Popular Christian blogger: "Nobody ever uses math once they graduate"


(Laura) #1

I started reading this blog post a couple days ago and the opening paragraph made me wonder if I’d accidentally stumbled into the Babylon Bee by mistake.

It’s not that I don’t think it’s important for Christians to learn about church history (and I honestly wasn’t a big fan of math in high school myself) – it’s just a shame to see academic subjects set up in a hierarchy like this. Perhaps this is an example of viewing the world through the lens of a great “sacred/secular divide”?

Anyway – thoughts? Should Christians view math as having less purpose in our lives than church history?


(Christy Hemphill) #2

Huge eye-roll. Good thing I didn’t have much respect for him left to lose at this point.

The lack of basic numeracy in the general population is why politicians can get away with constantly lying about numbers and abusing statistics. Not having people competent in math is why churches and Christian non-profits often have issues when it comes to insurance, tax law, and budgeting.

Maybe it is a sacred/secular divide, or maybe it’s just narcissism. (I don’t use this subject, so nobody needs it.) I could go on for a long time about how many complicated spreadsheets and graphs we use routinely in missionary work because a huge part of the work is managing project budgets, spending projections, and funding sources. Good thing my husband is good at math and can program lots of formulas into Excel.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

Well, as a math teacher I was prepared to get my dander up too, but Christy already did that quite ably.

And since I don’t know Challes or have any prior axes to grind about him, I did see in his article not so much a demotion of math as an attempt to throw some needed respect toward the study of history. Especially when I got to his closing paragraph:

Mathematicians: Don’t be mad at me. Obviously I honor your work, incomprehensible as it is to me. I’m merely trying to make a point about an academic discipline that probably doesn’t receive the love it ought to!

So in that spirit I can forgive him for his poke at math. I don’t think he was poking it all that seriously, but more as an expression of “respect envy” – wishing (and rightly so) that other disciplines like history would get some of the same priority and emphasis that math and science do generally enjoy.

[…certainly not a strong opening for his article, though. I have to acknowledge that.]


(Matthew Pevarnik) #4

:joy:

Good points. Most statistics classes get into statistics abuse even a little bit. But they are generally quite dull and non-controversial. It’s on my agenda to make a statistics class for our science majors that gets into at least one emotionally charged topic/study per week that involves all kinds of statistics manipulation.

I think in general articles like this help feed into the growing anti-science movement amongst some of Christianity. None the less he may even mean it innocently to relate to the people who had the same attitude all along ‘what do I need this for I’m not going to use it’ and Challes is living proof one was right all along! If I was probably someone who read him more in the first place, I might be amen-ing him on this point.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #5

If the goal is for Christians to be completely excluded from tomorrow’s economy and the STEM-oriented jobs of the future, more than they are already underrepresented in these sectors, then I think this is absolutely a brilliant strategy! Go Tim!

In fairness, yes, he does have that “Don’t be mad at me” at the end, saying, “Obviously I honor your work, incomprehensible as it is to me.” But to this I would say, [1] actually it’s not obvious that you honor their work, at all, and [2] the fact that you so blithely paint math with this brush of irrelevance just goes to show that the whole notion is not on your radar screen that Christians are generally underrepresented in science and tech fields.


(Laura) #6

Yeah, there’s a time I would have amen-ed it as well, though I do agree that this can feed into the anti-science views in Christendom (or be a symptom of it). To me, it seems like pitting the spiritual against the physical, and making sure everyone knows that the spiritual must come out “on top.” I just don’t think the line should be drawn that strongly. (fortunately, it looks like this post got some pushback on facebook comments)


(Phil) #7

It does show how people can get in a bubble, and be unaware of what is happening in the greater world, and that goes for both sides. We all know bloggers and academics who are blissfully unaware of what goes on outside of their area of study.


(Christy Hemphill) #8

And, go figure, as a church history professor, he has found that subject useful. I, however, can’t say that my knowledge of the Arius/Athanasius controversy or the bruhaha over the filioque clause or the Nestorian missionary impact in China has been all that “useful” in life. Algebra, geometry, and probability have come up though.


(Dan Eastwood) #9

“Nobody ever uses msth once they graduate”, he typed on his keyboard. As his fingers struck each key an electronic signal was generated, then converted into a numerical code and sent to the CPU for processing. There a series of logical and mathematical algorithms parsed the incoming data, preparing it for display. Suddenly a subroutine alerted the CPU, “Something is wrong! One of the code-strings is not detected in the master code-string database, indicating a high probability of error. Suggestion solution is change code-byte in position 19 from 115 to 97.”
The CPU processed this new information, paging another subroutine to cross-reference with the local dictionary database, concluding this was not an expected exception and sending the new information to the display processor.

“Nobody ever uses math once they graduate”, he typed on his keyboard.


#10

Wow! It takes a very narrow view of human life to forget that there are chemists, engineers, rocket scientists, statisticians, architects, biologists, physicists, . . . well, I could go on for a while.

I would agree that it really wouldn’t hurt to teach more history. The emphasis on STEM may have swung too far and has taken away from the really great classes in the humanities. I graduated from a liberal arts college that encouraged students to explore a wide range of studies, and I think students are better off taking this route. You have the rest of your life to specialize in your chosen career.


(Laura) #11

I agree – I do wonder if some of this is pushback from feeling that kids/youth are being encouraged to pursue STEM to the detriment of the humanities, and if that’s the case then specifically calling that out is appropriate. (We can’t all specialize in the whole spectrum of subjects, but we need at least some appreciation of all of them.) But yes, a narrow view is troublesome – the idea that if another subject is incomprehensible to me personally, it might as well exist in an academic vacuum.


(Larry Bunce) #12

With the extreme cost of higher education today, we must not let traditional curricula dominate over essential coursework that will lead to a job, but college is not business school. The traditional liberal arts curriculum is designed to teach the student how to learn, with a broad range of subjects to form a basis for further education. Gone are the days when a person can go to work and retire after 40 years with the same company. Current trends require multiple job changes, and at least one career change, making the learning skills acquired in a broad general education even more important.


(Mark D.) #13

Apparently there are people who feel it is important to limit non-essential education so far as possible. A weird outlook. Of course what counts as non-essential is open to debate.


(Chris) #14

“Like mathematics, for example. It serves no purpose in the world and nobody ever uses math once they graduate.”

I’ll take that as hyperbole. Obviously there are a lot of people who use maths after graduation, including myself.
“Mathematicians: Don’t be mad at me. Obviously I honor your work, incomprehensible as it is to me. I’m merely trying to make a point about an academic discipline that probably doesn’t receive the love it ought to!”

Yes, we need maths, although individuals will require vastly different levels of maths, from simple arithmetic to the more abstruse maths. One day we might even find a practical use for string theory.

But we also need history, philosophy, poetry, and more, to be well rounded persons and cultures.


(Laura) #15

Perhaps it was meant as hyperbole, but it really didn’t read that way to me. I would agree that we need a variety of subjects to stay well rounded, and shouldn’t push STEM to the detriment of everything else. But there also seems to be the insinuation that math is only really important to mathematicians.


(Matthew Pevarnik) #16

Don’t feel too bad- sometimes it’s hard to figure out when to read things other people wrote literally or figuratively or somewhere in between.


(Ronald Myers) #17

I recall one of my professors saying about adding a section on some aspect physics to the syllabus:" It is not a question of what we need to teach but what we want to leave out to in include this topic"

I would add that there are parts to my car tat I don’t understand but I don’t leave those parts out.


#18

I have heard this ridiculous complaint far too often, mostly from children who hate the homework. Once a teacher told me that the most important thing to do was to learn to think clearly. That rung true to my enquiring young mind. But how to learn to think clearly?? Was there a course? Well, I have found that mathematics is that course. And far too few Christians have studied it.

Of course one of the important things we need to do with a clear mind is to understand what sort of things we have done and why. That’s history.


(David Heddle) #19

What is truly, truly depressing is to look at the science curriculum in most (not all, but most) Christian colleges. It is usually appalling. And rather than a source of embarrassment, it seems in many cases that near total disregard of science is viewed as a feature, not a bug.

Most of the shelling in the lamentable war between Christianity and science comes from my fellow Christians.


(Christy Hemphill) #20

I think this is a bit of a baseless generalization. Many (but not all) Christian colleges (at least in the US) are fully accredited and have a liberal arts curriculum that offers the level of science courses you would need to get a teacher’s license or get into grad school. My brother studied physics at Taylor and worked on a NASA project as part of his coursework (it had something to do with that satellite that was just in the news.) My friends who were pre-med at Wheaton who went to U of I for med school were told their GPAs in science courses were weighted higher when compared to U of I undergrad applicants because Wheaton’s pre-med courses were considered more rigorous. One of my Wheaton friends got in on the first round to Johns Hopkins med school. The Christian colleges my friends and acquaintances graduated from (Westmont,Taylor, Messiah, Olivet, Seattle Pacific, Spring Arbor, Calvin, Hope, Bethel (MN), Judson) all teach consensus science.