Sunday, January 6, 2008

More math and science education?

One hears it all the time. We need more math and science education. Do we?

Well, we need to think about what we need. So I encourage the discussion where I can. The wealthy rarely choose these paths, and the poor but ambitious sometimes do. What might that tell us? Will India be rich? Perhaps. What is India? What is rich? Live in the Caribbean if you want to puzzle about wealth.

What I think we need is people willing to inquire. Scientists and mathematicians, in my experience, are capable of the same close-mindedness that others can display. Many others can inquire as well as any scientist. Scientists are often prone to disciplinary imprisonment. Moreover, math and science are not the language of God; are not the truth; are not the path to morality. They are enablers, perhaps, to these things such as they exist or not. For me, I don't know if they exist. I cannot know but I cannot accept that I cannot know.

Learning is seeking to cope. We hope to find out where we are and what we mean--just what we cannot know I fear. Call that science. Call it math. These are modes of thinking, not modes of learning.

For me, learning is deeper than science. It entails the anger of science and the hope of it. It entails the concentration of mathematics and its search for aesthetics. What we need ask what we need. What learning entails is going into dissonance and finding ease.

Dissonance is our obligation, not math and sciences. Why I love these modes of thinking is that they bring me to new opportunities for dissonance and coping. I learn why I cannot know and why I cannot answer with total confidence. That's why we need more math and science...and more theology and biology...and more sociology and art. Art mostly. Give me artists and I will...well, reflect on what they might produce...what I will try to do is to enable them just as I will enable scientists and mathematicians when they make moral and compelling cases for themselves. I will enable.


Bill Seitz said...

Roger Schank is dubious about the need to teach science/math.

Ryan Lanham said...

I often (usually?) disagree with Roger, and I do here. I think math and science are elements of cultural literacy that cannot be ignored. To suggest they define an economy is hair-brained.