Hacker’s arguments may convince some anxious students and be welcomed by their parents, but the reaction from academics is...

A lively argument against the assumption that if the United States is to stay competitive in a global economy, our students require advanced training in mathematics.

In this book, Hacker (Emeritus, Political Science/Queens Coll.; Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men, 2003, etc.) expands on his piece, “Is Algebra Necessary?” which appeared in the New York Times in 2012. The author is dismayed that students are required to pass mandated mathematics courses, pointing out that it is the principal academic reason for the high dropout rate in American high schools and colleges. He shows how the requirement filters out talented liberal arts students, that math in the workplace bears little relationship to math in the classroom, and that the claim that studying math instills desirable modes of thought is built on unverified premises. Further, he alleges that there is no shortage of qualified Americans to fill positions in the computer industry but that the industry prefers to hire foreigners at entry-level positions to keep wages low. To bolster his arguments, the author sprinkles his text with pages of speech balloons containing quotes from former students who agree with him, and he inserts difficult-to-read white-on-black math problems made to look like an exercise in chalk on a classroom blackboard. Such devices are superfluous; Hacker’s prose is direct and clear. The final chapter, “Numeracy 101,” one of the most fascinating and rewarding in the book, features samples of the kind of material on quantitative reasoning Hacker believes should be taught and that he developed for an experimental introductory mathematics course. Readers who never took algebra, geometry, or calculus, or who have no recollections of what they learned in those courses, will be challenged and engaged by the exercises.

Hacker’s arguments may convince some anxious students and be welcomed by their parents, but the reaction from academics is sure to be mixed.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62097-068-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015




American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992



The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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