But Clinton's Education Secretary Richard Riley refused to back away from the department's endorsements and the 1989 "standards" adopted by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
With such vague parameters for courses in math, trendy instructors began advancing their political agenda by injecting ethnic studies into math textbooks. Some taught what Diane Ravitch calls "ethnomathematics," the far out notion that traditional math is too Western and therefore students should be taught in ways that relate to their ancestral culture.
The diversion of math into the teaching of political correctness was illustrated by the "anti-racist multicultural math" curriculum adopted by Newton, Mass. It's no wonder that test scores dropped after this "math" curriculum's top priority became "Respect for Human Differences."
Fortunately, during the fuzzy math era, a few students were fortunate enough to have teachers who dared to be heretical. Some 300 public schools adopted Singapore Math and those students are turning in good scores. Home-schoolers are very successful with Singapore Math, too.
The new National Council report tries to finesse its dramatic switch back to memorization by recommending that the curriculum focus on "quick recall" of multiplication and division, the area of two-dimensional shapes, and an understanding of decimals. It takes a pompous expert to avoid admitting that memorization of multiplication tables is the best way to have "quick recall."
Before the 1989 mistake, U.S. students ranked No. 1 in international mathematics tests. Since then, U.S. students have dropped to 15th, far behind the consistently high performance of Singapore and Japan and behind most industrialized countries.
Added to the humiliation of international tests is the appalling percentage of college students who must take remedial math before they can enroll in college courses. That means the taxpayers have been paying twice to teach students the same material.
Another dirty little secret that has emerged as Page One news is the small number of college students who graduate even after six years. Graduation rates at 50 four-year public universities are below 20 percent, and below 50 percent at many more universities.
Because it is likely that nearly all these students attended college using financial aid, the obvious conclusion is that the taxpayers are being ripped off by the racket of colleges pretending to teach and students pretending to learn.
Phyllis Schlafly is a lawyer, conservative political analyst and the author of the newly revised and expanded "Supremacists."
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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