Let’s Stop Pretending Everyone Needs Calculus

First: I love math. I think it’s critical. I was the first female in my high school to ever pass the AP calculus exam. My ability to do calculus and statistics got me my first professional job in Human Resources.

And I don’t think everyone should have to learn advanced math. Basic math, yes. Calculus? No.

Students staged a sit-in at Manhattan’s LaGuardia High School to protest an increased focus on academics. Now, normally I would say that the kids should stop whining and do their homework, but this high school is a performing arts school made famous in Fame–the movie and television show. You remember, Fame, right? “I’m gonna live forever!” 

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9 thoughts on “Let’s Stop Pretending Everyone Needs Calculus

  1. I agree with you. College isn’t for everyone.The emphasis high schools are placing on going to college is out of the ballpark. I believe it all has to do with money. Just as healthcare has changed, and it’s all about the money, so has higher education.

  2. So much yes! If we’re going to insist that all high schoolers take advanced math, then we damn well better offer all high schoolers access to the arts, music, and physical education. In my part of the midwest, we do not. Any education expert will tell you that students benefit when they have access to challenging academics AND the arts/physical movement. The study of math and science helps enhance an artist’s mind….and the brainiacs need a break to use their creative side. I’m an accountant that loves to sew. I excel at both because I had access to both and they both benefited each other.

  3. What’s wrong with lessons that teach kids how to persist through something that’s frustrating, and that they’ll probably fail at? Let them learn how to handle failure and face the fact they’re not going to be good at everything, but they still need to try.

    Too bad practical lessons like this can’t be built into our educational system. Failure and how to deal with it is one of the most powerful learning opportunities anyone can have.

    1. If students were able to try–and fail–without it reflecting in their GPA, I’d be inclined to agree with you. But as it stands, that could be a very costly lesson for students if it impacts their standing while applying to colleges/scholarships/etc. (I knew I wouldn’t do well with calculus, so I intentionally didn’t bother to take it for exactly this reason)

    2. Do you really think that students of the performing arts don’t know anything about persistence and failure? Students who pursue a career in the performing arts are quite familiar with practice, practice practice, as well as endless auditions. They don’t need to be forced into calculus class just to learn persustence.

    3. The assumption in your first paragraph is that art is easy. While I’m not familiar with this particular school, I’ve interacted with many artists, and can assure you they face difficulties and failures on a regular basis. You can’t spend 40 hours on a casting, only to have it fail completely for random reasons, without learning to take failure in stride. And even if you’re talented, you still face failure–dance is physically demanding, and everyone gets the cold.

  4. I don’t think everyone needs calculus. However, I don’t believe that public high schools are requiring anyone to take calculus, but are only offering it as an elective — if at all — for advanced placement or honors students. That being said, students majoring in the arts absolutely need a solid academic background. Very few artists succeed financially, solely based on their art. Many have to support themselves through work in other fields, to avoid becoming starving artists. And, frankly, a good basic academic education benefits everyone, regardless of their future career aspirations.

  5. As a former teacher, who eventually switched job gears, because of job economics, all students need to learn basic education skills–reading, writing, and arithmetic–the 3 Basic R’s. Then once those are intact, learn to develop other skills. Some people are artistic, some are STEM people.
    In my days of schooling, if you weren’t academically gifted, you had the choice to switch programs that didn’t require academics and could learn job skills instead. Today they call them adulting classes, for people who took classes to earn a “college” degree but learned no job skills.

  6. I have a degree in computer science. I had to take 3 semester of Calculus and 2 semesters of major’s Physics (as opposed to Physics for non-majors)

    All 5 classes were a waste of time and money. I could understand taking a “Survey of Calculus for Business Majors” (only one class) and the non-Majors physics but there was no reason for me to take the classes I had to take.

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