You don’t need the calculus

I really don’t see why high schools should have to teach college level courses like calculus, economics, physics, chemistry or biology. Not all children go to college anyway.  Texas has plenty of on the job training programs that teach skills and trades. Oil field workers need to know how to operate machines that extract oil. They don’t need calculus to do their job.

– Texas Governor Rick Perry

Only in America, can we allow people like Rick Perry to gain a seat of power over the educational budget and allow him the means to exercise that power in short sighted, idiotic and malevolent fashion. Checks and balances aside, this man wants to remove the funding from higher level classes in order to help address his political goals. The irony is, if he were educated he would realize this is not how things work.

Any given school has classes that are deemed upper level. These classes have pre/corequisites, a number of which are going to filter down the available population to take such classes. If they didn’t work this way they would not actually be upper level classes, trivially. At De Anza, the computer science courses are broken into lower level (C, CPP, Java), Middle level (C, CPP, Perl), and Upper level (OOA/OOD, Perl, Assembly, C), and the schedule reflects this:

Course Sections in Winter 2011
CIS 15AG – Intro to C Programming 10+5 Labs
CIS 15BG – Intermediate C Programming 6+3 Labs
CIS 35A – Intro to Java Programming 2+1 Labs + 1 Online
CIS 26A – C as a Second Programming language 4+2 Labs
CIS 15C – Data Structures in C 4+2 Labs
CIS 35B – Advanced Java Programming 4+2 Labs
CIS 27 – CPP for C Programmers 2+1 Lab
CIS 29 – Advanced CPP Programming 2+1 Lab
CIS 33A – Intro to Perl programming 2+1 Lab
CIS 53 – Distributed Processing in Java 2+1 Lab
CIS 28 – Object Oriented Analysis & Design 2+1 Lab
CIS 33B – Advanced Perl Programming 2+1 Lab
CIS 26B – Advanced C Programming 0
CIS 21JA – Intro to IA32 Assembly 0
CIS 21JB – Advanced IA32 Assembly Programming 0

And this is a community college. Class sizes are also factored in here. The average class size for the first block is somewhere around 40 students per section, and as you filter through the upper level courses the class sizes drop off to about 20 and in the assembly courses I took the sizes fell off to 12 students in the one section offered. You may note that there are no ASM courses offered, that is actually an interesting aspect of the scheduling of classes – Based on the performance of students in the prerequisites the courses are offered one in the fall (Intro to ASM) and one in the spring (Advanced ASM), and depending on enrollment and classes they are often cancelled outright. =(

Even in light of all of this information though, pulling funding for these upper level courses would not impact the funding for the department in any meaningful way. This is reflected in my experiences at SJSU, where funding has been falling off at a marked rate for years and yet… the upper division courses still continue to run. Last semester I took a course in Graph Theory and we ran the class with a total of 12 students for 13 weeks of instruction.

So there is the actual visualization of the situation, with an example from California of course. But maybe the maths used in Texas, and specifically in the governors office, work differently. I was told that the original forms of Calculus shared with the world by Newton were more complicated than the forms we use now which were changed/optimized by Leibniz. Maybe the governor would feel better about Calculus If he had learned it.

This past weekend has been a very trying time, filled with death, devestation, radiation, shaking and lots of water. Also hitting the news ticker, in some stroke of genius that is beyond me, were updates on Mel Gibsons grand child being born, a bus that rolled over, killing a bunch of people and Gilbert Gottfried being fired and broken up with over a joke. The first is insignificant, the second is sad and the third is ridiculous. In what way can you be angry/frustrated/pissed off with a comedian for making a joke. The purpose of their industry is to make light of it and you can bet your ass there are jokes being made over in Japan at ground zero. More over, his joke was funny!

11:24 AM Mar12 – I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, “They’ll be another one floating by any minute now.”

6:29 AM Mar13 – Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.

– Gilbert Gottfried

While neither is amazing on its own, even if you don’t laugh at them you have to realize that the job of a comedian is to make light of life’s experiences, and that is a rule that goes back to the beginning of time.

Richard Pryor & Eddie Murphy – Does it make them laugh? Yea. Well then tell Bill to have a coke and a smile and shut the fuck up.

Louis CK – “I would have Raped Hitler.”

and finally George Carlin on what cannot be talked about:

In light of the aftermath going on in Japan, I’m sure it is a given that people are sending their money, time and energy, if not their thoughts, to Japan for its hardships. That does not mean we have to act like one off statements and silly jokes sent through Twitter are important enough to require people to lose sleep over them. Most of the people around me had forgotten that Gilbert Gottfried even existed and now think he is at least still funny and while I am sorry for the bullshit he has to worry about as an offensive comedian… at least he is still high and dry, that squinty eyed bastard. It is almost as if the news industry is filled with people who can’t find information on anything interesting, so they consider Twitter to be an appropriate lens through which to see the world. A sad form of Vicarious living.

  • mike whitfield

    Your mention of the academic part made me wonder: if putting people to work quicker is the interest…. why not put students to work on real problems in the course. Why not run schools like a co-op and require that students give back. It already works this way sorta… also, getting students to reliably output would probably be a disaster. But maybe its in the attitudes… maybe we strip empowerment from young minds enough that they see it within their ethos to slack off… the military is lacking from the programmer population… that is, were an undisciplined bunch.

    Food for thought, yum