Is Algebra Necessary?

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2012 at 8:32 pm

This is a post with my gut response to an almost comical article by some political scientist, appearing here:


Apparently political scientists (in case this particular one is a representing example) think that “objective truth” or “objective reasoning” are much different things than usual people have in mind. This guy basically tells us what he sees lacking in himself and probably in other people from his department, maybe even his secretary. He does no attempt to look a bit outside of his university building. Probably then he spent an afternoon looking for data confirming his stereotypes online.

I was thinking that the article would tell me what one means with algebra, and “necessary for what”. This is never made clear in the text, and you arrive a the end of the article with the clear impression of having been tricked. (Here are the answers: “algebra”=managing mathematical formulas, “necessary”=necessary in order to become better political scientists)

However I read this immense list of irrelevant data which basically foster the stereotype “numbers are confusing, especially when you call them letters, especially X or Y”. Also one of the main points is the following: If you want to become a good political scientist, you don’t need algebra. In my case this information turns out to be not-so-relevant, because, guess what? I’m not in a political science career!! ta-daaa!!

Another nobel-prize idea: school is made in order to prepare people for jobs. Clearly that’s all education is for, right? Why not sending people who are to become doctors in a doctor-fostering school since birth, and the same for peasants, lawyers, bee-keepers and salami-producers??

What is mathematics for the author of this wonderful essay? It is “teaching how to use numbers”. The deepest philosophical statement in the whole pamphlet is perhaps “What is needed is not textbook formulas but greater understanding of where various numbers come from, and what they actually convey.”

Clearly nobody ever heard of geometry, right? Triangles, circles, anyone? I mean, before writing some 10000 word article, why does one not get informed about what he will be speaking about? Why just throw a bunch of useless numbers and stereotypes in the face of the reader?





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