.
3 "Art", Drama, and Music.
Linguistic Anarchist
Hawknc: ANGELL IS SERIOUS BUSINESS :-[
lesliesage: Animals dunked in crude oil: sad. Animals dunked in boiling oil: tasty.
Belial: I was in your mom's room all night committing to a series of extended military actions.

User avatar
darthchazza
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 8:18 am UTC
Location: Ararat, Victoria, Australia

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby darthchazza » Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:30 am UTC

I go to a fairly average catholic High school in regional Victoria and in my year 12 class of 60 there are about 40 people doing Health and Human Development and psychology, compared to 5 doing Chem, 5 doing physics and 3 doing Specialist math (the hardest). I think that this is just silly as almost all of the important life skills that people are talking about have been covered in compulsory subjects in years 7-10 (such as resumes, accounting, cooking, the human body and so on).

The only two year 12 subjects that teach important life skills are business and english. Business teaches you how a business is run from the ground up (from owner operators to multinational giants), gives you a basic understanding of economics and advertising. English teaches you how to see through and completely deconstruct any sort of persuasive news article and 'see' the subtext in books.

As for the consequences of this, most people who do these subjects and do pretty well at them (because they are fairly easy) think "this is good I'll make a career out of this" and thus we have a large amount of people doing degrees in psychology, physiotherapy and the like. And on the other end of the spectrum we have a shortage of scientists, doctors and nurses ESPECIALLY in regional area (the last two more than scientists).

Also a lot of these people should be at a tech school but they have all been closed down and these people are forced into a system that is then dumbed down to accommodate for them when they could be learning useful skills that and getting apprentiships, this has also caused a huge shortage of skilled labor such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians(I hear a lot about this as my dad owns a building business).
Flo3:16 wrote:You sir are a Winner. Just because you have the testicular fortitude to dress up as freakin Zoidberg. :mrgreen:

Iv
Posts: 1207
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2007 1:08 pm UTC
Location: Lyon, France

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Iv » Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:19 am UTC

Game_boy wrote:- Psychology (about 30% of my GCSE year took this - but our country doesn't have 1 in 4 people employed as psychologists and I don't see these skills being very transferable)
- Sociology
- Media Studies (20%)
- Child Development

Let me say that I find awesome that you have such subjects. Here in France we get less and less science subjects too, but I get interrogative looks when I tell people that psychology and media study should be mandatory for anyone who will have to vote one day. Child Development is a good idea too...

Here we have none of those neither mandatory nor optional !

User avatar
Sungura
When life gives you banananas, make bananana bread
Posts: 3918
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:32 am UTC
Location: AL

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Sungura » Mon Oct 13, 2008 12:31 pm UTC

My mom was a child development major back when no one was doing it as it just came out. I think she was actually the first graduate with that degree from Purdue. People tell her (and I agree) she should write books. She'd be more famous than Dr. Phil if she did, I think! People have no clue how to parent, how kids develop, etc these days. For example, the part of reasoning that can really predict and understand consequences of your actions doesn't fully develop until 20-23ish for females, a bit later (22-25ish) for males. Insurance companies know this even if they don't realize it - why do car insurance rates drop after you get past this age range? Oh wow, because you're less likely to make dumb choices because you can understand the consequences and foresee problems!

Then just go to the store and take a look at all the bratty kids you see. Take a look at all the ones who have no clue how to use money. Take a look at all the ones who have tons of credit card debt. Ok so adults in America have this right now too...then again where did the kids not learn about money (from parents, most likely, who just gave them everything they wanted and they never had to work for it). So there are so many things that the said "soft" classes are useful for because apparently most parents can't teach their kids things like that. Then again, my mom's idea of teaching me such things about money for example was making sure I had bank account (savings and checking) and credit card by the time I was 16. I also started budgeting then too. What a concept - teach your kid when they are still at home so they don't go out into the real world and make bad choices because they didn't know better. Most would consider my mom a crazy radical for things like that, but I think I turned out okay, and in fact much better than a lot of people I know my age!
"Would you rather fight a Sungura-sized spider or 1000 spider-sized Sunguras?" -Zarq
she/<any gender neutral>/snug

tetromino
Posts: 114
Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 11:31 pm UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby tetromino » Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:08 pm UTC

I don't think y'all understand the issue here.

In an ideal world, astride spherical horses in vacuum, the 30% (or however many) kids would take psychology, and work their asses off, pull all-nighters to finish their reading and complete their papers, take a challenging exam at the end, and really get something useful retained in their heads at the of the class. And the 20% of the kids who take mathematics will work their asses off, pull all-nighters to complete their fiendish homework sets, take a challenging exam at the end, and really get useful knowledge retained at the end of the class.

We are not living in in an ideal world.

What is in fact happening is that in many Western countries, funding for schools (or even contracts for individual teachers) is now tied to objective performance figures. Schools are under tremendous pressure to improve their average grade. The solutions are to either A. actually improve their teaching; B. cheat the system by making the average curricula and exams easier; or C. risk losing funding. I'll give you one guess as to which solution many school administrators have decided to pick...

Now, there isn't that much leeway in making math easier. Math teachers are a prickly and idealistic bunch, and the curriculum has been fixed in concrete for decades, and students continue to fail mathematics at about the same rate as in the age of steam locomotives and hansom cabs. But sociology... there's a veritable wall-sized blank canvas. Who can say what the subject "really means", and what the exam should really ask for? And is it really wrong to lobby the exam boards to gradually adjust the difficulty over the years so that a drunken baboon can pass after a few hours of studying? And is it really wrong to gently push kids who might perhaps possibly be not entirely up to getting 95%+ on their mathematics to move to an easier path, so that (God forbid) their performance would not jeopardize the school's standings?

As a result, you do not get a citizenry well-educated in psychology and child development. You get a citizenry with a Potemkin education.

User avatar
SlyReaper
inflatable
Posts: 8015
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2007 11:09 pm UTC
Location: Bristol, Old Blighty

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:59 pm UTC

Don't complain. Look at the bright side of it. Those of us who actually DID do maths and science get better jobs at the end of the day because supply of those skills is decreasing and demand isn't. Yay, money. :mrgreen:
Image
What would Baron Harkonnen do?

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Mon Oct 13, 2008 4:32 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:In particular there's a lot of talk about how higher level math is not very useful to the considerable majority of students (the professions they will go into). Note that a lot of that is coming from me....The core ("pure" as you put it) curriculum is becoming increasingly irrelevant as professions diversify. Technology is making math education less relevant for many fields while making it more relevant for specialized fields. It's an outdated curriculum that hasn't changed with the times. I think it's great that your school is offering more practical application courses.


The purpose of math education isn't to learn how do to math. It's to learn how to think in a structured, rational, way. It's an exercise in thinking. Advanced math is an exercise in learning, and physics is an exercise in learning and problem solving. People who are good at math and physics can handle most anything else, at least on an intellectual level.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

User avatar
Belial
A terrible sound heard from a distance
Posts: 30450
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:04 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Belial » Mon Oct 13, 2008 4:35 pm UTC

Classes in critical thinking, logic, and philosophy would seem to accomplish that much more directly.
addams wrote:A drunk neighbor is better than a sober Belial.


They/them

Game_boy
Posts: 1314
Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 7:33 pm UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Game_boy » Mon Oct 13, 2008 4:44 pm UTC

tetromino wrote:I don't think y'all understand the issue here.

In an ideal world, astride spherical horses in vacuum, the 30% (or however many) kids would take psychology, and work their asses off, pull all-nighters to finish their reading and complete their papers, take a challenging exam at the end, and really get something useful retained in their heads at the of the class. And the 20% of the kids who take mathematics will work their asses off, pull all-nighters to complete their fiendish homework sets, take a challenging exam at the end, and really get useful knowledge retained at the end of the class.

We are not living in in an ideal world.

What is in fact happening is that in many Western countries, funding for schools (or even contracts for individual teachers) is now tied to objective performance figures. Schools are under tremendous pressure to improve their average grade. The solutions are to either A. actually improve their teaching; B. cheat the system by making the average curricula and exams easier; or C. risk losing funding. I'll give you one guess as to which solution many school administrators have decided to pick...

...


Exactly. I don't have anything against these courses for the people who are looking for a career in them, but people are deliberately taking them instead of sciences, etc. with no intention of using the skills or even getting more than a pass in the course.

Oh, and Critical Thinking sounds good, but I did it and I can tell you that it doesn't teach what it ought to. It was a year of compulsory boredom and rote memorisation followed by an exam paper with vague questions but no freedom to give your own opinion (point-marked, if it's not in the mark scheme you don't get the marks even if you're right.)
The Reaper wrote:Evolution is a really really really long run-on sentence.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Mon Oct 13, 2008 5:02 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Classes in critical thinking, logic, and philosophy would seem to accomplish that much more directly.


No, not really. Suppose you're going to be a boxer, right? You want strong arms for punching people. Well, it turns out that punching people all day doesn't work nearly as well as weightlifting for building arm strength. So, even though you're a boxer and not a weightlifter, you still lift weights to get the arm strength and spar to get the specialized technique.

The mind works similarly.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

User avatar
Belial
A terrible sound heard from a distance
Posts: 30450
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:04 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Belial » Mon Oct 13, 2008 5:13 pm UTC

Philwelch wrote:No, not really. Suppose you're going to be a boxer, right? You want strong arms for punching people. Well, it turns out that punching people all day doesn't work nearly as well as weightlifting for building arm strength.


But even so, all the arm strength in the world won't teach you to throw a punch or how to keep a proper stance.

Math doesn't teach you how to think, or how to understand. It won't make you a more reasonable person. It just builds the muscles. And like doing sets of curls or bench presses all day, it can be so boring that you simply stop doing it unless you have an application in mind.

Or, you can be like bodybuilders in the same analogy, and work those muscles to the point of ridiculousness, but never learn how to apply them to anything.

Game_boy wrote:Exactly. I don't have anything against these courses for the people who are looking for a career in them, but people are deliberately taking them instead of sciences, etc. with no intention of using the skills or even getting more than a pass in the course


So you're complaining, then, not that these courses don't have a place, but that they're not being taught well or seriously.

Well. That sucks. Sorry.
addams wrote:A drunk neighbor is better than a sober Belial.


They/them

User avatar
qinwamascot
Posts: 688
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:50 am UTC
Location: Oklahoma, U.S.A.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby qinwamascot » Mon Oct 13, 2008 5:49 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Philwelch wrote:No, not really. Suppose you're going to be a boxer, right? You want strong arms for punching people. Well, it turns out that punching people all day doesn't work nearly as well as weightlifting for building arm strength.


But even so, all the arm strength in the world won't teach you to throw a punch or how to keep a proper stance.

Math doesn't teach you how to think, or how to understand. It won't make you a more reasonable person. It just builds the muscles. And like doing sets of curls or bench presses all day, it can be so boring that you simply stop doing it unless you have an application in mind.

Or, you can be like bodybuilders in the same analogy, and work those muscles to the point of ridiculousness, but never learn how to apply them to anything.

Game_boy wrote:Exactly. I don't have anything against these courses for the people who are looking for a career in them, but people are deliberately taking them instead of sciences, etc. with no intention of using the skills or even getting more than a pass in the course


So you're complaining, then, not that these courses don't have a place, but that they're not being taught well or seriously.

Well. That sucks. Sorry.


Sorry, but I think this is a poor analogy. A pure mathematician will never apply his/her discoveries, just like a pure bodybuilder never applies his/her strength. However, the difference is that the discoveries are transferable. If I write a paper proving some theorem, I can never even think about the implications in physics or chemistry. Some engineer will later come around and see how this is applied in some other subject. Bodybuilders can't transfer the work they've done into something useful, but mathematicians can.
Quiznos>Subway

Game_boy
Posts: 1314
Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 7:33 pm UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Game_boy » Mon Oct 13, 2008 6:39 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Philwelch wrote:
Game_boy wrote:Exactly. I don't have anything against these courses for the people who are looking for a career in them, but people are deliberately taking them instead of sciences, etc. with no intention of using the skills or even getting more than a pass in the course


So you're complaining, then, not that these courses don't have a place, but that they're not being taught well or seriously.

Well. That sucks. Sorry.


No, I'm complaining that the system encourages and allows students to do this (because it looks better on school league tables). And these subjects shouldn't be offered at GCSE (age 16) - vocations should be after a solid, compulsory technical education.
The Reaper wrote:Evolution is a really really really long run-on sentence.

User avatar
Jebobek
Posts: 2219
Joined: Tue Jun 17, 2008 7:19 pm UTC
Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Geohash graticule

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Jebobek » Mon Oct 13, 2008 6:50 pm UTC

qinwamascot wrote: Bodybuilders can't transfer the work they've done into something useful, but mathematicians can.
Theorycrafting aside, they can transfer what they've become into something useful.
Piano_Movers3.jpg
Piano_Movers3.jpg (43.28 KiB) Viewed 5854 times
Just sayin'.
Image

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Mon Oct 13, 2008 10:28 pm UTC

I think it's great and all that everyone has their 2 cents about how people learn best, but let me lay it out for you plainly.

People learn best when the information is meaningful to them, and when they can apply it to a realistic, meaningful scenario. This is what educational research has consistently shown. "Pure" subjects are naturally at a disadvantage because they rarely show students how to apply any of the knowledge they learn. What happens then is that initial student interest is very poor, and even those who commit to doing the work or find it interesting find that their learning occurs more slowly than it has to, and their retention suffers greatly.

The real tragedy here is that classes don't need to be pure to teach many of these concepts. Most of them have real life applications that students would be happy to know. Gasp, another startling revelation. Student interest and appreciation for learning increases when they know how the learning can be used. So, you might say that math classes should start explaining how the skills they teach can be used in the real world, and that would certainly be an improvement, without a doubt. Unfortunately, neverminding that the considerable majority of math teachers don't even know how what they're teaching is useful (this was the result of a study), as the math specializes, so do its uses. Then you have students who might be interested in learning skills that they could apply in computer programming, but not giving a fark about the skills they'd use in, I don't know, carpentry. Then you have the problem of how on earth a math teacher is to know how these concepts apply to each of these fields. I bet I know who could tell you-- someone who's a carpenter or computer programmer. Better yet, people who are trained to teach classes in carpentry and computer programming. Those classes could be loaded down with all kinds of yummy maths.

Then the students are more interested in the math, they'll learn it more quickly, they'll actually understand how to use it, they'll remember it better, and will have acquired a marketable skill. I'm more likely to remember the pythagorean theory and understand how it works if I actually used it to build a birdhouse than I am because my math teacher made me learn it so I could pass the class.

Now, maybe these practical applications classes are incomplete, and deprive students entirely of valuable skills, or maybe you're one of the few exceptional people for whom pure science and math classes are an enriching experience that you will cherish for life. Conceptually, there is nothing very advantageous to learning these subjects without context in this day and age.


Also, comparing the brain to a muscle is an interesting, albeit entirely baseless analogy. Intelligence increases as a result of networking ideas and making connections, not by exhausting your brain so that it becomes "stronger." And note that, yes, I'm the one condoning the use of classes that connect concepts to real life experiences and uses.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Tue Oct 14, 2008 2:25 am UTC

I don't really disagree with you about applications, but my understanding is that regular mental exercise does improve cognitive function.

Plus, by the high school level, math topics (algebra, geometry, and calculus) are advanced enough that the possible applications are numerous. Bogging students down by teaching calculus in the context of physics (or any other single application) only adds complication and obscures the fact that calculus is infinitely applicable.

I don't think I'll ever use calculus (I might be wrong) or physics, but the problem solving skills I picked up studying them are extremely useful. And no, you *can't* just teach "problem solving skills" without having some set of mentally challenging problems to apply those skills to. Not that there aren't mentally challenging problems outside of math and science, but at least in math in science, someone knows the answers to those problems and can find out if you solved them correctly.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Tue Oct 14, 2008 7:40 am UTC

I don't really disagree with you about applications, but my understanding is that regular mental exercise does improve cognitive function.


It does, but it doesn't have to be in pure subjects. Actually, if we're going to run with that muscular analogy, you might say that focusing entirely on pure subjects is like training only major muscle groups, but ignoring all the many minor muscles that are necessary for dexterity, control, and actually applying that strength. You might be very strong, but there's a reason the best pro athletes are not the Olympic gymnastics (who are without a doubt the best muscular athletes pound for pound), or curlers. These people lack skill because they lack fine motor control. Their emphasis on gross motor strength and control makes them jack of all trades who don't really specialize in anything.

Plus, by the high school level, math topics (algebra, geometry, and calculus) are advanced enough that the possible applications are numerous. Bogging students down by teaching calculus in the context of physics (or any other single application) only adds complication and obscures the fact that calculus is infinitely applicable.


Algebra I and geometry are universal enough. Calculus is only applicable to certain fields, and it should be taught in the context of those fields, even if only changing the name of the course to Engineering/Science Careers prep, or the like. Point being, students shouldn't be learning it without knowing its uses.

I think you gave yourself away when you said that the "possible" applications are numerous. Indeed. They're too numerous, really, and there are too many possibilities. So your average student will end up actually using very little of what they learn in that year of math, but they are likely to use 100% of the math skills they learn in a year of a practical applications course.

My point is that aside from personal finances and math skills that everyone should have for day to day adult life, most students only need so much math as they'll use in their careers, and it's a shame to waste their time and that of the teachers with mandatory classes they won't make anywhere near full use of.

I don't think I'll ever use calculus (I might be wrong) or physics, but the problem solving skills I picked up studying them are extremely useful. And no, you *can't* just teach "problem solving skills" without having some set of mentally challenging problems to apply those skills to. Not that there aren't mentally challenging problems outside of math and science, but at least in math in science, someone knows the answers to those problems and can find out if you solved them correctly.


You're right. You need to be able to apply those skills and have opportunities for practice. You're wrong, however, if you think that math and science are exclusive to having objective answers, or that these same types of problems aren't present in practical applications.

I'd suggest you look into something called "transfer of learning." The same idea that people keep suggesting-- that these math skills are so transferable-- it works both ways. The math skills that you learn in another class can and very often do transfer to other areas. The initial purity does not necessarily enhance this transferability. If anything, it can dull the ability to recognize the relationships between like concepts. People are more likely to relate a problem to another real problem than they are an equation.

User avatar
qinwamascot
Posts: 688
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:50 am UTC
Location: Oklahoma, U.S.A.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby qinwamascot » Tue Oct 14, 2008 8:22 am UTC

Jebobek wrote:
qinwamascot wrote: Bodybuilders can't transfer the work they've done into something useful, but mathematicians can.
Theorycrafting aside, they can transfer what they've become into something useful.
Piano_Movers3.jpg
Just sayin'.


Ah, but this would qualify as "applied bodybuilding" whereas my post dealt with "pure bodybuilding" i.e. never applied. There's a difference.

@Kachi:

you seem to be discounting subjects like "pure mathematics" as being focused too broadly and not technical enough. While I agree that things like Physics are easier to see the applications of, that doesn't mean the Math is bad or wrong. Rather, it's a generalization of truths that can generally be used for a lot of different applications. So while gymnasts might not be able to make contributions to things like shot-put or 100 m dash, Math can certainly help things that vary a lot.

As for not needing calculus, this seems unusual to me. Sure, calculus isn't *necessary* for everyday work, but then again, neither is English for everyday math work. Should we stop teaching it because I won't *need* it? I think the point is that calculus is math designed for application, so it can be applied in a variety of ways, although whether it is necessary in them is debatable. Things like proof theory are specialized, but I'd argue that calculus (and possibly linear algebra) are uniformly applicable.
Quiznos>Subway

User avatar
Jebobek
Posts: 2219
Joined: Tue Jun 17, 2008 7:19 pm UTC
Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Geohash graticule

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Jebobek » Tue Oct 14, 2008 12:40 pm UTC

So you would like to see a full coverage of courses that have direct applications? Computer application literacy, Independant living, Cooking, Keyboarding.. applied lifting? :P Its so rough to fit in everything you need to get ready for work post-highschool AND everything you need to get ready for college. I feel that most highschools try to prep you for the latter. Is this hurting people where college is not for them?
Image

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Tue Oct 14, 2008 5:33 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:
Plus, by the high school level, math topics (algebra, geometry, and calculus) are advanced enough that the possible applications are numerous. Bogging students down by teaching calculus in the context of physics (or any other single application) only adds complication and obscures the fact that calculus is infinitely applicable.


Algebra I and geometry are universal enough. Calculus is only applicable to certain fields...


You're wrong, at least if you're speaking in comparison to Algebra.

Kachi wrote:My point is that aside from personal finances and math skills that everyone should have for day to day adult life, most students only need so much math as they'll use in their careers, and it's a shame to waste their time and that of the teachers with mandatory classes they won't make anywhere near full use of.


Which is why we have "education experts" like you who don't even know calculus trying to convince everyone that calculus is useless, and that based upon what a 14 year old thinks his career is going to be, we should cripple his math education right then and there.

Kachi wrote:You're right. You need to be able to apply those skills and have opportunities for practice. You're wrong, however, if you think that math and science are exclusive to having objective answers, or that these same types of problems aren't present in practical applications.


How would you know?
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

hopefulcynic
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:23 am UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby hopefulcynic » Tue Oct 14, 2008 8:55 pm UTC

Game_boy wrote:
Belial wrote:
Philwelch wrote:
Game_boy wrote:Exactly. I don't have anything against these courses for the people who are looking for a career in them, but people are deliberately taking them instead of sciences, etc. with no intention of using the skills or even getting more than a pass in the course


So you're complaining, then, not that these courses don't have a place, but that they're not being taught well or seriously.

Well. That sucks. Sorry.


No, I'm complaining that the system encourages and allows students to do this (because it looks better on school league tables). And these subjects shouldn't be offered at GCSE (age 16) - vocations should be after a solid, compulsory technical education.



I'm not entirely familiar with your education system, so I'm not sure exactly what you're saying. Is it essentially that there should be a relatively uniform curriculum (in the sense that students should be forced to take classes in all of math, science, language, etc) up to age 16?

philwelch wrote:Which is why we have "education experts" like you who don't even know calculus trying to convince everyone that calculus is useless, and that based upon what a 14 year old thinks his career is going to be, we should cripple his math education right then and there.


I'm not sure I fully understand what you're saying here.

At what age should students be given what degree of choice in their education?
Can't the student change his course of study? Is there no way for students in your system who decide they want to change tracks to do so?
Is the implication that a 14 year old is normally learning calculus intentional? If so, what school system are you referring to? And what counts as crippling the student's math education?
Who said that calculus is useless? In my light reading, I only saw reference to calculus not being necessary for all, but no reference to it being useless.
Who is Calculus necessary for? I know a number of lawyers for whom it is not. I'm sure there are quite a few businessmen for whom it is not. I'd venture that there are many other productive careers in which calculus is not necessary.

stevecrox
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2008 9:18 pm UTC

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby stevecrox » Tue Oct 14, 2008 10:01 pm UTC

The UK education system has mandatory education until the age of 16, during your 15th and 16th years you prepare for GCSE's. Originally schools were mandated to do math, English, science and a foreign language. So every student in theory could read, write, count and would know a little about the world (usually France.) The foreign language requirement has been dropped and schools haven't enforced the subject so students have dropped it in droves. Rather than learn French students would do media studies. Media studies and many of the subjects are held in contempt because they are meaningless (kind of like the IT GCSE, it teaches you how to use access/excel but nothing actually useful and knowing stuff loses you points.)

Upon the completion of GCSE's during 16 to 17 we do AS Levels (half an A Level apparently) and at 17 to 18 we do A Levels, recently Vocational A Levels were introduced and government has tried to tell universities a vocational A level can be worth the same as an A Level (having met a Engineering Vocational A Level Student during my first year in uni I can tell you 1 vocational a level does not replace Maths and Electronics A Levels.)

The problem is government has been pushing the idea of getting every kid into university and where as your average comprehensive school kicked out a kid with 5/6 GCSE's they now encourage them to do joke subjects like Media Studies so the kid can go on to do a Media Studies A Level (and apply to university.)

It’s a very nice idea and if all these kids were going to University because they had an interest/passion for a subject then I think most people wouldn't have an argument. Most then go onto "olgy" degrees which involve 4 hours of lectures a week and then the kids come away with this insane notion that employers will want them and they can all be high paid workers.

This has a knock on affect on the sciences/engineering and maths course's because who in their right mind spends 20 hours a week in lectures and another 20 doing coursework when you can do a 8 hour a week history degree. I realise that learning is a good thing but many of these course's are truly worthless and do detract from sciences/engineering because a) it makes anyone doing science/engineering courses a geek and thus uncool b) schools/universities spend their money on selling these soft courses to look good c) you fill classes with uninterested students d) you give unrealistic expectations to the kids. The last one is a cruel problem, I have a friend whose recently completed her Masters in Geology along with thousands of other people, at the moment shes seeing if Sainsbury's will take her on since those magical high paying enviromental jobs haven't appeared out of thin air.

Then again I'm now a software engineer (I actually do the stuff to qualify the engineer bit) I've only just gained a years experience and already have had two job offers from other companies, so the UK Educational system is pretty good from my perspective and the huge shortage of engineering students (because everyone’s doing soft subjects) should help me move into more of a Electrical Engineering role in a few years.

PS I don't have anything against Media Studies or "olgies" per say its just I've dated many girls doing socialogy, geology and various other courses and have found all of their final year work well within my knowledge base, the courses seem more about getting bums on seats and giving easy passes than about learning. The courses don't appear to really contain anything and the people doing them do them because they've been told their good at them, unlike some of the more serious courses like Physics, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, where you'll find people studying because they actually care about the subject matter.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:51 am UTC

you seem to be discounting subjects like "pure mathematics" as being focused too broadly and not technical enough. While I agree that things like Physics are easier to see the applications of, that doesn't mean the Math is bad or wrong. Rather, it's a generalization of truths that can generally be used for a lot of different applications. So while gymnasts might not be able to make contributions to things like shot-put or 100 m dash, Math can certainly help things that vary a lot.


The point still stands that many of those same skills can be taught in classes other than a 'mathematics' course. I've never said that we shouldn't teach math, but too often we teach it as part of a math course without any real context.

As for not needing calculus, this seems unusual to me. Sure, calculus isn't *necessary* for everyday work, but then again, neither is English for everyday math work. Should we stop teaching it because I won't *need* it? I think the point is that calculus is math designed for application, so it can be applied in a variety of ways, although whether it is necessary in them is debatable. Things like proof theory are specialized, but I'd argue that calculus (and possibly linear algebra) are uniformly applicable.


Well, there are so many skills that students do need that they don't get, and that's the issue here. Schools have limited time and resources, so it's important to make efficient use of them. It's really even less a question of whether or not the students "need" it and whether or not they'll -use- it, and most students will never use calculus in their entire lives. It's more important to give them the skills they need and will actually use.

You're wrong, at least if you're speaking in comparison to Algebra.


Oh, well thanks for chiming in with your input while not providing any evidence to the contrary. Care to explain?

Which is why we have "education experts" like you who don't even know calculus trying to convince everyone that calculus is useless, and that based upon what a 14 year old thinks his career is going to be, we should cripple his math education right then and there.


You're right. I don't know calculus, and that makes me functionally retarded, but apparently you can't read. Never have I said that calculus is useless or that it shouldn't be taught.

How would you know?


What an asinine question. I know because I've witnessed many examples of proof in action. Like you said, I'm an "education expert." I don't appreciate you belittling my education when you can't even seem to construct a convincing argument.

User avatar
InstinctSage
Posts: 1012
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:19 am UTC
Location: Australia

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby InstinctSage » Wed Oct 15, 2008 2:10 am UTC

stevecrox wrote:The UK education system has mandatory education until the age of 16, during your 15th and 16th years you prepare for GCSE's. Originally schools were mandated to do math, English, science and a foreign language. So every student in theory could read, write, count and would know a little about the world (usually France.) The foreign language requirement has been dropped and schools haven't enforced the subject so students have dropped it in droves. Rather than learn French students would do media studies. Media studies and many of the subjects are held in contempt because they are meaningless (kind of like the IT GCSE, it teaches you how to use access/excel but nothing actually useful and knowing stuff loses you points.)

Sounds like a poor implementation of an I.T. course. Admittedly, when I was in high school, I took the highest stream and we were taught Visual Basic over 2 years to a level that, when I started University, we were expected to grasp in a little under 6 months. But it WAS a good springboard into OO programming. If you can't get any more technical than MS Office, that's a problem with the course content. It's not like I.T. is a curriculum that goes nowhere productive.

stevecrox wrote:This has a knock on affect on the sciences/engineering and maths course's because who in their right mind spends 20 hours a week in lectures and another 20 doing coursework when you can do a 8 hour a week history degree. I realise that learning is a good thing but many of these course's are truly worthless and do detract from sciences/engineering because a) it makes anyone doing science/engineering courses a geek and thus uncool b) schools/universities spend their money on selling these soft courses to look good c) you fill classes with uninterested students d) you give unrealistic expectations to the kids. The last one is a cruel problem, I have a friend whose recently completed her Masters in Geology along with thousands of other people, at the moment shes seeing if Sainsbury's will take her on since those magical high paying enviromental jobs haven't appeared out of thin air.

So 16-17 year olds are too immature to recognise the value of hard work and the government/school system is at fault for leading them down the garden path?
I don't know. I think you may be selling "olgy" degrees short. It's not going to get anyone into a high paying job, but I highly doubt the course is devoid of any real substance. And even if the difficulty curve is a gentle slope, students that prove they can apply themselves to the course are showing a lot more initiative than someone who never applied, never worked for a degree, and stuck around in a dead end job for 2 years.
It's been said above; most of the courses you mention have real world applications. unless you can show that a student taking Media Studies and following a stream doesn't have any better chance of becoming a journalist or working in television or film industries than someone off the street, I don't think you can completely write off the courses.
nightlina wrote:We get stick insects here.. they're pretty cool and stick-like.

Philwelch
Posts: 2904
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC
Location: RIGHT BEHIND YOU

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Philwelch » Wed Oct 15, 2008 5:07 am UTC

Kachi wrote:
Which is why we have "education experts" like you who don't even know calculus trying to convince everyone that calculus is useless, and that based upon what a 14 year old thinks his career is going to be, we should cripple his math education right then and there.


You're right. I don't know calculus, and that makes me functionally retarded, but apparently you can't read. Never have I said that calculus is useless or that it shouldn't be taught.


You are quite right—you're simply saying calculus is not as "universal" as algebra (it plainly is, as anyone who understands calculus can attest) and that it should only be taught to people who believe during their adolescence that they want to enter a technical field.

Kachi wrote:
How would you know?


What an asinine question. I know because I've witnessed many examples of proof in action. Like you said, I'm an "education expert." I don't appreciate you belittling my education when you can't even seem to construct a convincing argument.


See, we're getting to a point in the argument where you're just going to have to take what I say on experience, because you have none. Calculus is harder than algebra. Physics, at the level where you're applying calculus, is also hard. You're going to be better at problem solving if you have to solve hard problems than if you have to solve easy problems. And even when you pick sciences other than physics—even economics—actually getting any traction in terms of solving problems is going to require calculus there, as well.

I am unashamedly and passionately an advocate of higher educational standards at all levels. The reason I want to see calculus and physics taught is precisely because they are difficult, and on another level because they require students to actually learn how to use abstractions. If kids don't like it, tough shit. We're supposed to be getting better as a society, not worse. Part of getting better is having higher standards—part of getting worse is having lower standards.
Fascism: If you're not with us you're against us.
Leftism: If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

Perfection is an unattainable goal.

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:19 am UTC

Yes, well let's concede for a moment that calculus is more universally applicable than algebra. As you pointed out, it is significantly harder to learn as well, and frankly, algebra doesn't have that much applicability. Just enough.

You're under the very mistaken assumption that these skills have similar value to everyone. That just because they may be harder, they are better and more useful.

User avatar
qinwamascot
Posts: 688
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:50 am UTC
Location: Oklahoma, U.S.A.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby qinwamascot » Wed Oct 15, 2008 8:09 am UTC

Kachi wrote:Yes, well let's concede for a moment that calculus is more universally applicable than algebra. As you pointed out, it is significantly harder to learn as well, and frankly, algebra doesn't have that much applicability. Just enough.

You're under the very mistaken assumption that these skills have similar value to everyone. That just because they may be harder, they are better and more useful.


I don't think there's any question as to whether calculus or algebra is more useful. Calculus can be used to do algebra, because all of algebra (on the real numbers, not once we get to abstract algebra) can be considered part of calculus. So calculus would be at least as useful, if not more so.

However, it is also harder to learn, as you point out. Thus, we come to the problem (which ironically is best formalized in calculus) of whether the change in applicability is worth an increase in difficulty.

It's sort of like algebra and arithmetic-doing algebra requires arithmetic, so algebra contains arithmetic. To decide whether it's worthwhile if we should learn algebra, we compare the difficulty and benefits of learning it over arithmetic. Calculus is the same. Of course, algebra gets further generalized to linear and abstract algebra, which is a totally different ballgame, but irrelevant.

Personally, I think the benefits of learning calculus are pretty high. The difficulty is not very high at all. So I'd say that most people should learn it. If we talk about multi-variable calculus, we get to the point where the benefits for average people probably aren't too great, so at that point it isn't worth learning.
Quiznos>Subway

Kachi
Publicly Posts Private Messages
Posts: 781
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:53 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere except SB.

Re: Proliferation of 'soft' subjects in high school

Postby Kachi » Wed Oct 15, 2008 8:27 am UTC

Honestly, I give algebra a pass simply because of its fundamental logic processes. Venn diagrams, balancing equations, etc. If it didn't have that loose-ish transferability to general reasoning in simple tasks like making a persuasive argument, I wouldn't recommend it for core curriculum either. Not that learning the concepts through math is essential in the first place, but I think it validates them.

So in short, it's not even the math applications that I really value in algebra. It's just the culmination of those skills alongside the other transferable concepts that makes it universal enough in my opinion. I'd be just as fine if these skills were taught in other contexts, like a philosophy or persuasive arguments course.

To decide whether it's worthwhile if we should learn algebra, we compare the difficulty and benefits of learning it over arithmetic.


Well, really you should compare it to the difficulty and benefits of all other possible skills.


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 10 guests