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June 2, 2009

by Alex Mitchell

I hate calculus. It lies somewhere between mayonnaise and cancer on my hate list. And believe me--I hate mayonnaise. Yet, as I learned some time ago, to graduate from CMC I’d eventually have to endure a semester of derivatives that would ultimately pluck petals from my GPA. Calculus loves-me-not. Now, I understand I am preaching fire to forests--the most popular major at CMC is based on mathematics.However, to students like myself, the Psych / Film Studies type, calculus is equivalent to monopoly money in the real world. Why then, I ask, is calculus a general education requirement for all CMC students? Some might argue the same could be said for philosophy or literature. “I am an econ major, why in Muhammad’s name do I need to learn about Locke’s philosophies?” Sure, there are classes one might claim to be irrelevant to their future career(s), but even so, what we learn in those classes has more to do with the advancement of students as academics. They enhance our writing, speaking, reading, and interpretation skills so as professionals, our talents are more refined than the average job applicant. My beef is this: I don’t think calculus improves any of those areas.

In my spring ‘09 calculus class, professor Lenny Fukshansky often promoted the application of calculus as, “useful to everyone.” I wish to debate this statement, for as I sit and write this article, I cannot conceive of a circumstance in which finding the tangent line of f(x) might help me accomplish any task. Of course calculus is used in many facets of our society, and those are areas I am grateful other individuals have decided to make important to their future livelihood. One class of calculus isn’t going to get me too far as an engineer anyway.

I am not saying that mathematics has no place in general education requirements, just that there must be another aspect of math that has a wider range of use for all students. What about accounting or personal finance? How many people are planning on making a ton of money? Sheeet, me. And how many already have credit card debt? Me too. Essentially, I want every class I take to be beneficial towards my goals in the post-graduate real world, and calculus doesn’t make the cut.

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