[ASC-list] mathematics in the news
j.leach at uq.edu.au
Mon Jul 7 10:29:50 UTC 2008
Thank you, Regan, for bringing the recent Guardian article to our
attention (for debate or otherwise!).
I'm quite interested in the arguments that are marshaled to support
mathematics (in education or otherwise). Simon Jenkins in _The
Guardian_ article suggests a couple of reasons mathematics education
is not that important. I'll summarise some of the 'biggies'. First,
most people do not need it (so he claims on various bits of evidence
including finding classical languages of more use himself). Second,
he suggests an historical argument (from the Soviet Union) that more
maths at the expense of other disciplines did the Soviets little
good. Third, he argues that arguments for mathematics are a cloaked
conservatism (remember those fusty English professors who lobby for
the canon?). These arguments seem to me of various weights, but at
least they are arguments.
So, let's hear (from Jan, perhaps?) some arguments for a robust maths
curriculum. Jenkins at least introduces one from the UK; a lack of
mathematicians might have cost the UK 9 billion quid.
His argument that "students are clamouring for the humanities" seems
quite anglocentric; there is little of that in Australia.
So, what does make Australia clever? I'm not sure I've heard any
arguments that mathematics will do it. But, I'm willing to be
Dr Joan Leach
Editor, Social Epistemology
Convener, Science Communication Program
University of Queensland
School of English, Media Studies, and Art History
4th floor Michie Building
St. Lucia QLD 4072
Cricos provider: 0025b
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