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[Susan notes: This letter provides a nice summary of the issues surrounding algebra for all.]

Published in Miami Herald

To the editor

Columnist Richard Cohen exposes the unpersuasive argument for making all students pass algebra to graduate from the Los Angeles Unified School District (Gabriela, there's life after algebra, Feb. 18, Other Views). But in confining his comments to student Gabriela Ocampo, he missed an opportunity to reveal a larger truth.

Almost a year ago, Bill Gates lambasted U.S. high schools at the National Governors Association conference in Washington. He charged that they were ruining the lives of millions of young people by not teaching them the math and science skills they need. This speech formed the basis for the American Competitiveness Initiative, which President Bush introduced in his State of the Union address in January.

In the name of the new global economy, school districts are being pressured to ramp up education in strategic fields. It matters not one iota that algebra, which has become symbolic of the change, is being oversold to a panicked public.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be stampeded into adopting a curriculum that is of dubious value to the majority of students, we need to remind ourselves that America is still a marvel of creativity and entrepreneurship. Our schools must play some role in producing such leaders, but they're never given credit.

Walt Gardner

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