Hi, all. I am just going to respond to a couple of folks' posts in this
"catch all" response. 

Dr. Ciervo wrote: "Well for one, not even one university forces any
student to pay for any classes.  Students have the free will to choose
to attend any university that will accept them and then choose any major
within that university for which the university will allow them to

Well, you have already said that you don't think particular standards
should be lowered in the name of retention, but I tend to think in terms
of retention. Also, here is what I think . . . hmmm. If a student takes
a required algebra class and gets a low grade in it but does well enough
to pass, then, in my opinion, he or she is still lacking in the math
skills under discussion here. So what has been gained? 

Dr. Ciervo: We can all harken back to past times and I could wax
nostalgic about the era in which even urban inner city students were
taking Algebra 2 in 9th grade, Geometry in 10th grade, Trigonometry in
11th grade and Calculus in 12th grade. . . . [now] there are not even
more than a handful of students who ever reach that proficiency.  Sadly
in the past 45 years government run schools have failed many millions of
students and their families."

Well, I agree with you that public schools have failed many millions of
students and their families but I would argue that cultural shifts have
come in to play here, too, and that we can't blame only the public
schools. Waxing nostalgic: I wish students still had to take Latin while
in high school.

Dr. Ciervo: "That is why I am saddened to hear of professionals pushing
for the lowering of standards instead of supporting higher expectations
for our students."

I suppose I am just looking at this subject from a point of view that is
biased and (overly) filtered through my experiences as a student, as
well as my experiences in teaching. I do agree with you that students
should know how to add fractions, recognize a lowest common denominator,
etc. I am not arguing that I do not see the need for any math skills. I
have to admit, though, that I am far more distressed by students who
cannot read or write. I have taught first-year students who wrote at a
5th-grade level. There is no calculator to help one with reading or
writing. So I guess I am admitting my prejudice here. 

Linda S-L wrote: "Standards for what a college degree means need to be
maintained. It is a disservice to do otherwise."

Actually, I very much agree with you. However, whether we like it or not
those standards *have* changed and mostly because our target populations
have changed -- and because the roles and goals of colleges and
universities have changed. Perhaps I am just way off here but it seems
to me that a college degree has -- ostensibly -- become some sort of a
necessity to get a "good job," somewhat like a high school diploma used
to be. In reality, that is not even necessarily true. I think we have
spent the last 30+ years encouraging people who do not need college
degrees or who will not necessarily benefit from having a college degree
to get one. Don't you? 

I did not score well on the mathematics section of my GRE and I have
done just fine in academia -- got into a Master's program, got into a
Ph.D. program -- so I guess I am just looking through my personal filter
again. Now that I am thinking about this, though, I will say that I did
enjoy math as a young kid and if I had had a more patient and less
"mean" algebra teacher in high school, I might have very different
opinions here. 

Brenda Tiefunbruck wrote: "Interesting discussion on algebra but I fear
we are not all clear on the terminology." And Elizabeth Dewey wrote: "In
addition, too many people lack the math skills to understand how the
manipulation of math and plain old bad math can mislead, misinform, and
outright defraud them."

Yes, Ms. Tiefunbruck, I am beginning to think I may be one of those

I definitely think students should have to know how to add, subtract, do
fractions, and figure compound interest! Those are all math skills I
think contribute to a *good life*, not just a good academic record. 

My lack of math skills has never had an impact on my ability to
understand politics, health care, etc.   

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