Andrew Hacker inadvertently illustrates why you shouldn’t take advice on mathematics education from a social scientist who probably hasn’t taken a math course other than “Statistics for Social Scientists” since he struggled with math in high school seventy years ago:
Nor is it clear that the math we learn in the classroom has any relation to the quantitative reasoning we need on the job. John P. Smith III, an educational psychologist at Michigan State University who has studied math education, has found that “mathematical reasoning in workplaces differs markedly from the algorithms taught in school.” Even in jobs that rely on so-called STEM credentials — science, technology, engineering, math — considerable training occurs after hiring, including the kinds of computations that will be required. Toyota, for example, recently chose to locate a plant in a remote Mississippi county, even though its schools are far from stellar. It works with a nearby community college, which has tailored classes in “machine tool mathematics.”
I don’t honestly know what it’s like in the field of political science, Dr. Hacker’s actual area of expertise, but in science, technology, engineering, and math advanced skills are built on a foundation of basic skills. In engineering in particular differential equations are essential. They’re built on a foundation of calculus which is built on foundations of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry which are built on a foundation of arithmetic. Mechanics and dynamics are built on foundations of physics, geometry, and differential equations.
I was once kicked out of an undergraduate social sciences class for knowing too much math. I’ll repeat the whole story some other time. Back when I was in grad school I used to tutor social sciences grad students in statistics. I was dismayed at their lack of mathematical maturity and their complete lack of a feel for numbers. Essentially, whatever was spit out of the computer statistics package they were using was good enough for them. They had no idea what it all actually meant. If I’m judging my timeframe correctly, these were the scholars who were, at least, the contemporaries of the doctoral candidates that Dr. Hacker advised and who in all likelihood are heads of departments now, preparing for retirement. If you want an explanation for the sorry state of the social sciences, this is it.
I’ll go farther and hazard a guess that poli sci, like the other social sciences, is much more empirical and quantitative now than it was then and that Dr. Hacker would be hard put to earn a doctorate in his own field nowadays.
If you want to drop something out of the high school curriculum, drop high school social sciences courses. They’re worse than useless—they’re propaganda. They give no foundation in anything including an undergraduate or graduate degree in the social sciences.