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Community College Official Wants to Drop Algebra Requirement Due to Low Pass Rates

Community College Official Wants to Drop Algebra Requirement Due to Low Pass Rates

“There are other math courses that we could introduce”

If algebra is an obstacle for some students, perhaps educators just need to work harder.

The College Fix reports:

College official: Drop algebra requirement because minorities keep failing it

The chancellor of the California community college system has stated that institutions’ algebra requirements are “the biggest barrier” for “underemployed or unemployed Americans,” and as such is … a civil rights issue.

According to NPR, Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley is “among a growing number of educators who view intermediate algebra as an obstacle to students obtaining their credentials — particularly in fields that require no higher level math skills.”

In an interview with the chancellor, NPR’s Robert Siegel pointed out the low graduation rate in the community college system (48% for an associate’s degree), and then asked Oakley if ditching algebra wasn’t just the “easy way out.”

Oakley retorted “I hear that a lot and unfortunately nothing could be farther from the truth. Somewhere along the lines, since the 1950s, we decided that the only measure of a student’s ability to reason or to do some sort of quantitative measure is algebra.

“What we’re saying is we want as rigorous a course as possible to determine a student’s ability to succeed, but it should be relevant to their course of study. There are other math courses that we could introduce that tell us a lot more about our students.”


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Good question. I have no idea why anything beyond basic arithmetic is taught to the rank and file. It just gives them headaches.

The College Fix article goes further, though, with some fantasy la-la-land stuff—

We want to build bridges between the kinds of math pathways we’re talking about that will allow them to continue into STEM majors. We don’t want to limit students.

It unfortunately gives no hint about what these alternative pathways might be. An annoying fact is that STEM material is almost entirely math, with a little bit of other stuff thrown in. If a student really can’t handle the math, it does him no favors to pretend that STEM is accessible to him.

Even STEM types are operating at a very low math level compared to the recent past. But that’s not really the same problem.

    Exiliado in reply to tom swift. | July 22, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    I guess we don’t know who is “rank and file” until they show whether or not they can deal with skills like, I don’t know, algebra maybe?

      tom swift in reply to Exiliado. | July 22, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      And, when you find out they can’t, then what? You impose it on them for another couple of years anyway. This isn’t education, it’s sadism.

      Considering that students have only a limited number of years in school, it seems counterproductive to try to teach them something they hate if they find it difficult and will never have any use for it. The time and effort can be expended far more productively.

        Exiliado in reply to tom swift. | July 22, 2017 at 4:59 pm

        They think they don’t have any use for it, but they do.

        Algebra helps develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. And I can assure you that the level of algebra required to graduate from High School, and most colleges is very, very, very basic, and all it requires is a positive mind and a bit of effort. It’s maybe a half-step above basic arithmetic.
        I know that by the time kids go into middle school, most of them are already ruined beyond recovery by the scam that is our school system, but that’s a different topic.

        The bottom line is, the algebra requirement is not insurmountable, it’s not even difficult.
        Want to graduate? Put some effort in!
        The other option is to make diplomas and degrees useless and without value.

I tend to agree. If one is taking auto mechanics, then he should learn math consistent with the trade. Some of the finest applied mathematicians you will encounter are construction job site estimators, for example.( How many loads of dirt will we be taking out? How much concrete should we budget for? All with community college degrees in heavy equipment or carpentry) Electricians routinely use all sorts of calculations.

    Exiliado in reply to puhiawa. | July 22, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Sir, if you really think that “Some of the finest applied mathematicians you will encounter are construction job site estimators,” then you have absolutely no clue to the meaning of terms like “mathematics”, “mathematician” or “applied mathematics”.

Here we have another example of the “soft bigotry of lower expectations” typical of the racist left. They go the extra mile to try to portray those they call “People Of Color” as dumb rubes that can’t make it without the help of the “superior ones” in government.
The sad part is that there are people so lacking in self worth that they embrace the classification as “POC”, or in other words, “inferior and different” in order to collect whatever crumbs and peanuts the “elite” decides to toss their way.
And the “elite” then uses those self-proclaimed worthless rats as representative of entire communities.

Nothing further from the truth, and the proof is in all of us refusing to be classified as anything other than “American” without race or ethnicity qualifiers.
So many of us have mastered Algebra, Calculus, Mathematical Analysis, Statistics, Analytic Geometry, and every other requirement to get our degrees. And we just go into business or into the workforce and take advantage of the opportunities out there, instead of whining and crying.

So no. Algebra is not racist.
People who say Blacks and Hispanics can’t do algebra ARE racist. And those Blacks and Hispanics who can’t do algebra is mostly because they’re lazy.

So the idea is to get rid of anything that some people find hard? So let’s just get rid of the requirement that they show up to class! It’s a throwback to the (excessively white) Protestant work ethic anyway. People of different ethnic persuasions have different perceptions of time and it’s racist to force them into that white-work-slave mold.

Just give them all their degrees whether they take algebra – or anything else! – or not. Pass them. Pat them on the head and send them out to Change! The! World!

    DaveGinOly in reply to irv. | July 22, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    I think that’s a wonderful idea! Just make sure to alter your commute to avoid bridges designed and built by those grads and everything should be OK.

This all goes back to why I and my colleagues rarely see a minority in our Chemistry classes. The reason is that Chemistry is hard because you have to actually learn something and show that knowledge on exams where the answers are quantifiable. In other words, minority students tend to flock to humanities courses where the Leftist instructors cannot tell the difference between BS and rational arguments. Quite a few minority students have actually bragged to me how they can BS the instructors of their humanity classes after having never studied or even read anything concerning the course and ten spewing out BS to receive a good grad. These students have nothing but contempt for education because o of how they play this game. And to think this is called “education” by those on the Left. If they had themselves taken algebra, then they would know that none of this adds up.

This article is about a community college, so we’re not talking about chem majors, premeds, etc. We’re talking about people working toward the AA in counseling, nursing, auto mechanics, carpentry, HVAC, etc. Algebra, which they either learned or didn’t learn in the 8th grade, isn’t that necessary, and many CC-level students have a mental block toward “math.” Even for the trades that use a lot of numbers (eg carpentry), they don’t really need algebra, but just good practice doing numerical calculations.

All of my comments above are irrelevant when students might be interested in STEM majors or careers, and going on to a 4-year degree. Math is crucial to all science areas, and someone who cannot do 8th grade algebra is not likely to succeed in a STEM area. I’ve taught chemistry at a wide variety of schools, including Ivy, large state university, and private college. In all of these schools, science students are expected to be ready for first-year calculus when they begin. If they need remedial math, that may extend the time required for the degree. The administrator who thought that students could succeed in STEM careers, even if they couldn’t do algebra, is badly mistaken.

Credentialism has created a world where practically all jobs require at least a 2-year college degree.

Reality has created a world where many lack the ability to do college-level work.

Therefore- well, either the credential must be changed until it’s appropriate for the work to be done (unlikely), or “college-level work” must be defined down to the level where practically everyone can do it.

And, yes, community college is not the bargain it appears to be when the metric is ($-per-graduate) and not ($-per-credit-hour).