Even a Caveman Can Get a Degree

As you may have heard, Wayne State University announced that it will be eliminating mathematics as a graduation requirement. When I first read this, I couldn’t believe it. In what can be argued as a dumbing down of curriculum, the three R’s are now not needed to earn a post-secondary education… at least not at Wayne State.

At the risk of sounding elitist, a degree from a college that doesn’t require math will not hold the same esteem as other post-secondary institutions. In the future, when I hear of a person with a Wayne State degree, I will wonder whether they chose the path more traveled to avoid “tough” challenges. I say “tough” with air-quotes, because how freaking “tough” is college algebra? Sure, it’s not shallow work and requires a student to break a mental sweat, but no place worth going is easy to get to. I suppose it may depend on the student’s area of expertise in the workplace, but that’s just aggrandizement.

I also suppose it’s worth noting that Wayne State provost, Monica Brockmeyer, did say they will still offer mathematics; they just won’t require it to graduate. She says that students will still be “encouraged” to take math courses. Seriously? Are they being encouraged to eat their veggies and get to bed at a decent hour, too? That’s a choice that many students will not make. On the contrary, many students will be applying, because they can now earn a degree without taking math courses.

The good news (tongue-in-cheek) is that Wayne State is considering an “intense” diversity training requirement to replace the maths. I guess they feel main stream media inculcation is not sufficient. Have employment screening tools changed from being arithmetic tests? I have always taught students that the best way to ensure success in adult life is with a rigorous schooling in mathematics. (Read Conrad Hilton’s Be Our Guest.)

In any event, I think eliminating challenging courses greatly reduces the rigor in education, and may likely reduce the career options of those students who choose to participate. And while some programs will still require mathematics, eliminating math altogether is a mistake.

What do you think? Are 2 R’s and 1 D good enough? Or is this more relentless pursuit of mediocrity?

Originally published at marknoldy.com on June 23, 2016.

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