12 April 2011

Scott Adams On College Curriculums

I understand why the top students in America study physics, chemistry, calculus and classic literature. The kids in this brainy group are the future professors, scientists, thinkers and engineers who will propel civilization forward. But why do we make B students sit through these same classes? That's like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn't it make more sense to teach B students something useful, like entrepreneurship?

From here, by Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame.

FWIW, business majors at Miami University of Oxford, Ohio have to take a semester of calculus, or at least they did when I was a part-time student there, and I had something of Adams' view of that requirement for them.

The theory was that calculus was necessary for them to understand economics, but, in practice, it was simply a hurdle to keep out lots of people who probably could have been very successful in business but were weak in high level quantitative skills, or simply intimidated by the requirement.

The reality is that nobody in the business world ever does calculus (or for that matter trig, which is often considered a pre-requisite for calculus), and that even key calculus concepts in economics, which can be taught in a non-mathematical way, aren't used outside a very narrow group of people who also need advanced economics, in the business world. Plenty of business lawyers have trouble doing compound interest calculations (although they sometimes resort to algebra), and tend to get uncomfortable when non-linear equations come into play.

Also, FWIW, my cats always filed their tax returns when required to do so as a result of their taxable income (which just happened to be never).

1 comment:

Michael Malak said...

Where remedial math classes are offered at the college, being able to do Calculus really ensures the ability to do high school math. Without the availability of remedial math classes, though, you're right -- it's just a hurdle.