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Parent Questions Mandatory High School Chemistry

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the redox-reactions-how-do-they-work dept.

Education 866

Ollabelle writes "David Bernstein, a nonprofit executive who lives in Gaithersburg, Md., has two sons, ages 7 and 15. He has previously written about how schools fail students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Now he turns his attention to mandated curriculum in public schools, and argues that his sons shouldn't be forced to take any science class." From the article: "There’s a concept in economics called 'opportunity costs,' which you may not have learned about because you were taking chemistry instead of economics. Opportunity costs are the sacrifices we make when we choose one alternative over another. ... When you force my son to take chemistry (and several other subjects, this is not only about chemistry), you are not allowing him that same time to take a public speaking course, which he could be really good at, or music, or political science, or creative writing, or HTML coding for websites."

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866 comments

Translation (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#41681671)

My kid sucks at chemistry and, like all pussy-ass parents today, I don't have the heart to tell him that he's not incredible at everything (and don't want to risk him finding out by taking a class where he doesn't get an automatic "A").

Re:Translation (5, Informative)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#41681733)

Tell him he can use the knowledge to brew alcohol, make drugs and bombs. It really is taught in the most boring way possible. Learn the boring bits to make the exciting bits happen.

Re:Translation (3, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | about 2 years ago | (#41681789)

Brewing alcohol is more biology than chemistry. Chemistry is what you get when you mix alcohol with conc. H2SO4... from there you can make anything you want.

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681849)

Biology is just applied chemistry.
(http://xkcd.com/435/)

Re:Translation (5, Insightful)

Unknown Lamer (78415) | about 2 years ago | (#41681899)

Conversion of the starches in malted grain to sugar is certainly a chemical process: you have to maintain the pH just so, the temperatures just right, to encourage particular kinds of conversion by various enzymes. Adjusting mineral concetrations and such in the water is also (not really intense) chemistry. Making wine involves even more chemistry: free SO_2 testing, pH adjustments, total acidity control, etc. involve lots of reagents and I found the basic recollection of even just learning how to e.g. do titrations from high school chemistry made things a lot easier.

There's biology involved too in the fermentation process itself, and hey! Encourages 'em to learn that too ;)

Re:Translation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682021)

Brewing alcohol is a simultaneously very advanced and very old chemistry problem.

Full understanding of just the basics of brewing is at the very least a college level application of chemistry.

You need understand the conditions required to bring on the enzimatic breakdown of grains to create malt. (Or another starch->sugar breakdown, or why you skip that and add a sugar)
You need understand the chemical conditions required for your yeast to do it's job.
You need to understand how to measure the density of your brew to determine how much sugar is left and how much alcohol has been made.
If you're going to distil, well that sure is hell is an application of chemistry if I've ever heard one.

Using enzymes and microorganisms to make chemical products is cutting edge chemistry. It's also, interestingly, among the oldest chemistry techniques known to man.

Re:Translation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682135)

I remember learning about this in my Chemobiology class like it was yesterday. Oh, wait, that was Biochemistry.

Re:Translation (5, Funny)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about 2 years ago | (#41681861)

You forgot baking! Cookies and cake are the two most important things to use chemistry for.

Re:Translation (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682113)

You forgot baking! Cookies and cake are the two most important things to use chemistry for.

Yeah, but I heard the cake is a lie.

Re:Translation (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#41681925)

Tell him he can use the knowledge to brew alcohol, make drugs and bombs. It really is taught in the most boring way possible. Learn the boring bits to make the exciting bits happen.

Yeah I am sure the school administrators and parents would looove that!

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681741)

I would mod this up if I could.

Re:Translation (5, Insightful)

rsmither (221910) | about 2 years ago | (#41681805)

I don't think this has to be the case at all. It is true that there are a lot of courses that we force students to take, especially at the high school and college levels, that won't really help them in their career choice. For example, when was the last time you needed to convert moles to something else (how many just went to google to find the formulas)?

I would agree that there should be a basic understanding, but really, most of what you need to know for daily life could be done in a month or two at most freeing up time for other subjects.

Granted, I have no idea how this would play out in a normal high school setting. But as I see it, we aren't exactly doing the greatest job teaching skills that are needed to compete in today's world and perhaps more choice/customization of a learning curriculum would produce more viable people for the workforce.

Re:Translation (5, Funny)

GungaDan (195739) | about 2 years ago | (#41681951)

This summer I had to convert a dozen or so moles to mulch. I tried to convert them to cat food but the reaction failed for insufficient feline catalyst.

Re:Translation (3, Informative)

tom17 (659054) | about 2 years ago | (#41681997)

For example, when was the last time you needed to convert moles to something else?

Oblig: http://what-if.xkcd.com/4/ [xkcd.com]

Which of course leads to the 2nd strip down after you search for this: http://www.google.com/search?q=star+nosed+mole [google.com]

Ugh (And yeah, it was just a few days ago that I searched :) )

Re:Translation (3, Insightful)

Magorak (85788) | about 2 years ago | (#41681807)

This is another case of a parent who doesn't want their kids to fail in anything until they get to the real world and realize that, uhm, people fail at a lot of things and your daddy isn't going to help you any.

Seriously, I took chemistry twice and sucked at it and just got through it. We can't all have classes that are picture perfect for us. Some things we're good at and others we're not. Deal with it.

Re:Translation (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | about 2 years ago | (#41681827)

BRAVO! You win, 'nuff said :)

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681883)

He makes some good points. We're stuck on a system of schooling meant to turn out well-rounded upper- or upper middle-class gentlemen. By 15 it's probably pretty clear whether or not the kid has much of a chance of a career in science or engineering. If not, why make them waste their time on that versus something more practical or at least enjoyable? It's a disservice both to kids who hate the subject and the kids who are interested; because of the 50%+ of the kids who don't want to be there, the kids that do get a fraction of the hands-on experience and mentoring that they'd actually benefit from.

Re:Translation (4, Insightful)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about 2 years ago | (#41682097)

It's been my experience that if you didn't force kids to take science classes most wouldn't for two reasons. 1) religion, and 2) because the don't want to.

I lived in the southern part of NC for awhile while in Junior High. It was extremely common for parents to write notes to get their kids out of Biology classes if the subject dealt with evolution. I spent most of the semester yucking it up with the other seven of 25 kids that didn't get out of Biology. So aside from the fact that most kids don't want to take science and math classes, because those classes tend to be harder than music appreciation, I think there could be pressure on other kids to skip science classes if the subject disagreed with a family members personal convictions.

Re:Translation (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682039)

The kid shouldn't be taking classes just to think or just for challenge. The kid should be taking courses directly aligned with their chosen future. This goes for college/university as well.

It's good to be specialized.

Re:Translation (5, Interesting)

borcharc (56372) | about 2 years ago | (#41682083)

My parents did this to me when I was a kid because the teachers convinced them I would be unable to learn math, chem, etc due to an alleged learning disability. It took me years after high school to get caught up on 10 years of missed math courses. I still hate them for it...

Re:Translation (5, Insightful)

Random2 (1412773) | about 2 years ago | (#41682153)

Knee-jerk reaction detected! Didn't RTFA to boot! No wonder slashdot's moderators love you!

That's not what he's saying at all, but the poorly worded ./ summary and article set up so people, like yourself, can flame him easily without actually understanding what he's saying. He's not talking about his kid sucking at chemistry, nor is he blaming anyone for it, or even saying his kid should be good at it. What he's saying is that a distinct lack of variation in public education will only harm students in the long run. Perhaps high-school is a long time ago for you, but looking at the current American curriculum shows a very distinct lack of variability. For a personal example, the only time I actually got to choose a class I wanted to take in high-school was around senior year, every other class was part of some 2, 3, or 4, year plan that every student had to go through in order to graduate. 3 years of science, 4 years of English classes, 3 of a foreign language, 3 for history/civic involvement, etc. There was barely any time to do what I wanted to do.

This is not to say that students shouldn't be exposed to a variety of courses. That diversity allows for a students to explore a range of topics and find one they're interested in. But, once they've found that subject, they should be allowed to pursue it. If a kid wants to be an auto mechanic for the rest of his life, then let hem learn about that. If they're into business, then let them take the courses about business. Locking them into a 'standardized program' doesn't magically make them a successful adult or magically teach them the skills they need to know in order to be a member of society.

Basically,a 'cookie-cutter' approach is not the proper way to teach, but that's how the system is currently designed.

Let's Play the "If Only You'd Taken" Game (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#41681715)

Now I don’t begrudge chemistry, which has brought forth many of the great inventions of our time, from the pain killer I took an hour ago to the diet soda I’m sipping on now (I’m actually sipping on Scotch. In fact, my very own mother, who if I am lucky will never lay eyes on this article, is a chemist, and believes that chemistry is the most noble of human pursuits and doesn’t understand how I, a former philosophy major, was able to eke out a living.

And if you wouldn't have wasted your time on that public speaking course and instead used that opportunity cost to take a class in a Lisp language like Scheme you'd understand why your failure to close that left parenthesis is driving me bat shit insane right now.

Re:Let's Play the "If Only You'd Taken" Game (2)

berashith (222128) | about 2 years ago | (#41681771)

If it makes you feel better, before I had even gotten to your comment about the quote, all I was thinking was " where is the damn closing parenthesis ?" .

Re:Let's Play the "If Only You'd Taken" Game (4, Funny)

msauve (701917) | about 2 years ago | (#41681871)

1) Let me help.
2) Oops, was that too much help?

There will be options later right? (4, Insightful)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | about 2 years ago | (#41681727)

This guy is acting like as if his son will be forced to take chemistry all his life. There are some basic classes everyone takes and then as kids progress through school the curriculum becomes more and more flexible. Now if he is super interested in other classes I am sure he can point his kids towards simpler startup classes in coursera etc that might help. May be some thing is available for public speaking also. Or he has the option of homeschooling his kid.

Re:There will be options later right? (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 2 years ago | (#41681941)

At least at my school, there were different levels of chemistry: regular, honors, and advanced placement (AP). Most students took AP as a 2nd year class mostly after honors, so ya there's room for those who are interested or not, but I'd also say its a good thing to learn WHY you can't mix bleach and ammonia, rather than someone just telling you it's bad.

Re:There will be options later right? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682123)

Exactly. But we can't really blame the guy can we? See he was forced to take chemistry in school himself and so never got the opportunity to learn how education works. We can hardly fault him if that means he has to apply economic principles he understands to something (education) he clearly does not.

That's nice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681731)

But that's what college is for. And if he's in any average school he'll have the chance for a few electives in his later high school years.

Special and Individual (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681737)

It seems like that article is nothing more than a soapbox to declare that his kid is special and precious. So your kid doesn't like chemistry and would rather take a class that's much harder, like public speaking. Fuck off.

It's not just about chemistry. (5, Insightful)

ZorinLynx (31751) | about 2 years ago | (#41681739)

Chemistry class isn't just about chemistry. It also teaches critical thinking and problem solving skills. Having to balance chemical reactions, though it may be useless to 95% of people in the real world, is one example of a skill that improves one's thinking ability when they learn it.

I also feel it's essential for people to know the basics on how the world works. High school chemistry isn't exactly hard.

Re:It's not just about chemistry. (2)

SirGeek (120712) | about 2 years ago | (#41681865)

Not to mention it CAN be done in a way that is fun AND educational and JUST might help his child to be "better". A Chem example I still remember almost 25 years later (from College) and it STILL amuses me. It was essentially how much sand would you need to replace the gold idol and NOT trigger the gigantic marble. He gave you the volume for the gold statue and you'd need to figure out the mass (since it was 24K gold, etc.) Chemistry can also help improve math skills since its formulaic and it can also help (as has been said) reasoning skills because you sometimes have to make observations and then figure out what happened (then explain it in detail).

Re:It's not just about chemistry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681897)

Also it teaches you basic fucking chemistry which comes in handy if you work for a living.

Re:It's not just about chemistry. (4, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 2 years ago | (#41682063)

Also it teaches you basic fucking chemistry which comes in handy if you work for a living.

Love is chemistry. What you're referring to is physics.

But either way, the kid'll get plenty of opportunity to learn in college what he misses in high school.

Re:It's not just about chemistry. (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#41681905)

I also feel it's essential for people to know the basics on how the world works.

This is the heart of the matter. If you don't believe in (and understand) science, anything could happen; the world could spontaneously collapse into a black hole, a hobo on the street could discover a way to turn lead into gold, every case of cancer in the world could suddenly disappear, or every healthy person could develop AIDS for no discernible reason. Without understanding the science behind why these things are impossible (or at least statistically unlikely over the lifespan of the universe) how do you hope to understand where your electricity comes from or how pharmaceuticals are researched? Not understanding science is like living your entire life based on Last Thursdayism (the idea that the entire universe, was created last Thursday, including all evidence to the contrary).

Re:It's not just about chemistry. (1)

caturday (1197847) | about 2 years ago | (#41681985)

If I had karma, I'd give you some. This is exactly what I was going to say. The world could do with more people who have a basic foundation in how testing hypotheses works.

That's scotch he is drinking (4, Insightful)

jawtheshark (198669) | about 2 years ago | (#41681743)

That's scotch he is drinking... Chemistry: fermentation. Process of distillation: Pure chemistry, I tell you.

He is insulting the education (and probably passion) of his own mother. He should simply shut up.

Besides, ADHD is overdiagnosed. He probably just has a spoiled kid that never learned to sit still for half a minute.

Re:That's scotch he is drinking (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 2 years ago | (#41681863)

Fermentation is biology not chemistry. You can leave a sugary solution out all week, but nothing is going to happen until yeast gets involved.

Re:That's scotch he is drinking (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | about 2 years ago | (#41682031)

And biology is just a chemical reaction.

Re:That's scotch he is drinking (2)

meglon (1001833) | about 2 years ago | (#41682161)

True, however, most any home brewer will tell you... once you toss the yeast in, your pretty much out of the loop biologically speaking. Everything then is a matter of keeping them doing what you'd like them to do by adjusting their habitat...through some basic chemistry. That's in general. That scotch he's drinking is more about distilling.... which is a chemistry skill; and moving to Scotland, finding a barrel, and letting it sit for 3 years (or more)... which is a holy_shit_the_food_here_sucks skill.

Ironically, his kids won't be able to ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681761)

... help their kids with Chemistry classes ;-)

That's what college/university is for... (5, Insightful)

Assmasher (456699) | about 2 years ago | (#41681767)

...not elementary, middle, and high school curricula.

You may just have to accept that your kids are going to suck at things.

Think of all the money you'll save from buying your own "Congratulations on 10th place!" ribbons.

Makes good points (5, Interesting)

ranton (36917) | about 2 years ago | (#41681783)

Before jumping to some assumption that he is a bible thumping moron (I made the same assumption at first), you should read the article. He doing make very valid points. He actually says he would like to replace full classes on topics like chemistry with several survey classes that expose students to many subjects before they choose the ones they are interested in. This sounds like a great idea. I was a physics major in college, and even I found my high school Physics class hardly useful at all. Not nearly enough depth to gain useful knowledge, and those who will never use it weren't paying attention anyway.

Re:Makes good points (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681979)

I found my high school Physics class hardly useful at all.

That is probably more a result of how the course was taught than a necessary consequence of having high school physics. Of course, when designing curriculum, one has to be aware that there are going to be less than ideal teachers implementing much of that. But the less than ideal teachers that can turn a intro physics course into something that makes people say they hate physics the rest of their life isn't going to do too well with short survey courses either. It would be kind of a gamble, either the teacher is passionate and concise doing a good job of showing off the subject in that short course, or the survey course would be even more useless fluff ignored by students.

Re:Makes good points (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682047)

But did your exposure to Physics in High School.influence your decision to take it in college?
I see no reason a student at High School level shouldn't be exposed to as many different things as possible. College is where you get a choice in what you want to focus on.

Re:Makes good points (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682151)

that's probably because of the fact that calculus isn't a given in high school any more.

kinda hard to accurately reflect even something as simple as ballistics when the answer to "what about air resistance?" has to be hand-waving.

Troll? (1)

patchouly (1755506) | about 2 years ago | (#41681787)

Is this a troll? How can anyone advocate for decreasing their child's knowledge? There were certainly subjects that I wasn't good at, but even those classes taught me a few things that I wouldn't have otherwise known.

Re:Troll? (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41681895)

Is this a troll? How can anyone advocate for decreasing their child's knowledge?

There were certainly subjects that I wasn't good at, but even those classes taught me a few things that I wouldn't have otherwise known.

he's just stupid, rather than outright troll.

tell me mr bernstein - what good is being able to speak if you know nothing to speak of?

Re:Troll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682033)

I don't get how you can label this as "decreasing" his child's knowledge.

I don't agree with him but he's not suggesting that students take less classes, just different ones/more flexible choices.

HS Chem isn't mandatory everywhere. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681791)

Where I grew up in Canada, chemistry was NOT required in high school, and that is still the case. A common "science" course in grade 10 was required, and at least one of either physics, chem or bio in grades 11 and 12.

If you actually wanted to get into any post-secondary science or engineering program though, you pretty much needed high school chem.

Dear sir.. (3, Insightful)

phrackwulf (589741) | about 2 years ago | (#41681801)

Sounds fantastic.. want this kind of granularity, homeschool the kids for a year or so yourself, then have them rejoin the public school to finish up Junior and Senior year. Present it as a compromise with the school folks. They might just go for it! NEXT!

Re:Dear sir.. (5, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 years ago | (#41681959)

Yeah, I was going to say, you want your kid to take public speaking? Behold! [toastmasters.org] Not everything needs to happen in school.

Besides, we don't need to cram every damn thing into high school. I took a public speaking course in high school. It was an elective. There were other electives I would have liked to take as well... I took them in (drumroll, please...) college! I also took a worthless Chemistry class in high school - but the teacher was horrible, not the subject (I think our class collectively scored a 40% on the state Chemistry test).

Re:Dear sir.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682007)

That is generally illegal.

In most places it is against the law to pull a student out of school for the purpose of homeschooling with the express reason of disagreeing with the school. Rather, reasons must usually be that you feel you can provide more education or better education. Saying you're homeschooling to not teach them chemistry WILL land you in jail.

School Time Management (4, Insightful)

MitchDev (2526834) | about 2 years ago | (#41681803)

K-12 is for BASICS. College is for options...

Re:School Time Management (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682003)

K-12 is for BASICS.

College is for options...

You're so right. Henceforth we must prohibit high schools from teaching non-basic classes. No more AP, IB or Calculus classes ever again.

The bright line rule shall be: if a college would be willing to grant you credits based on your performance in the class then the high school is forbidden from offering that class.

Now all geeks can spend high school bored out of their minds.

Well rounded (2)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | about 2 years ago | (#41681809)

Student need to be exposed to all sorts of topics so they can find out what they like and are good at. His kid might be good at public speaking but might have a passion for chemistry. Chemistry is also a good life skill, how else would you be able to read the ingredients on the cereal box?

Re:Well rounded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682079)

Oh, come on! I still want to eat this stuff, I certainly do not want to know what's in it!

college has lot's of forced classes and lot's of t (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681813)

college has lot's of forced classes and lot's of them are use less and can add up to 1-2 years in school to learn skills that can be done in 1-2 years.

Re:college has lot's of forced classes and lot's o (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681917)

Putting superfluous apostrophes in the word "lots" suggests your experience of college is rather less than you claim.

Re:college has lot's of forced classes and lot's o (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682059)

Maybe's he meant it as he typed it, lot is.

Re:college has lot's of forced classes and lot's o (1)

djsmiley (752149) | about 2 years ago | (#41682071)

not to mention use less and using numerics in a sentence.

Re:college has lot's of forced classes and lot's o (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682049)

You have a lot of choice what college or university you go to though. Even within a single university, different programs can have drastic different requirements. If you don't like that an intro quantum mechanics course is required for English majors, then don't be an English major at Caltech. Heck, if you just want straight basic skills in one area, why bother with a four year degree and just go into one of many programs that teach those skills directly?

Re:college has lot's of forced classes and lot's o (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682107)

college has lot's of forced classes and lot's of them are use less

It's "lots" and "useless" (as in "You might have missed lots of grammar lessons").

and can add up to 1-2 years in school to learn skills that can be done in 1-2 years.

Eh. What?

Foolish (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681829)

All art, theology, history, etc. majors should be required a minor in the sciences. All hard science majors should be required a minor in the arts, history, etc.

When I attended Revelle College, this was their policy. It was a pita as you had more work to graduate, but I have drawn on my well rounded education many times, not just in my career, but generally in my life.

This father is trying to short-change his children, and if successful, many other children as well.

He has a point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681833)

While science is important, I have to agree with the fellow's overall point. In my high school there were a lot of mandatory, pointless classes which nobody wanted, but everyone had to take in order to graduate. This meant that many of us couldn't take classes we wanted because ,while they were technically offered, we didn't have any free slots in our schedules after the board mandated courses filled the schedule.

STS a better option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681841)

'Science and Technology Studies' (STS) is a much better option for most people than an actual physical science course. STS involves studying how science works (or at least is supposed to work). Henry Bauer made an excellent case for this a long time ago.

I actually agree with most of this argument (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681855)

I fully support the "students should be allowed to choose more subjects that specifically interest and fit them" part of his argument. I, a nuclear scientist, would even go so far as to say no, most students shouldn't have to take high school chemistry. I would completely support replacing 3-4 high school science classes in various subjects with one very strong, well designed course on the scientific method; that would be a wonderful step towards having students learn the philosophy that might stay with them the rest of their lives instead of reciting formulas and tables they'll forget a week after finals. But to just say "take out science" is a terrible idea.

opportunity cost? (2)

bjdevil66 (583941) | about 2 years ago | (#41681875)

Maybe he needs to consider the lost opportunity cost of not taking a chemistry class when it's available to his children in school. How many people have a full-blown, school-level chemistry lab with cool chemicals and tools to work with in their homes (with hoods and acids that can eat your face off)? How much will it cost to do it in college, with textbook and lab costs along with tuition?

goes both ways (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681901)

you can skip Chem when I can skip PE.
Sometimes you have to do stuff you don't have any interest in.

I see his point, but... (1)

stewbee (1019450) | about 2 years ago | (#41681903)

I can see where he is coming from here. I high school I did not want to take chemistry either. And my counselor even thought that for me to complete my 2 science class requirement that I would need to take it. Instead, I took physics which still met the requirement. This almost perplexed my counselor since she thought that chemistry was required to get into the physics class and that pretty much everyone else took the path from chemistry to physics.

The point I am trying to make here is that I can agree to some extent since I didn't want to take chemistry either, but in my case I still took another science class to meet the requirement. And for the love of god, is taking two science classes really too much to ask of someone over the span of 4 years? Certainly some schools will be different, but sheesh.

Society (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681907)

Its in societies best interests that people have at least a basic understanding of as many subject areas as possible. Chemistry is such a subject area. Basic knowledge of chemistry can save a persons life, or save the lives of others (and can be readily extended to science as a whole). Unfortunately this must mean that the students have to suffer a little, but guess what: we all have to suffer a little so that everybody can get a long with eachother AND help eachother.

My son will not be a scientist? (4, Insightful)

chad.koehler (859648) | about 2 years ago | (#41681909)

He states very bluntly that his 15 year old son "will not be a scientist". How does he know that?

Re:My son will not be a scientist? (1)

Jerry Smith (806480) | about 2 years ago | (#41682017)

He states very bluntly that his 15 year old son "will not be a scientist". How does he know that?

This is how he takes care of that. No son of his is going to become a scientist!

Genetics (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 2 years ago | (#41682067)

Genetics duh, with a dad like that, how can his sun become anything but a liberal arts major. Lets hope for the kids sake his mother cheated.

The reason for giving all kids a basic set of education is that you can't say at the age of 6 what a kid is going to be good at or wants to do, so you give a change to do a bit of everything and then they can narrow it down as they grow older, themselves by choosing how to continue their education and/or career.

The kid might indeed choose never ever to use chemistry again. And that will be his choice BE he was given the choice.

The simple way to test if subject A should be dropped is to ask if that means B could also be dropped. Those who heavily favor the soft sciences, well if chemistry should be dropped, then we also drop arts. Right?

No? Then we keep it as it is.

At first I was about to disagree then I thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681919)

He's right. Frankly there should be more freedom in the curriculum especially with english. I think it's essential to take the basic english courses and be exposed to literature but not on the scale we currently do. How many people go to college after highschool? how many people actually write papers for a living? None of those prepared me for working in IT. Chemistry, Math and other Sciences did. I wish I could have taken 4 years of chemistry, math and used 2 years of my required english for business and communication courses.

He makes a good point, but I'd go the other way. Trash the required english and require more science classes to promote critical thinking, fact checking, and reduce stupidity.

Re:At first I was about to disagree then I thought (1, Insightful)

chad.koehler (859648) | about 2 years ago | (#41682111)

Don't you feel that things like classic literature enrich your life? Even if it doesn't directly translate to a career? Frankly, I'm glad that I had the ability to experience things that weren't on the job training. You have 12 (or 13) years of mandatory school in the U.S., and probably 34-40 years of working. I'm glad that the first 20 years of my life weren't completely dedicated to my career.

Eh (2)

quag7 (462196) | about 2 years ago | (#41681927)

I'm 40 now and I can't think of a single thing from chemistry I've ever used. I can't even remember anything from the class.

Then again as a counterpoint I've never really used electronics, which I had 4 years of in high school, but I swear I think back to that class frequently when problem solving, from "split-halving" a problem to logic gates to make flowcharts and so on. Probably more than any class I had, electronics really taught me how to break down a problem and put together a solution.

I get the idea of a "core curriculum" to expose students to things, but I remain unsure as to whether things are currently makes much sense. I took chemistry, which went fairly into depth, but at the cost of not taking physics (chemistry satisfied the requirement). I'd rather have had a class which touched on each of these subjects for perhaps a quarter to half a year, spread out over two years, than a full year of chemistry, with the option to take a more in-depth science course for years three and four.

But I have to say, nothing I learned in chemistry stuck or was useful like electronics was.

I love history but I think it is taught poorly -- that's an area ripe for consolidation and fixing...social studies and English in general.

Bad, misleading summary... (4, Informative)

clinko (232501) | about 2 years ago | (#41681939)

The summary here is saying the exact opposite of the article. He's saying the kid shouldn't be forced into Chemistry if he can survey OTHER science classes... Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

From the summary:
"... argues that his sons shouldn't be forced to take ANY science class."

From the article:
"Maybe kids can survey several science classes over the course of a year or two, and explore various options"

Re:Bad, misleading summary... (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 2 years ago | (#41682159)

You seem to be conflating two different things:

                    "A science class"

and

                    "survey[ing] several science classes"

Survey courses exist to introduce students to broad and general topics, the high school is quite clearly trying to educate students much more deeply on the individual general sciences (Googlin' State of Maryland's required subjects lists Biology, Physics, and Chemistry.)

In the article the author clearly states that he believes that forcing his son to take a science class (whether it is chemistry or another science) for an entire year is wrong; ergo, the summary is technically correct.

Intelligence is learned (2)

Unknown1337 (2697703) | about 2 years ago | (#41681955)

While basic understanding and comprehension can be quite varied, our knowledge which determines our intelligence is based entirely on learning 'things'. The average person who thinks they "forget everything" about an introductory class is kidding themselves. I only took an introduction to Chemistry and I couldn't tell you off the top of my head half of the conversions I learned, but that doesn't make the information any less available. I remember information about relating different types of matter, universal constants in reactions. Definitions of basic words like exothermic, endothermic, etc. and most importantly I learned. Sure the material may not have been my particular forte, but making yourself work at something shows what you can accomplish and allows you to think differently whether you realise it or not. If more Language (by this I mean native language spoken) classes were enforced as well perhaps we wouldn't live in such an illiterate, made-up acronym world.

Anti-intellectualism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681957)

As a country we need to decide what the point of education is, and what is required and what is not. HINT: It's not just about learning job skills. Ok, nowadays it is, but it shouldn't be. I know that's not quite what he's getting at, but it somewhat feels like it.

How can we move on as a country if everyone has just a narrow field of knowledge? If they can make a nice website, but fall victim to every marketing scam? Or fears dihydrogen monoxide? Or can't see the logical fallacies of politicians? Or falls apart when the cash register goes down and can't add or subtract numbers? An educated populace is a good thing, even if some courses must be forced down their throats.

BTW, kids go to school for 13 years (plus college). In high school, I took public speaking and economics, in addition to 4 years of science and math. And 3 years of music and 3 of a foreign language. And I'm nowhere near what other student's took. What's your child's excuse?

Less sense than money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681961)

There are private schools for the people that want to go against the grain of normalcy. Clearly the article/interview writer has mixed too much bleach into his vinegar; these words are poisonous to education.

Simple Answer (3, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 2 years ago | (#41681987)

There is a really simple answer to this problem. If you don't like the educational priorities selected by those who determine them in school curricula, teach your children yourself. While you still might have to meet these criteria, the amount of actual time spent doing so would be at your discretion.

need some topic background (1)

RichMan (8097) | about 2 years ago | (#41681989)

Even a preacher needs a basic background in chemistry to speak publically.
Politicians are going to need even more backround.

You can't have "the miracle of the bread and fishes" if you don't understand that normally mass out == mass in.

So to be a public speaker he needs a basic high school education which includes basic sciences.

Not enough hats (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682027)

Mandatory chemistry education is really terrible, because then we get far too many chemists and not enough milliners. See, that's why hats fell out of fashion when we stopped teaching kids how to make them in school back in the forties. I demand we stop favoring hard sciences and begin mandatory "crap I understand well enough to help my child with their homework" instead.

Fucking electives? (2)

redmid17 (1217076) | about 2 years ago | (#41682035)

How do they work? Yes your child and every other child in the school system is required to take a certain number of classes to graduate from high school. There are other optional classes which one can take whenever they want. THESE ARE WHERE YOUR CHILD CHOOSES PROGRAMMING or PUBLIC SPEAKING COURSES. FFS, if you're really desperate about getting him out of chemistry, make him take it during the summer when it's easy. Then he can take cake classes during the school year with the additional elective credit that opens up.

By all means... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682037)

Don't require the students to take any science or math courses so that they can buy into all of the crackpot, useless crap that is published in the name of science!

The guy must be an idiot.

There's a reason for having a curriculum (2)

chowdahhead (1618447) | about 2 years ago | (#41682055)

It was high school chemistry, particularly organic, that really got me to where I am today. Had I not been required to take at least one introductory class, I don't think I would have had the pragmatism at that age to sign up on my own. I also had to study Shakespeare, which I can't really say has contributed to my career, but it's made me a more well-rounded person. Being educated doesn't only mean being scholarly, it also means being open-minded.

This man is a true idiot (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 2 years ago | (#41682065)

there are several subjects that a person NEEDS to handle life.

math: to at least the lower levels of algebra
Geometry : regular solids and such minimum
Chemistry: Inorganic Chemistry and a basic grounding in Organic Chemistry
Physics: Basic grounding here so you know things like NOT to try and argue with a semi when you are in a smart car

i think that covers most of the Science stuff (but suggest other bits as needed)

If you are really concerned that he is missing stuff like public speaking do the same thing that the Trophy Wife you keep chatting up does with her daughter to fix the lack of Ballet Courses in the public schools ARRANGE FOR THEM AFTER SCHOOL.
http://www.toastmasters.org/ToastmastersMagazine/ToastmasterArchive/2007/May/Articles/Teaching.aspx [toastmasters.org]

(and btw you might want to have your son chat with said daughter also)

Re:This man is a true idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682139)

I believe the man should encourage his son to take Mandarin so he will be able to communicate with his future boss.

like the slashtarts complaining about liberal arts (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#41682089)

so how many people here complain about taking English or some literature course instead of more CompSci? why can't i read SciFi all day long?

Enough Public Speakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682093)

Don't we already have enough great public speakers in our nation who have no substantial understanding of how the world works?

Speak About What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682101)

Great, your kid can take a public speaking class so he can talk about how his Dad didn't let him take any science so now has no idea how the world works.

Science teaches you how to think so you can do things like cure disease and feed 7 billion people instead of squatting in a cave making up magical things to worship.

Why not both (1)

pacapaca (1955354) | about 2 years ago | (#41682115)

The mandated courses hardly take up a student's entire schedule. I had plenty of time for all my mandated courses plus many electives, including most of the optional courses he listed (except poli-sci, boring!), and still had time to be a lab assistant for the chemistry teacher (yeah, I was that kid). What is this guy rabbiting on about and why should /. care about some idiot's blog? I don't agree with all the mandated "gen-ed" courses at the university level but that's a whole different argument.

Let's take all just economics (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#41682125)

The money is for the people that play in the stock market, after all, why study anything else and just focus everyone education full to economy? Uh, and lawyers, specially IP related. Why to be part of the 99% if we could all be in the top 1%?

Oi vey! (1)

Tyrannicsupremacy (1354431) | about 2 years ago | (#41682127)

"Can't you just teach my kids how ta earn more shekels? Dey'll neva oin enough money wit dis chemistry nonsense!"

Breaking Bad (1)

scuzzlebutt (517123) | about 2 years ago | (#41682129)

No obligatory Breaking Bad reference yet? Same on you all...

Yawn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682133)

Right.
It's all OUR fault we make his kids take chemistry. It's all OUR fault his kids are failing chemistry.
When we listen to a loser talk about opportunity cost, it's eating up our time reading about the Earth sized planet near Alpha Centauri.
lol, people with economics degrees who think they can use 'economic theory' to generalize to non-economic things.
What a loser.

Multum non multa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41682141)

The proliferation of subjects in grade education is a recent phenomenon.

Isn't this what Russia and China do? (1)

realsilly (186931) | about 2 years ago | (#41682143)

In a communist society, people are forced into a field where they excel regardless of whether they like it or not. Our general education system is designed to ensure every student is taught the same basic information; otherwise if we don't do that, then underprivileged students will claim they were denied the same education as those not deemed underprivileged.

General education is the same for everyone. If you think your son is not good a Chemistry, fine, that's not his area of forte, but what's wrong with private tutoring outside of the classroom to help fulfill you're son's strengths, or to help him in his weaknesses.

Frankly, this just sounds like a gripe to me.
Pull your kid from school, and home school him, then you can work with him on those subjects he's excelling at and those he sucks at.

Situation solved.

Where to learn? (1)

lymond01 (314120) | about 2 years ago | (#41682163)

I'm 100% certain everything I know I learned in school.

Not.

Send them to a piano instructor, make them join the debate team, have them crack a book that isn't assigned reading. Have them code a smartphone app that manages their time.

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