Investigating the Root Causes of Failure: Part 2

I originally wrote this article for Volume 118, Issue 6 of mathNEWS.

We see that in [1], Kalpin continues to detail his wild and unscientific proposals for the post-secondary school system. While it’s apparent that Kalpin is clearly unqualified to be proposing such changes, we also note that there are any details that need to be worked out in his proposal.

Kalpin notes that secondary school is unable “to adequately direct students to a correct post-secondary path” and unable to prepare students for post-secondary education. His approach, dividing students into four streams in 9th grade, is clearly out of touch with the issues plaguing “typical” high school students.

The ministry of education itself notes in [2] that in 2003-2004, nearly 1 in 3 students failed to complete a secondary school diploma, let alone advance to university. For the 2009-2010 year, that has only improved to 1 in 5 students. This means that nearly 20% of students will be forced to navigate the world with whatever skills that, at worst, they have acquired in elementary school.

Kalpin introducing integrals and linear algebra into the high school curriculum, where students already struggle with the pace at which concepts are introduced. While the secondary school system once did introduce such concepts, they did so when OAC, the fifth year of high school, still existed, and there was sufficient time for high-school students to absorb such concepts and still be well-rounded when they graduated. Introducing such concepts to the exclusion of other classes (such as Computer Science or Visual Arts) could severely hinder a student’s ability to apply the results of upper-year courses like CS 488/688.

Kalpin proposes two radical changes to provide enough funding for his radical changes: the abolishment of the Catholic school system, and the removal of all-day kindergarten. We note that many the Catholic school system, arguably, is better able to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills in young children – as demonstrated by the sheer number of catholic (and, for that matter, french immersion) schools that participate in STEM programs such as the FIRST Lego League and FIRST Robotics Competition, compared to the number of public schools that do so.

With regards to the removal of all-day kindergarten, we note that all-day kindergarten gives one more time to build social and soft skills in early childhood, where early childhood educators can intervene as necessary. Underdeveloped soft skills are a leading rationale for programs such as PDEng. Besides, wouldn’t you love more time to play with your friends?

Once again, we note how unfeasible such broad sweeping changes would be. Instead, I repeat my plea for disruptive changes to education from the bottom up. Apply for a Winter 2013 internship with the Khan Academy. Apply to Desire2Learn on JobMine. Apply to VeloCity, and disrupt the world with your own startup in the education industry.

Something more than just writing a whiny article in the paper. Anything. Please. I’ve done my part; and I hope you’ll do yours.


[1] J. Kalpin, “Why High School is Too Easy Part 2: Fixes to the System,” The Iron Warrior, vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 9, Mar. 2012.