I hold no personal grudge against the American Education System, but I can’t help but feel that, being a crucial microcosm of larger American society, its lack of advancement has severely handicapped America’s as a whole. This is no more evident than in the sad state of the modern American math class, which is, unfortunately still just that, a math class. For 224 years, the math class served its purpose, and it served it well, but now, in the era of modern computing, it’s about time we replace it with something much better.
The problem with the math class, in my eyes, is not that it’s subject material, math, is unimportant, no, math is incredibly important to everything we do in life, and it’s crucial to our survival. My argument is not that math is unimportant, my argument is that math is not important enough to deserve so much focus in the American education system, a system where subjects that are vastly more pertinent to today’s world than say, calculus, are suffocated and seen as afterthoughts. So to reiterate, what I don’t believe is that an understanding of math is pointless, but what I do believe is that there are other, far more important fields of study that are being robbed of the resources (funding and attention, primarily) that are in dire need of a fraction of those that the teaching of math is given.
One such class, and the focus of this piece, in particular, is that of computer science.
Among the upper echelons of the tech savvy, there’s much consternation over the idea that, as computers get more easier to use, our society’s collective tech savviness and tech literacy diminishes. Where as once we needed to fundamentally understand the ins and outs of a computer to operate it at all, today, toddlers can swipe to unlock an iPhone and find YouTube videos, all with no understanding whatsoever of what happened behind the glass. And, yes, it is great that the major bottlenecks that have limited computer adoption in the past have been eliminated, but this user experience advancement comes at a heavy cost. The concern arises out of the idea that, as our collective tech literacy is diminished by the aforementioned eliminations of user experience hurdles, we will have fewer and fewer people with the required technological knowledge and ability to continue the rapid technological advancement our race has seen for the past 50 years, as the amount brain power fueling that advancement will gradually shrink to a fraction of its former self.
Making this situation even more difficult is the fact that, not only must each generation of innovators match their predecessors in tech literacy, they must likewise have a greater and more all-encompassing understanding of technology than them as well, as is required to effectively build upon the previous generations’ own technological advances. Oh and did I mention that, as more and more of these technological advances are made, they end up spawning more fields in need of advancement that demand their own trailblazers, meaning if we seek to effectively continue the advancement rates of the past few decades, we need a larger, more technologically inclined generation than ever before.
Then comes the occupational problems based on a generation deprived of technological knowledge in the name of understanding advanced mathematics. In 20 years, they’re won’t be a need for accountants. Or secretaries. Or Auditors. Or stock brokers. Our business and economic models are weaning off of a broad understanding of math, and in its place latching on to a model based firmly in computer assisted professions, but the problem is that our educational are not following suit. As computers become better and better at replacing the parts of our brains, businesses, and, as a result, society, these advanced understandings of math are gradually becoming less and less useful and more and more ornamental, and all the while advanced understandings of technology are becoming more and more necessary and more and more in demand. So this brings me to my main argument here, that being: we should fundamentally reorganize the mathematical components of our education system around a new, more of-the-times nucleus: computer science, all in the name of building contributing members of society whose technological knowledge will act to spur the wheels of innovation.
But this doesn’t mean I would like to see teaching math fully eliminated from the American education system, as this would mean that computer science would replace math class, and that’s not my goal here. My goal is for computer science class to build on math class, not replace it, I would have it be an evolution of it rather than a replacement, as this is fundamental to what computer science, and what is at it’s core, programming, is, an evolution of mathematics, an application for it in modern society. I would personally still have the fundamentals of mathematics taught for younger students maybe elementary and primary school level, but would wean them off of it and onto a computer science based class for middle school and up, a transfer in tandem with our society’s own.
There’s a reason schools don’t teach woodworking anymore, and it’s about time the traditional math class, with all the suffocation of more pertinent fields of study that come with the unwarranted focus around it, went down the same path. On the whole, the excess of attention given to math echoes the larger problems and failings of the American Education System as a whole, that being the superficiality of it all. Rather than having a system in which we can help students to find what they enjoy doing -their purpose- in life, we place them in a cookie-cutter system that is entirely based off of the superficial metric that is the report card, a collection of letters and numbers that tell you little more about the person whose name is on them than just that, painting an incomplete picture based off of how good you are at following directions and putting your head down and memorizing flashcards. I truly believe that my proposed revamp of the American Education System could help to trigger a ripple effect of education reform in the US, one that could help us tear down the antiquated institution of superficial numbers we have now and build a new, better one in its place, one that helps to build students into happier and more contributing members of society through teaching more pertinent subjects and skills and judging them and their worth of off more informed and accurate metrics.