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Should calculus be eliminated for non-science/engineering/finance majors?

  1. Jul 28, 2012 #1
    I'm a science major, but I don't see the point of students from fields outside of science, engineering, and finance taking calculus. Most, if not all, colleges require these students to take at least one semester of calculus.

    A lot of them don't do well and never take another math course in college. Besides, no matter how well they did, most of them will never use calculus again in their lives.

    What is troubling is that there is no mandatory computer science requirement. We continue to be a digitally illiterate society, nevermind broadband penetration rates. Knowing how to send a tweet or an email attachment does NOT constitute digital literacy. If colleges would only replace calculus with intro programming, at least some students would enjoy it and learn a new skill that can contribute to the economy.
     
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  3. Jul 28, 2012 #2

    chiro

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    Hey thetaoburns and welcome to the forums.

    Can you list some of the majors (outside of science, engineering, finance and of course math) that take these classes?
     
  4. Jul 28, 2012 #3

    Fredrik

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    I'm surprised that you're mentioning intro programming as an alternative. Doesn't that have exactly the same problem? (Most of them will never use it again). To me, computer literacy is knowledge of how to use the operating system and the most popular software. (A computer illiterate would answer these questions with "no": Do you realize that a right-click usually brings up a menu? Can you use a word processor? Can you download and install an application from the internet? Do you understand what it means to "install" an application? Do you understand what happens when you "open" a file in Windows? Can you install a printer? Can you configure an email client? Do you know how to kill a process? Would it even occur to you that that's what you need to do when your browser or media player fails to start?)

    I also consider an understanding of the basics of computer hardware (the box on the floor is not a hard drive) or basic networking stuff more useful than programming.

    Besides, while an intro course is all you need to write a script that takes a forum post and replaces itex tags with dollar signs, it won't teach you enough to write an application with a graphical user interface that makes work easier for you and your coworkers.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2012
  5. Jul 28, 2012 #4
    To understand the scientific principles behind engineering calculus is certainly required.
     
  6. Jul 28, 2012 #5

    Fredrik

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    Yes, but he asked if it should be eliminated for people who don't study engineering (or science or finance).
     
  7. Jul 28, 2012 #6
    Along the same lines, why as an engineer did I have to waste my time taking english courses?
     
  8. Jul 28, 2012 #7
    I have also never heard of non-sciency subjects being required to take calculus. What cases is the OP thinking of?
     
  9. Jul 28, 2012 #8
    Because college education [itex]\neq[/itex] job training.
     
  10. Jul 28, 2012 #9

    WannabeNewton

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    Well in the US schools have general education requirements and these range from humanities to social sciences to physical sciences and quantitative reasoning which all must be satisfied in one form or another. I'm assuming the calc I and calc II classes fall under the quantitative reasoning requirements for those majors that require them for genED. I for one never understood the purpose of these idiotic genED requirements but nothing can be done at this point unfortunately.
     
  11. Jul 28, 2012 #10
    Poetry = waste of time if you are not interested in it.
     
  12. Jul 28, 2012 #11
    Yes, but there are a couple of things to consider. Most importantly, how do you know that you are not interested in poetry until you are exposed to it?

    For example, I started college life as a history major. I had to take a math class because that is what the curriculum required. I had math in high school, and I didn't like it, so I was irritated that I had to take Math. But, I took pre-calc, really enjoyed it and switched my major to math. I am now about to start grad school in math. Had I not been forced to take math, who knows where I would be right now?

    The purpose of a liberal arts college education (which is what we have in the US) is to expose students to a wide area of human knowledge. Sure, the student focuses his attention in one area (called his "major"), but this shouldn't be the only area he studies. That is for graduate school.
     
  13. Jul 28, 2012 #12
    Agreed. Statistics should be mandatory instead.
     
  14. Jul 28, 2012 #13

    WannabeNewton

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    I still don't see why I have to waste my time in college taking courses like rhetoric or french when I had already wasted 4 years of HS taking essentially the exact same classes year after year and finding them unbearably boring. Thus far, nothing I have learned in the typical US english class has helped me at all but who knows; maybe one day my knowledge of the use of satire in The Scarlet Letter will somehow be useful for my studies or job. I would rather like to focus on physics and math much like a humanities major would probably just like to focus on his/her intended field of study and not have to take further math courses if he/she does not want to.
     
  15. Jul 28, 2012 #14
    I completely agree. By the end of high school I was well aware of the fact that I had no interest in taking an english class again, and yet I was required to take 2! If the english classes had focused more on writing technique or public speaking rather than interpreting poetry or Shakespeare then I probably would not have minded. So perhaps instead of forcing students like me to take British Literature there should be an option like a public speaking course. Same could go for students majoring in english. They could have an option for some type of math or science related course that is more practical for everyday life.
     
  16. Jul 28, 2012 #15
    the concepts of "the accumulated thing after a given variable" (integral) "rate of change" (derivative) and "the rate of change, of the rate of change" (second derivative) are quite important in everyday life. a calculus class just forces you to learn them clearly and see their implications on paper.
     
  17. Jul 28, 2012 #16

    Fredrik

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    Isn't pre-calc studied in high school in the USA?
     
  18. Jul 28, 2012 #17
    It depends on the pace you move at...some kids don't make it to pre-calc, and some make it all the way through an entire Calc sequence (depending on what the school offers, of course). Also different areas may have different requirements for graduation.
     
  19. Jul 28, 2012 #18
    I grew up in a very rural area which didn't offer more than Algebra 1/2 and Geometry 1/2. Your only other option was to split Alebra 1 and Geometry 1 up into part a/b for each and do that over the 4 years. That, or go 40-45 minutes each way to cross enroll at a community college.
     
  20. Jul 28, 2012 #19
    Yeah, and I took in high school. But this is kind of my point. I hated it in high school and really liked it in college.
     
  21. Jul 28, 2012 #20
    This is the most sensible post I have seen on this board in awhile.

    Amazingly, most people equate education and job training. The two, of course, have very little in common. Before 1920's (with the advent of specialization and rising popularity of the term "specialist"), no college majors even existed. When one went to college, he was obtaining a Bachelor of Arts by being exposed to a wide range of disciplines. Amongst those were literature, mathematics, LOGIC, etc. The importance of such approach was that it taught one how to think and QUESTION the views he was presented. Upon receiving such education, if one chose to become, say, a doctor, he attended a specialized medical school where he received TRAINING (compare with the EDUCATION above) in medical field. The same applied to accounting, actuarial science, banking, and others. Studying engineering, accounting, finance, and other similar fields does not constitute "getting an education." In fact, getting an education is an oxymoron. Education is a life-long process by which an individual finds his place in society, exposes himself to the true and beautiful, and answers to himself the questions of "Why, How, and What".

    P.S. Commenting on the poster of engineering background who was lamenting the uselessness of the English courses in his engineering tenure, I could only commiserate with the readers of the poster's possible scientific works in their attempts of dealing with run-on sentences and finding their way through impenetrable communique. By the way, the secondary purpose of those English courses is to help one communicate clearly. Needless to say, the primary reason is to show the true and beautiful ...
     
  22. Jul 28, 2012 #21
    There are not enough resources to let people explore like that anymore. That is an insane luxury. In 1920, being a high school graduate was considered well educated. In almost every country in the world, college is explicitly job training. Now you may think, what can humanities majors do to possibly make themselves more employable? Turns out, lots. Translation, advertising psychology, international finance...

    They use the extra year to take more major classes and for a required internship or thesis.

    I think that's much better than letting people "explore their interests". I also think that an engineering degree is a great and broad education. I see far more differences between fluid mechanics and semiconductor physics than I see between British literature and European art history. I also think I broadened my mind much more learning chemical kinetics, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics than I would have if I learned sociology and literature.
     
  23. Jul 28, 2012 #22
    THIS THIS THIS. I hate when people say "I'll never use this". A job isn't the end all be all of knowledge or of education. I hate when people say things like that. Honestly, if you're going to college for a job, you're doing it wrong.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 29, 2012
  24. Jul 28, 2012 #23

    WannabeNewton

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    A typical english class in the states is very far removed from a grammar class. And you failed to address that almost all kids in the US have ALREADY been taking such classes since secondary education proper had been entered. Why keep on going if one does not want to? Such humanities requirements are unnecessary shackles imo.
     
  25. Jul 28, 2012 #24
    There are some colleges in the US that have "writing requirements" and they can be fulfilled by courses other than English lit ones. Yale offers "Writing seminars" for freshman (god knows what that consists of...besides a fancy title), as does some liberal arts colleges. Reed and MIT offer intro literature/western civilisation courses where the main focus is on writing and expression. (actually, I'm not sure if that's the *main* focus for Reed but I believe they do mention something like that)

    Now, I happen to be a big fan of the liberal arts model.

    Your experience with the sciences shows that you approached it with an open mind. If you did the same with the humanities, perhaps you'd be able to see its relevance. Maybe you just didn't have good teachers for the humanities and social science courses you took. Maybe you didn't get your hands on a good book. Maybe you didn't bother looking for one. A good book or instructor can get one totally hooked on or put off by any given subject.

    Studying the human condition is inherently interesting but that's just my opinion. I look forward to taking a class in literature because I've only had bad teachers, save for one but I didn't get to take a proper lit class with him. Through reading various books, the way I approach things has changed greatly and I've done a lot of growing up through the stuff I've read. Sure, the same thing happened with math and science but in a very different way. The other thing that I learned when looking at books from a critical angle is doing the same for movies. Some might say it's a bad thing because I'm very picky when it comes to films but I'm quite content with the result. Also: humanities courses can be fun! Again, it all boils down to one's own approach to it, one's peers, their teacher and the books used.
     
  26. Jul 29, 2012 #25
    The problem is that the liberal arts system forces you to get an education. Yeah, if you like poetry, literature and music you can go to a "liberal arts school" but if you want to go straight to engineering or law school why not? Why the REQUIREMENT that you first take classes in English?
    You're not really letting people explore, you're just forcing them to do something they do not want to show them the true and beautiful.
     
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