During his bettermanagement.com seminar on Monday, Super Crunchers author Ian Ayres suggested that high school students would be better served by acquiring a modest knowledge of statistics rather than learning more abstract math topics, such as calculus. (Then again, if we don't favor calculus how will we ever arrive at the society portrayed on Star Trek, where every 12-year-old has a Stephen-Hawking-level understanding of quantum physics?)
While it's not necessarily an either-or proposition, I can appreciate Ayres' point. In our society, an understanding of statistics is important if students are ever going to be able to digest and critically evaluate the deluge of information that is rained upon them each day. It's not so much an academic math course as it is a new life skill, probably similar to the old home economics courses back in the day. By the time they are in high school, our children are already on their way to becoming full-fledged consumers. They might as well learn to see themselves as Corporate America sees them: a demographic and a statistic.
But it's not just Corporate America that looks at students and their behavior as data points: their own school systems do the same. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ayres talks about how school systems apply "super crunching" to comply with the No Child Left Behind act; the Poway Unified School District (San Diego) hammers that point home by using a SAS-based solution to measure and improve the performance of their own schools.