24 March, 2007

Can't See The Forest For The Woodwinds

I've just found my second "Bash The Local Democrats" moment of the year. Emphases mine.
A Republican lawmaker urged colleagues to adopt rigorous math and science high school graduation requirements Thursday - or watch Colorado youngsters lose a global race for high-paying tech jobs.

"The world is rapidly shifting to a technology-based economy, and if we don't meet the challenge, our kids will be left behind," Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Genessee, warned the House Education Committee.
Witwer and co-sponsor Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita, had attempted to gain support of skeptical Democrats by scaling back Senate Bill 131.

Instead of requiring four years of math to graduate, they asked for three years of math and science. The bill also would have allowed sophomores who test well on those subjects to opt out of junior- and senior-year math and science courses.
Committee Chairman Michael Merrifield, a former music teacher, opposed the bill, saying it would create an unbalanced educational system by robbing funding and students' time for liberal arts instruction.
For those of you in the Denver area, the loud sound you just heard was me yelling obscenities at my monitor. For those not in the area... Well, sound travels slowly, so it'll get to you later on.

Three years of math classes is not a difficult step to take. I had to endure those in the abysmal educational system of California. Three years of science classes is not a difficult step to take. I had to endure those in the abysmal educational system of California. And an option to pare it down to two years? Even less strenuous.

And what does Mr. Merrifield do? He shoots it down by saying it doesn't leave enough time for the "liberal arts"? Or, as the Denver Public Schools call them "elective studies"? The same DPS that already requires that minimum level for science and math coursework from their graduates? And the same DPS that overall ranks "at or above" the state average? (And to Denverites, that is either a welcome sign or a very scary concept.)

I believe it is time for Mr. Merrifield to turn his ears away from his beloved music classes and face a different music. I went through the same basic years of instruction that Mr. Witwer wants here in Colorado, and I still can't do college high-level math or science courses. I've even had a few extra pieces of coursework thrown in for good measure. I can hang on by sheer stubbornness and eke out a C (If I'm lucky. Which is exactly what I was when I accidentally took Medical Microbiology, the pre-med requirement, instead of Introductory Microbiology thanks to kicking the section number during registration. When you celebrate getting a D on a midterm, you know it's a tough class. Don't laugh.), but I can't truly understand them. And I fall pretty much at the average of the pack when it comes to my understanding of the "liberal arts" as I was well-grounded from my high school classes in theatre, music appreciation, and pottery.

(You're laughing, aren't you. Fine. In that midterm I mentioned, the grade spread was 1 A, 1 B, 7 Cs, 5 Ds, and 17 Fs. So getting a D was ahead of the curve, thank you very much.) (Oh. You're laughing because of the pottery class. Okay. Go ahead and laugh.)

A broad understanding of science and math are just as important as a broad liberal-arts background. Liberal arts shows us how rich our society is. Science and math are how our society got to be so rich.

Given my druthers, I'll pick science and math. Being able to understand is important, but not quite as important as being able to contribute.

And Mr. Merrifield shows that he just doesn't get it.
"My contention is by forcing every child into this narrow curriculum, we are not making them more innovative, we are not making them more creative," the Colorado Springs Democrat said, citing a national report that calls a well-rounded education the "passport to a job in which creativity and innovation are the key to a good life."
Mr. Merrifield? Continuing the lack of emphasis in science and math is not going to get kids those kinds of jobs in the future. In order to be creative and innovative in a field, you first need to have a thorough understanding of the base concepts. Only then can you see what is innovative versus what is ordinary.

So unless we want people to be innovative in the field of "liberal arts", I suggest we widen our horizons just a smidgen.

[Turn Signal: Grandmaster Jeffy G]

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