**By Professor Doom**

So last time
I was looking at a third community college, in Los Angeles, to see if maybe the
fraud I’d seen at community colleges in New York and Louisiana was in
California as well.

Instead of
seeing things were as bad as in the first two states, I see it’s worse.

At LACC, they’re
selling high school material as 2

^{nd}year college work. This is nuts. Any accreditor that bothered to even look at the course offerings could see this. Oh right, accreditation is bogus and has nothing to do with education.
Let’s
continue to review the course offerings:

**Statistics**(227). It’s hard to tell from the description if this is really college material. I strongly suspect, however, that this is a very weak course—students in this course don’t need to have passed high school algebra to take this course. A reasonable person would wonder how this college math course doesn’t require high school math. Since everything in this course I learned in high school after I took high school algebra (and I didn’t take any AP math courses), I’m going to not call this college, but opinions can vary on this one course. 16 sections.

**Mathematics for the Liberal Arts Students**(230). The title alone tells you what kind of course this is, and the course description lets anyone know that it’s a very simple course well below high school. 2 sections.

**Calculus for the Business and Social Sciences**(236). It’s funny, this used to be the freshman math class for incoming, very weak, college students, and now it’s a 200 level (i.e., second year) course. Very curious, and many students that took calculus in high school have told me this course is much weaker than high school. What used to be a first year math course is now a second year course. Just 1 section, but I’ll call it college material.

**Trigonometry**(240). This is 11

^{th}grade material for many students; some will take it in 10

^{th}grade or senior year. 3 sections. I encourage any who doubt me to pick a university campus that even offers pure trigonometry as a college course, and see with your own eyes it’s not a second year course, and neither is the next course, the one I’ve been looking for:

**College Algebra**(245). At last, we come to college algebra, or as math faculty know it, “The algebra you should have learned in high school.” Every topic listed in the course description, I learned in high school. The course is actually missing a few topics common to other “College Algebra” courses I’ve seen elsewhere, but those seem to be covered in the many, many, non college sections I’ve covered earlier. 3 sections.

I really
need to emphasize this. This is the algebra I took in high school. This is the
remedial algebra I taught at a university in the 80s. This is the first year
college course I taught at university in the 90s and 21

^{st}century.
And now it’s
a second year course. It’s official:

*community college is high school now*; a person graduating with a 2 year degree from LACC will probably take this course as capstone material, and be at the level of many high school students I’ve known. Note: high school students, not high school graduates, as the algebra in this course is generally learned at the 10^{th}or 11^{th}grade.
When a
student from LACC goes to university with his 2 year degree, the university is
going to laugh at the student thinking he’ll only need 2 more years for a 4
year degree. “You fool,” will say the university, “you’ve just spent the last
two years in high school, paying dearly for the privilege, and now you are at best
as good as the high school graduates who just came here in the first place.”

And
community college administrators lure suckers in by saying they’re “cheaper
than university.” It’s not cheaper if everything you did at the community
college goes right in the trash.

I want to
point out: mathematicians have been notorious for trying to keep standards in
higher education, and despite their struggle, “algebra” has now turned into a
second year course at LACC. Mostly they’ve lost because Educationists have been
taking over the math classes, for what it’s worth.

I’m just
looking at math here, but does the gentle reader honestly believe Gender
Studies courses are filled with 2

^{nd}year material? I’ll be looking at such a course soon, though Gender Studies is hardly the only fake course on campus. Thorough studies have shown many college courses are content free and have no requirements. You just pay your tuition and get your A…and that’s at accredited schools.
No wonder so many waiters and parking lot
attendants have worthless college degrees. They were suckered into thinking high school was
“higher education.”

Rather than
provide higher education, our institutions of higher education have “redefined”
higher education ever downward. It isn’t simply that college today is
equivalent to the high schools of thirty years ago…it’s that in many cases,
college today is equivalent to high school of today.

How can
anyone look at this and not see fraud?

"Calculus for the Business and Social Sciences" is weaker than high-school calc because there's no coverage of transcendental functions (exp, log, sin, cos, etc.) Only differentiation and integration of polynomial functions. It's the transcendental functions that can be tricky to integrate, that have to be expressed as power series (which are the infinite-dimensional analogue of polynomials, and raise questions about convergence). Calc for business and social sciences is calc for morons.

ReplyDeleteYep, that's primarily why. But I'm told that there is a high school calculus now that has no transcendentals. I've not seen it myself.

DeleteI didn't really want to get into *why* it's a weak course. The point is, it's been a weak, college level, calculus course for decades.

I bet colleges have it so students don't have transferable skills & wind up having to buy more product down the road from the institution, should they change fields. They'll then have to pay for the regular calc sequence the 2nd time around. An honest college or uni would be upfront about problems the student may face down the road should they opt for the business calc vs the regular one, & try to convince the student to just take the regular one even if they don't directly need everything the sequence teaches.

DeleteWhat do you think of Discrete Mathematics classes, if you are familiar?

"Discrete Mathematics" can mean a few different things, none of them good. I'll cover the best case scenario:

DeleteThe course exists the same reason the "Business Calculus" exists, as a math course for the questionable students. It's basically "Chapter 1" from four different books. So, there's a little logic (like how a real logic course starts), a little probability (like how a real statistics course might have), a little statistics (you get the idea...), a little matrix theory, a little algebra. The instructor basically picks 4 he feels like doing from that. Nobody cares, of course, since the course prepares for nothing anyway.

At it's heart, it's a course for students prone to missing a month or more of classes, or can't remember anything anyway. Since no part of the course relies on anything else, missing a month isn't a problem, and since no topic is explored deeply, a student only has to remember a chapter or so of material to look good on a text--he can forget it all after that, and it won't matter.

Ooh, true story: I was at a startup college, and was told I'd be teaching Business Calculus. Admin, clueless as always, ordered a calculus textbook for MBA students, basically graduate level. I changed the book on the first day (when I found out), but I still get chuckles thinking about trying to present that course to typical CC students.

Boy I wish there was an edit function. "At its heart..." and "look good on a test...". Sheesh.

DeleteThe only flaw I find with your premise is the statement that high school is teaching higher level math than the LACC. It is my experience that this is not the case. Public high schools have followed the exact same trend as community colleges, diluting their math courses to bolster student "self-esteem" and skew the school system's passing averages for political reasons/funding.

ReplyDeleteThe Algebra II/Trigonometry course my son took was vastly different than the Algebra II/Trigonometry course I took in the same public school system over a decade prior. The school system explains this change by claiming they've "tailored" (their terminology) their math courses for their new magnet programs and student proficiency. I see it differently, of course. The school system pushes all students toward college and diluting these courses ensures students have to spend more on "higher education" down the line.

Perhaps I'm being cynical but during the four years my son was in high school (plus his final year in middle school, honestly), I felt like he was being treated more as a potential college applicant rather than a student. It was more important to the school system - not necessarily the individual teachers, but the system as a whole - to bang on the higher education drum than actually impart solid foundational knowledge.

I need an edit button too! "Over a decade prior" should read "almost two decades prior".

DeleteI don't know about all schools, and I don't know about "higher level". But the fact still remains, I tutor high school students on the side, and the ones I tutor, they are taking algebra and trigonometry at the same level as the high schools around here (and, I promise, the schools around here aren't noted for high quality).

DeleteI'm not saying that high schools haven't been watered down from 20 years ago, at least in some areas, that's certainly quite possible (and I've certainly said as much).

But the fact remains: I could use the high school textbook and syllabus in the college courses without changing any of the content in the college course.