Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Correspondence

william randolph brafford writes:
I would love it if mathematics through a full semester of calculus were part of a core college curriculum, and I think it could be taught in such a way that it strengthens a liberal education, but the problems run way down to elementary and middle school education, not to mention the travesty of geometry as it's currently taught in high schools. Still, it blows my mind that there are supposedly educated people who don't understand the significance of the achievements of Gauss.

The Ancient writes:
That mandatory curriculum of yours needs more economics and math -- even if the latter comes in the form of statistics.

Here's something that I posted a while back that was sorta like a core curriculum:
As I am entering my final semester, I have been thinking about the classes that I think every college student should take. Classes such as English 101, which are usually required, have been left off.


Statistics - Mark Twain said, "Lies, damn lies, and statistics." Without some understanding of statistics one cannot make good judgments about their validity. Given that many judgments are made based on statistical data, that presents the possibility of a lot of bad judgements.
Calculus - At least one semester to understand derivatives and integrals
Principles of Microeconomics and Macroeconomics - Usually offered as two separate one semester courses, these are useful for the same reason that statistics are -- to prevent you from being duped by data in the newspaper.
Introduction to Political Philosophy/Political Theory - Forces the student to think about an individual's role in society.
A non-western, regional history that you find interesting. American students get some Western Civ in high school, but very rarely anything beyond that.
Introduction to Logic - Helps to expose common fallacies committed by people everyday.
Intro to Finance - This is just to explain the concept of the time value of money, etc so that the student is not completely ignorant of the financial system at a time when retirement savings are increasingly controlled by the individual.
A classics class - This may be my own personal bias, but classics provided insight into what people thought, felt, and how they lived prior to the impact of Christianity. This allows for thoughtful analysis of topics such as, religion, slavery, war, love, greed, and politics.

1 comment:

David said...

I like your proposed core curriculum, though I could probably think of a few additions, such as lab science. Re calculus, it's possible to teach calculus in a way that gives people an understanding of integration and differentiation without the analytical derivation that is usually done.

A group of professors & students at Marshall U is pursuing an interesting approach based on the reconstruction of 1930s/1940s-era mechanical analog computers (differential analyzers). Back in the days of the original differential analyzers, Vannevar Bush observed that draftsmen & machinists who had relatively little mathematical training were able to grasp many concepts of calculus by becoming familiar with the machine that embodied these principles.

 
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