The Big Picture Podcast 59: The Math Still Doesn’t Add Up

The Big Picture Podcast 59: The Math Still Doesn’t Add Up January 13, 2015


Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.

School has started up again; and as parents do when school starts up, my wife and I recently attended an open house at our daughter’s school. We met the teachers, saw her class work, talked to other parents.

So far, so good.

Afterwards, there was an “informational meeting” in the gym for parents who are concerned about the recent adoption by our state of the new Common Core math curriculum. And, if you don’t know about Common Core, it’s basically a new national curriculum and testing designed to give a more uniform, national standard for all students.

What it means for our child’s school is the elimination of higher-level math classes, meaning advanced math students are being placed in the same class as lower-level students. Needless to say, the parents at this meeting we attended were more than a bit upset and contentious about this.

And kind of loud.

There’s another meeting nest week for the whole district, which I’m guessing will be a REAL shout-fest. Should be lots of fun!

But I’m not going to take this podcast to analyze or criticize common core. Let’s just say I don’t like it and move on to what I really want to discuss.

The emotion and concern among those parents that their children’s education will be hurt by not having higher level math classes underscores our society’s generally accepted belief that math is the most important subject in school, with most people adding science along with it.

Because after all, a good grasp of mathematics does help ensure entrance to a good college, which helps ensure job success, which helps ensure economic success. It’s vital to our national economy also.

Sound familiar?

Well, as you might guess, I’d like to challenge this societal belief.

Now, I’ll grant you that math is important, for all the reasons I just stated. It is! But as important as math is, there’s a vastly more important subject that our children need to learn, and no, it’s not science.

It’s history.

That’s right, history! Now why would I say that? Why would having to memorize a bunch of dates and wars fought by old men in wigs be more important than quadratic equations and calculus? How would learning history ensure my child has a high paying job when he or she graduates from college?

It won’t.

Knowledge and understanding of history won’t gain you near as much material success as will a degree in math or science. It’s not even close.

So I’ll just say this – a lack of knowledge and understanding of history, especially American history, will almost certainly guarantee a decline in our incredibly unique, free and yes, exceptional society.

We can see it happening in front of our very eyes. The assault on our freedoms and liberties is kicking into full gear right now, and very few people are even aware that it’s happening. The very same freedoms and liberties that were so brilliantly and near impossibly declared, and then won by all those old men in wigs. Men who risked and even gave their lives to make our free society possible.

Ronald Reagan once wondered if we as Americans even know the freedoms that we’re guaranteed, and he feared that if those freedoms were ever lost or forgotten, mankind would be plunged into “a thousand years of darkness”.

And it would take a good understanding of history before America was founded to know what he meant by ‘a thousand years of darkness’.

Before America gave us the ideals of ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’, along with what Dennis Prager calls the American Trinity of: “In God We Trust”, “E Pluribus Unum” and Liberty, the world had no concept of individual rights. There was no freedom of speech, no religious liberty, no justice for all.

There was only tyranny.

And tyranny didn’t go away after America was founded, either. It grew monstrously into the bloodiest period in history, the 20th century. The only things that saved mankind in the 20th century was America’s strength and unique sense of goodness, and the only hope for this century will be the same thing.

But do our children know that? Do we know it?

Folks, a good understanding of history is the key to a moral foundation that holds our society up against the forces of tyranny and evil that are still out there. Because in history’s big picture, we’re the exception, and we better know it.

If we do lose our freedoms, if we are plunged into darkness, material success won’t be possible, and a degree from an elite college will be just a piece of paper. Life will be unpleasant, at best, nasty, brutal and short at worst.

So when we’re thinking about our children’s education, what we owe them, we need to consider what’s around us.

Let’s think about the foundation that’s holding up this good life we’re blessed with. The life we brought these children into. Let’s make sure they understand how and why it came to be, and just what it was those old men in wigs did way back then, and what an unbelievable gift they gave us.  Then let’s tell them material success is a good thing, but not the most important thing, in life. And then let’s remind ourselves the same thing.

If you’re a regular listener to The Big Picture, you know that it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11-12 in your Bible).

Today’s witness story it’s a little history lesson that may sound familiar. It starts with the ending of a great declaration.

“And for the support of this declaration, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

This is the last line of the Declaration of Independence.

56 brave men signed the document. Here is what happened to some of them: Five were captured as traitors to Britain and imprisoned. One was wounded, taken prisoner, and released in a prisoner exchange. Two lost their sons to the war. Another had two sons captured. Another saw his ships destroyed by the British Navy, sold his home and property to pay his debts and died in rags. Yet another was pursued by British troops, forced to move his family constantly, and lost all of his possessions. British General Cornwallis used one of the signer’s farm for his headquarters in Yorktown. George Washington opened fire on the farm and it was destroyed. It’s owner died bankrupt. Another had his home and properties destroyed and his wife was jailed. One man who signed the historic document was driven from his wife’s sickbed as their children fled for their lives. His field was laid waste, and for a year he lived in the forest and in caves. When he returned, his wife was dead, and his children were missing. He then died a few weeks later.

And in case anyone doubts the motivation for the founder’s sacrifice, Samuel Adams summed it up best when he said, “We have this day restored the Sovereign of whom all men ought to be obedient.  He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting sun, let His kingdom come.”

Now, no doubt the theology of many of the founding fathers can be questioned, but remember this – they were all successful men who would have continued to prosper under King George and the British. But they chose to serve and be obedient to a greater Sovereign, at whatever the cost. So they are hereby nominated, with all the others who struggled and died for liberty, to the great cloud of witnesses, of whom the world owes so much, and is not worthy.

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