Madeline lead an open forum session where we could talk about the topic of education and how it affects our lives with a strong underlying theme of the importance of teaching trigonometry.  Those of you who follow what happens in the UUCE congregation might not be surprised at how high the passion for including trigonometry in school curriculum can get in a discussion like this.

And I’m on my way, I don’t know where I’m goin’
But I’m on my way, takin’ my time, but I don’t know where” – Paul Simon

Here are a few comments from today’s discussion.  They are without attribution, partly because I generally avoid naming names but mostly because I can’t take notes fast enough for exact quotes.  But I will say that the first remark comes from a thoughtful person still actually attending High School and the rest of the comments come from people who left High School long ago.

  • Learning Trigonometry and learning the PH of Lemons seems trivial in comparison to learning more practical life lessons in school.
  • I may not have used trigonometry since High School because I don’t need to figure out the kinds of things that require it, but I like knowing that kids learn that such things can be known and figured out, and there are very smart people in the world who know this stuff.  Science and math are important, but there seems to be a lot of people who vote in this country who seem not to believe in real science.
  • In my experience my kids are learing STEM skills in school now.
  • (this from a college professor) At the college level is still see a dumbing down of the curriculum.  The most important thing to have coming out of college is critical thinking skills.
  • I was exposed early on to new math with set theory and symbolic logic and by the time I got to trigonometry it was easy.
  • The critical thinking skills I learned in college helped me to analyze the fundamentalist religious teaching I had been fed at home and I was able to see through it.
  • I grew up in Texas, and in Texas they tried to expunge critical thinking from the curriculum because it taught people to question their parents.
  • “Common Core” curriculum is designed to get kids to think critically, and it is under attack in many places.
  • There is a divergence between technical knowledge and the knowledge of how to run a human society.
  • Are we educating people for jobs or are we educating them to know how to live?  Jobs can go away, even computer programming has changed radically since it first came on the scene.
  • I studied history.  I know a lot about country X, but very little about many other aspects of knowledge.  There is only so much time.
  • I love history, but I hate the way it was taught to me in school.  I have books I read now to tell me how things were in the past and how it leads to today.
  • I studied Drama.  It was fun, but I learned a lot about human interaction.
  • I remember reading Future Shock by Alvin Toffler in High School.  The problem, even then, was not change itself, but the rate of change is increasing.  The inability of people to deal with change makes people afraid.  People grab on to something that doesn’t change.  Then they gravitate to people who tell them that they have all the answers because it makes them feel safer.
  • Teachers encouraged me to get out of my shyness and fear of being wrong.  They encouraged my curiosity.

I also remember Future Shock.  I never would have thought that it would be invoked 40 years later as a means of describing an election campaign voting proclivities, but there you are.  Alvin Toffler would be proud.



The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” – Alvin Toffler Future Shock 1970