May is a very busy month for me. I probably do about 75% of my paid work in May and September (if you include the bleed into adjacent months). In May, I travel a lot. I’ve been to Halifax twice (once in April). I returned from Winnipeg very late on Thursday. I leave on Monday evening for Windsor. And I have another trip scheduled in June. So blogging is likely to be a bit sporadic for the next few weeks.
While I was out in Winnipeg, I was talking to some people in a school of education. This trip I have been much more open about my life outside work. I was pleasantly surprised at the positive response I got, particularly from education profs, to my decision to homeschool. Like many faculty in schools of education, they had had careers in schools before deciding to become academics. And, perhaps because they are academics, they are quite reflective about how that system works. It was very interesting to talk with people like this about my decision and have them confirm that the school system really can’t meet the needs of all individuals.
I also had a chance to talk informally with a mathematician. People do take me out for lunch. That was also quite interesting. There is a widely recognized crisis in the discipline of mathematics. Not enough people are choosing to study mathematics at university level, much less to continue to graduate study. No one expects that the numbers of mathematics scholars would be high, but given that mathematics has been central to many of the major scientific advances, they are somewhat worried. And apparently this decline is global. This isn’t just about “American competitiveness” (or Canadian competitiveness), but is about the advancement of knowledge in a crucial discipline; one that isn’t always directly and immediately useful.
I would never suggest encouraging a child (or adult) to pursue something that doesn’t interest them. But I do wonder the extent to which the dominant modes of teaching mathematics extinguish interest in children with a genuine gift. I also wonder if the instrumentalism that is rife in our approach to higher education and careers leads many of those who retain an interest in mathematics and perform well in that field to go into allied fields like computer science rather than pursuing mathematics itself. Not that anyone plans to be a university professor (of anything) from a young age. But it seems that those who have a strong interest and ability in particular fields ought to be pursing higher education in a way that could leave that path open for them.
All that conversation confirmed my view that I am mostly on the right track with Tigger. That trusting ourselves, really being with our children, and doing things differently is a good way to go.