I caught one of my kids, who hasn't done a lick of work all year, diligently working through a math problem the other day. Astounded, I walked over to compliment him on his efforts. He admonished me not to expect this type of exertion all the time as it "was not his life". I was surprised at his candid offering and inquired as to what exactly he thought his life was. His response?
"Eat, Poop, and Play! That's my life!"
This, even more candid assertion, set me back on my heels a bit and I was curious to know how he had come to this frame of mind so I asked him what he thought his parents life consisted of. His response?
"Parents? My parents work for me!"
At first, this exchange simply tickled me in the same way that any number of open, uninhibited kid conversations do, but this one was different. It's been rattling around in my head for a week now and I can't shake it. It's one of those throw off comments that has more truth than humor in it, I suspect.
It's made me ponder the entire relationship of middle school kids to school and more specifically the role of education from their perspective. In this modern world, how many people really need math anymore? You can get a job at McDonald's and have the register do all the math you'll ever need for work. You can get a phone that has a sophisticated calculator in it. You can get computer programs to perform all manner of things that we used to accomplish only through painstaking pencil and paper scribbles.
So I'll pose a simple thought experiment to you all. How many people actually need a math education in the modern world that goes beyond knowing the number system and the names of simple geometric shapes? What careers would people be limited to if their mathematical knowledge was this limited? What careers would they be truly excluded from pursuing?
Have my kids figured out what they need from their perspective and is our push to have them all learn algebra simply a throwback to a time when it was more important in a world bereft of gadgets? Are my (disadvantaged) kids making a perfectly rational decision when they don't apply themselves to math?
How much education do you really need for a life of: eat, poop, and play?