Take a minute to think about the following: When was the last time you made a mathematical calculation in your head or by hand (yes which means not using a calculator)? Surely, some of you avoid math like the plague – especially when your teenage child comes around looking for help on their math homework – but you must admit that even in this compalculator era it comes in handy to be able to tally your bills in your head or figure out the miles per gallon you’re getting while driving along in traffic.
Surely it seems reasonable to expect that people with high school diplomas and college degrees shouldn’t be afraid of a little algebra. We all took math in school, and although most of us struggled with the subject, and many of us hated every second of it, we did it and we got by. We got by, and it has helped us in some way or another while at college, work, or home. But if you thought math was hard for you, consider how hard your kids have it.
It shouldn’t be hard to understand why most American teenagers struggle with math and other basic subjects like science and English. Schools are overcrowded and rundown, teachers are underpaid and overworked, kids are over-stimulated and cannot focus, and administrators are forced to push testing over learning. The fact is that kids are left behind, and sadly, even when they’re not, they don’t always grasp what we think they do.
So if our high school math and science scores are dropping, our children are dreading these classes, and we ourselves can barely go through the times tables, then why aren’t we demanding real tutelage in math and science? Why is it socially acceptable not to understand fractions, percentages, and exponents, not to mention basic science principles that don't change with time or opinion? One reason, I submit, is relativism.
Relativism allows everyone to be right, and puts our feelings ahead of everything else. We all know that it is not fun to find out that we are wrong about something, but a part of growing up is learning to cope with this negative feeling and learn from the experiences of failure. It would seem that many people today, however, would prefer to shield themselves and their children from ever being wrong or from feeling that hurt. This is true on the Little League diamond, where every player now makes the team, and in the school classrooms, where every assignment is given a modification to make sure every student can easily get by.