Lockhart's Lament via Devlin's Corner
The low down:
A PhD Mathematician teaching school age children suggests that since kids aren't really learning anything as it is in drill and kill math class, let's stop the pretense altogether and teach them "real" math.
And I'm all for "real" math, I really am.
It's not that he doesn't bring up some good points, but I'm not for playing chess and calling it math, like he suggests. And I'm also pretty sure that no matter how interesting of problems that he can come up with he's not going to get everyone excited. If kids thought that mankind's struggle to measure curves was really exciting you'd see more video games and movies about it.
And I also suspect that before one can appreciate all this poetic beauty, artistry, creativity, and finger snapping, that a student, even in pure math, might need to have mastered a few basic techniques and have memorized some definitions and axioms first. However, this too seems to be dismissed by Lockhardt as so much mindless formalism and dispensed with. Is it possible that instead of serving up a dose of "real" math, he is serving up math appreciation?
With all the references in that article to aesthetic appreciation Jacque Barzun's chapter on Occupational Disease: Verbal Inflation came to mind.
Then again, maybe I've just got a bad case of sour grapes. I spent an entire afternoon working on proving that the max of two different sets was the same by showing that the max of one set was less than or equal to the max of the other set and then showing that the max of the other set was less than or equal to the max of the first. There was nothing "charming" about it.
I can't do charming proofs. I can barely do ugly ones.