MARINA DEL REY, CALIF.--President Bush's first act for educational accountability should be to ban "whole math" from public schools, said a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute.
"Whole math, next to the look-say reading method, is probably the biggest culprit in today's 'dumbing-down' of education," said Andrew Bernstein. "The whole-math method of teaching advocates 'guessing' over thinking and reasoning. Results of American students' math test scores bear this out with rankings lower than Malaysia, Bulgaria, and Latvia."
Bernstein said that a typical whole-math lesson may have students:
- Count one million birdseeds to "understand" the concept "million."
- Write an essay about why math can be characterized by the color of their choice; e.g., blue.
- Calculate how long it will take to read a 1,344-page book, not by long division, but by forming a committee to decide on a "strategy"--and guessing if all else fails.
"Whole math must lead to an oppressive atmosphere of confusion, boredom, and despair in students," said Bernstein. "Rather than encouraging independent, conceptual, abstract-level thinking, it is thoroughly anti-conceptual. It dooms children to function on a primitive, perceptual level--like an infant or an animal. This is state-sponsored cognitive child abuse.
"Students who have not learned how to add and divide are unable to perform the more demanding thinking required to understand concepts like 'freedom' or 'justice' or 'truth' or 'logic.' America's children are being turned into mindless drones, who will soon be unable to distinguish freedom from tyranny. Now is the time to act by returning to rational math instruction--our children's minds and lives depend on it."
Ayn Rand Institute senior writer Andrew Bernstein is available for interviews.