Richard Cohen’s Anecdote Meets Cliff Adelman’s Data…

Matt Yglesias takes issue with Richard Cohen’s “who needs algebra?” column in Thursday’s Washington Post (as did Mr. Sun, Pharyngula, and others…). Isn’t a more fundamental issue the irony of the column coming the day after U.S. Department of Education whiz Clifford Adelman released an updated version of his Answers In The Toolbox data that again reinforced the importance of an intense high school curriculum to college-level success? This is particularly important for disadvantaged youngsters. Now what bothers Eduwonk is that states are happily laying graduation requirements tied to more advanced courses on kids without doing the serious work to ensure they can meet those standards by addressing the tough issues like teacher quality, for instance here(pdf), here(pdf), here(pdf), and here(pdf). It’s almost as though the kids get the shaft because they don’t have lobbyists running around state capitals…nah, couldn’t be that, everyone knows the normal rules of politics and human behavior don’t apply to education!

Also, while you’re poking around Yglesias’ place and messin’ with his stuff also check out this post about the necessity of college. It makes a good point, but as far as K-12 is concerned shouldn’t the issue be letting kids make these decisions themselves rather than having them made for them because some kids get good preparation and others don’t in large part depending on their skin color or family income? Besides, there is an increasing convergence between the skills needed for almost any post-secondary career and what we generally consider “college prep” type skills anyway.

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