Monday, October 20, 2008

Negative Numbers

I am overseeing the general education and GED effort of a close family member these days. I have concentrated more on learning numbers, arithmetic, and mathematics since that is my particular specialty. Her teachers give her textbooks and assignments from ten years or more back, I suppose because the education department has been experiencing negative numbers in their new budgets for quite some time. It has gradually dawned on me that arithmetic teachers and texts in the USA no longer give instruction in negative numbers, as if conditions no longer exist which they can model and explain. No text mentions or teaches them and no sample
questions query about them.

Horror stories about "creationism" and "intelligent design" have made the
mainstream media. However, I've never seen anything mentioned about this travesty.
I am frequently reminded that our evangelists and our propaganda machines wish
to teach our populace "Don't worry. Be happy." as if denying the existence of
our problems, difficulties and obstacles may make them vanish. Alas, my experiences
in life tell me otherwise.

Websites about math instruction tell me that there is a general movement
afoot to only teach students how to use calculators, not to understand numbers
intrinsically. A walk through a supermarket has unit prices precalculated
for shoppers, usually reliably, so that they are spared the mental exercises
of working out ratios and prices themselves, despite packager's reliance on
constantly downsizing package sizes and going from even weights and measures to
more and more complex ratios. To my way of thinking this is part of a general
effort to teach people to be lazy and stupid; an effort in my experience
which has been extremely successful so far.

Am I the only person who finds this development to be horrifying?
Is it any wonder that investors have adopted use of the term "oversold"
to replace the term "cheap" when it does not mean the same thing? Is it
any wonder that so many banks and investment houses are now being found to
be insolvent, owning large quantities of financial instruments which are
found to have negative value and no one has been told about them or how much
losses they have incurred? Is it any wonder that investors are surprised to learn that stock prices sometimes go down? I wonder just how accountants are going to manage to prepare peoples' annual tax returns this year without reliance on losses?

I'd like to hear what other people have to say about this change in our education system.

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