Or so California state Superintendent Jack O’Connell would have us believe. Last month, the state Board of Education voted to require that every eighth grader take and be tested in algebra by 2011.  Personally I am shocked that Grade 8 kids are currently not taught Algebra, it is a pretty fundamental requirement to any level of math application in the workforce, other that operating a cash register.

Mr O’Connell maintains that California will need “more algebra teachers, align a new curriculum and get young students ready for more rigorous course work”. To put it in everyday terms I think Mr O’Connell needs to get a real job! Every certified teacher currently teaching math knows enough algebra to teach the subject at 8th grade level. And as for the comment ‘more rigorous course work’, whats rigorous about math? OK, its not as much fun as cheerleading, surfing, playing football, or whatever else Mr O’Connell thinks is an intrinsic part of our education system. From an employers point of view a high school candidate that has a grounding in algebra far out weighs their ability to twirl a pom pom or catch an ovoid shaped object.

If there really is a need for more math teachers in California and there is no budget, fire the damn football coaches and use the money to pay the math teachers.

Education is one area that I cannot help but get riled up over. There is so much wrong with it, and so little being done to rectify it. It is not the teachers that are at fault, it is not even (mostly) the school principals, it is the school boards and the ultimate blame is with the politicians.

Many districts have archaic and arcane curriculum, that leave little wriggle room for the teacher in the class room. The Bible Belt has taken it to new lows with the whole ‘Creationism’ business! Instead of teaching fiction, why don’t they teach Algebra fact?

Most adults never read books. Why is that? Well, in school the books taught in English Lit have no validity to today’s world, by the time a kid leaves school he has developed a deep hatred of the written word.

The No Child Left Behind initiative is a farce, only a politician could have come up with it. Rather than improving the situation it has ended up punishing both schools and pupils, particularly in low income inner city locations. Pressure on teachers has resulted in everyone passing the grade. The problem with this solution is that we have grade 12 graduates who read and write at a grade 4 level!

A common complaint that I here from the colleges and universities is that many entrants have to waste time taking remedial courses to learn the basic building blocks of learning, reading, writing, and arithmetic.

I have no sympathy for Mr O’Connell, if he can’t fix the California problem, maybe he is in the wrong job, I hear that McDonald’s are looking for burger flippers, hey maybe he could be the inventor of the Jack off Burger!

Simon Barrett


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