Why Require Algebra

Regarding Solomon’s questioning of a college algebra requirement:.

Here are some more basic questions:  

“Why is high school algebra an entrance requirement for Trade Schools?”

 “Why is algebra a requirement for high school graduation?”

 “Why is there a continual clamor to raise education requirements when most people can’t find jobs that use the education they have?

I’m a retired high school math teacher.  My district recommended algebra because it knew that most post-secondary schools require it.  But that doesn’t explain why trade schools require it.

My wife is a registered nurse and she says she uses algebra.  But when I ask for details, all I get is a list of pre-algebra skills:  ratio, proportion, and percent.

Most office managers never use polynomials, but they had to study them.

Most electricians never use quadratic equations, but had to study them.

Most trade school graduates never factor trinomial squares on the job, but they had to study them.

I have come to suspect that an algebra requirement for trade school is wise because a person who doesn’t have the necessary ability and attitude to learn algebra is not a promising candidate for a technical education.

The advantages of learning algebra should be explained to all high school students, but those who don’t have the right ability or attitude to pass algebra, shouldn’t be shoved into a class with those that do.

I declined opportunities to teach algebra for the last ten years because the parents, counselors, and principals put students into my class who didn’t have what it takes to pass, even though every effort was made to help them.

By the end of the first semester, half of these students have concluded they won’t pass, management makes them stick it out for the whole year, and they make it difficult to teach those who are ready and willing to learn.

Regarding the College Algebra requirement for graduation from college, it helps to keep in mind that college algebra is another name for second year high school algebra. 

Engineering students are required to take a sampling of social and literary classes in the name of a liberal arts education and the same thinking should apply to the non-mathematical disciplines.

Solomon accepts a science requirement for literary students but he seems to be taking too many of his blessings for granted.

Thanks to science and technology, we are the most blessed people in the history.   What college graduate would want to live without pasteurization, microphones, telephones,  electricity,  x-rays, the automobile, refrigeration, television, satellites,  the microchip, clean air and water, and the Internet?

A person needs ten years of high school science to be well educated.   The same applies to history.