No more math?

I love Detroit. It’s my favorite city. I’m a lifelong Tigers fan. I have many happy memories from my childhood of trips to the Motor City. WJR was the station we listened to when I was growing up. Detroit’s resurrection is a dream of mine…

A few days ago the Detroit Free Press reported that Wayne State University, the city’s largest university and a respectable research institution, was dropping math as an undergraduate requirement. Huh? You don’t have to be a major proponent of STEM to believe that math is an essential part of any university education. And it is equal parts comic and tragic that the leading university of one of the most economically challenged cities in the country no longer requires its undergraduates to take math.

What could possibly justify this move? In a note to the students about the change, the university presents its reasoning:

This decision was made largely because the current [math] requirement is at a level already required by most high school mathematics curriculum.

Interesting. How many other undergraduate requirements at WSU are at a high school level? (By the way, I think the above sentence should have the plural “curricula” rather than the singular “curriculum.”)

To be fair, I should note that WSU is still allowing its different departments and programs to make math a requirement for the students in them. But suppose many of the departments and programs don’t do that. They would be doing a disservice to the students they are educating. But WSU appears glad to go along with this disservice.

If the response to my criticism is again to point out that the level of the math that was being required was too low, the solution seems simple: raise the level.

I said earlier that WSU is a respectable research, institution. I wonder whether that is still true.

Of course, there are a number of factors involved in WSU’s decision of which I am unaware. If I were aware of them, it is possible that I would be more sympathetic with this move. Possible, to be sure, but highly unlikely.