What if B.B. King had to pass a written, standardized advanced mathematics exam to be legally allowed to play guitar commercially? Crazy, right?
What if Eddie Van Halen had to be able to write and decipher advanced music theory, such as in the photo above, in order for him to play and make music? Well, we’d never know who David Lee Roth is and that would be quite a tragedy.
There was a TV show around 2005, called Tommy Lee Goes to College. One of my favorite drummers of all time and he’s actually pretty good. In one episode, he’s practicing with the drum corps of the school’s marching band and cannot get in the rhythm. It was so difficult and frustrating for him to get in sync with everyone else, because it’s not what he does. Just imagine, if he had to pass a standardized written and practical exam to be able to continue as the drummer for Motley Crue.
How about this? Our college entrance exams place a huge focus on mathematics (Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and so on) and because of this, many students are not accepted, due to low math scores. In his book, The Math Myth, Andrew Hacker notes that of those who do go to college, nearly half leave without a degree; “Failure to pass mandated mathematics courses is the chief academic reason they don’t finish.”
In another study, it was found that the brains of advanced mathematicians activate a network involving bilateral intraparietal, dorsal prefrontal, and inferior temporal regions of the brain, while most of us mere mortals don’t work that way, no matter how hard we study!
There’s a chapter in Hacker’s book entitled, “Does Your Dermatologist Use Calculus?” in which he notes that many top medical schools require applicants to have taken calculus even though doctors never need it anywhere in their entire careers. We could be losing great doctors.
Hacker also notes that engineers and scientists rarely need the math they are required to master. Now the fun part …
The United States is currently ranked somewhere between 36th and 41st in the world in Mathematics. Singapore, China, and Japan take the top rankings. Because of this, the US government is and has been pushing advanced mathematics through our public schools, college entrance exams, and universities.
However, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United States is ranked 4th in innovation. Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Not Singapore, China, or Japan. In fact, Singapore is 6th, China (Hong Kong) comes in at 14th, and Japan in 16th.
What’s up with that?
In an effort to catch up with the world leaders in subject matter that doesn’t convert to reality, we’re stifling our production of potentially great field specific leaders.
As you can see, innovation, invention, entrepreneurial spirit, and getting things done in reality and seeing projects through to fruition doesn’t take advanced math. It takes desire, passion, soul, work, ingenuity, creative thinking, people skills, communication, flexibility, belief, sacrifice, risk, practice, trial/error/success, feel, intuition, and everything that makes us human.
Whether we’re a yoga instructor, musician, public speaker, professor, doctor, app developer, or painter, the receiver of our work, our art, our science, our expertise is a human.
Stop focusing on the wrong shit!