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California Education Board Dumbs Down Math Instruction

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I’m just shaking my head about this one. America is in a tough, high-tech competition with Communist China. California, especially Silicon Valley, is leading that fight. And what does the state Board of Education do? Dumb down math education.

According to EdSource, the new California Mathematics Framework, passed July 12, is 1,000 pages long. And, “It will stress approaches that seek to engage all students by emphasizing problem-solving and creating context and the relevance of math to students’ daily lives. The goal is to build a conceptual understanding of what students will learn before delving into math procedures and algorithms that traditionally have come first.”

“Conceptual understanding” is just busy work that wastes students’ time. It’s really easy to see what kids should be learning by looking at free online courses. One of the best is the Khan Academy. For example, here’s how 2nd grade math starts:

  • Unit 1: Add and subtract within 20;
  • Unit 2: Place value;
  • Unit 3: Add and subtract within 100.

The units include colorful illustrations to make the lessons easier and more clear. The state now spends more than $23,000 per year on average for public school students. A big chunk of that now will go to provide the new math materials. When all we have to do is point the kids to the Khan Academy website.

Math affects every area of STEM: science, technology, engineering and, of course, math itself. Tough but effective math classes sort out who should be given scholarships to those fields, and who should take up something else. It’s like how kids of smaller stature realize they’re not going to be linebackers on the high school football team and maybe should look to track and field.

The plan to “engage all kids” is just part of the “equity” nonsense ideology. It means every student is supposed to achieve at the exact same rate in every field. It’s part of the DEI mania—diversity, equity, and inclusion. (Which Jordan Peterson says should be changed to DIE.)

Here’s the real challenge. According to the Engineering Institute of Technology, here are the top five countries graduating engineers per year:

  1. China: 1.3 million
  2. India: 1 million
  3. Russia: 454,400
  4. USA: 237,800
  5. Iran: 233,695

China and India have large populations. But Russia’s is 40 percent of America’s, yet the country produces nearly double the engineers. Iran’s population is less than one-third of ours, yet produces almost the same number of engineers.

Epoch Times Photo
Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles on April 23, 2012. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Engineer Shortage

The U.S. shortfall means we have to import engineers. Reported Electrek last November, “Tesla is looking to replicate the massive success that it achieved at Gigafactory Shanghai in the United States by bringing some of its Chinese engineers to help improve production at the Fremont [California] factory.

“It’s hard to overstate the success that has been Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai.

Tesla was extremely successful in ramping up production at Gigafactory Shanghai, which became the most productive electric vehicle factory in the world at an incredible pace.

“The automaker went from breaking ground in 2019 to starting production by the end of the year—something virtually unheard of.

“Now the factory already has a production rate of 1 million vehicles per year, and it’s the largest electric vehicle factory in the world by volume.”

This is embarrassing. I grew up in the 1960s in Wayne, Mich., one-sixth of which, then as now, was the giant Michigan Assembly Plant. Most of my family worked in the auto industry. My father graduated in 1935 as a tool-and-die maker from Henry Ford Trade School. When he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941, he became a captain of ordnance, leading men who fixed the tanks and guns after the 1944 Normandy invasion that beat the Nazis. My Mom worked as a registered nurse in the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant.

All that was part of the Arsenal of Democracy that defeated Hitler and Imperial Japan. Now we don’t have enough engineers to build our own cars. What would Henry Ford say?

Then there’s the national security problem. How well will the Chinese engineers be vetted for security? Thomas McArdle reported on May 23 in The Epoch Times, “The Department of Justice announced on May 16 that it has charged [former Apple software engineer Weibao] Wang with six counts pertaining to stealing Apple technology and providing it to a Chinese smart car company. Wang is the third ex-employee of Apple charged with stealing trade secrets from the global tech giant.”

This would be much less of a problem if we produced our own scientists, engineers, technicians, and mathematicians.

internet marketing
Software engineers work on an internet marketing company in San Diego on May 28, 2019. (Sam Hodgson/The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

New Sputnik Challenge

What’s really needed is a crash program to revamp American education to emphasize STEM. It would be similar to what happened after the Soviets launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, on October 4, 1957. President Eisenhower said we needed to meet the challenge with “resourcefulness and vigor.” America snapped into action and advanced STEM training. The Space Race was on.

On April 12, 1961, the Soviets put the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. President Kennedy addressed Congress on May 25, in a speech still quoted in history specials, promising, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft.”

America won the Space Race. On June 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and proclaimed it “one giant leap for mankind.”

Can America meet the communist challenge again? It better. The first giant leap must be dumping such nonsense as the new California Mathematics Framework.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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