Cruz on tax reform: “Simpler, flatter, fairer”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz issued a press release today outlining seven key principles he sees as crucial to reforming the federal tax code.

Among the items mentioned are the establishment of a single “low flat tax rate”, a reduction in the corporate tax rate, and simplification of the tax code so that those filing can “file their returns on a postcard”.

“Now is our moment to remake our tax system from the ground up, employing conservative principles to create a new tax code that is simpler, flatter, and fairer,” Sen. Cruz said. “Much like Ronald Reagan, today’s conservatives hold to the simplest of ideals: that the best-utilized tax dollar is the tax dollar that goes uncollected. The best place for a taxpayer’s money is with that taxpayer, not the federal government.”

Cruz presented his seven elements earlier today during the keynote speech at a Tax Foundation event. Those elements are “based on three key principles of growth, simplicity, and fairness”.

Though the list is rife with conservative ideals, getting such a proposal through Congress and past President Trump will be a monumental task. Trump is scheduled to discuss tax reform over dinner with his new liberal friends “Chuck and Nancy”, neither of whom is likely to endorse any of the seven items on Cruz’ list. Add to that the fact that establishment Republicans seem either unwilling or unable (or both?) to enact substantive change and … well, you get the picture.

But we can always hope – and more importantly, we can call and email our elected officials and get the word out via social media that regular, everyday Americans want and need serious, conservative tax reform.

The “seven critical elements” as they appeared in the press release:

  • Create a Low, Flat Rate: Currently there are seven individual tax brackets, with rates as high as nearly 40 percent. We should have one low flat tax rate.
  • File Taxes on a Postcard: Each year, more than 90 percent of taxpayers seek help to prepare their returns, either through tax preparers or tax preparation software, costing them $99 billion. Simpler, flatter taxes will save Americans time and money, and allow them to file their returns on a postcard.
  • Allow Immediate Expensing: Domestic capital investment increases productivity, which results in more jobs and higher wages. And that means higher living standards for American families.
  • Lower the Corporate Rate: Companies are leaving the United States in droves, and taking their jobs with them. By lowering the corporate rate to 15-20 percent, America becomes competitive with the rest of world.
  • Encourage Repatriation: Current law discourages companies from bringing home foreign earnings. Moving to a territorial system would ensure foreign earnings are not double-taxed.
  • End the Death Tax: More than 99 percent of U.S. employer firms are small businesses, many of them family-owned. The death tax establishes a burden that prevents families from being able to keep their businesses running from one generation to the next, and should be put to an end.
  • End the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT): The AMT applies to four million households, and requires millions of taxpayers to calculate their taxes twice, once under the regular tax code and again under the AMT. Ending the AMT will drastically simplify taxes for millions of American families.

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This is why racism isn’t taken seriously any more

That racism still exists in the United States isn’t debatable. Of course it does; as long as human beings inhabit the planet, there will always be those who believe they are better than others for various reasons – including skin color.

That racism seems to be not only still in existence but alive and well in some corners is a national travesty. The Dream of King still struggles to find its foothold in many communities, hindered largely by the Great Society programs that give lip-service to a “hand up” while more often than not serving as a shackle.

Though the far right gets blamed for the ignorant white supremacists who claim – FASLELY – to represent conservative values, there are many on the left who are responsible for rendering the cry of “Racism!” tedious and noncredible in the eyes of many.

Think of the boy who cried “Wolf!” so often that no one took him seriously when the cry was truthful.

The most recent example – with proof of intent – comes on the heels of Hurricane Irma. When the Miami Police Department issued this Twitter warning to would-be looters:

self-described “labor journo before it was cool” Sarah Jaffe took to her Twitter soapbox to decry the fact that even the EXISTENCE of a police force is racist. Because, you know, the white hierarchy established private property and needs a police state to protect it.

Arguments about private property – which Jaffe would of course lose on multiple fronts – aside, the deeper truth here is that incidents like this serve only to lessen the brunt of true racism. When those who cry “Racism!” do so only to serve their own interests, the credibility of the cause is harmed and the message of peace and racial equality is weakened.

Fortunately Jaffe continued to Tweet, this time gleefully proving that her true motive was self-promotion. (By the way, did you know she wrote a book? You should, because it’s pinned to the top of her Twitter history!)

So the truth is that rather than being the great and mighty social justice warrior she wants us to think she is, Sarah Jaffe has shown herself to be nothing more than a race hustler, selling her credibility and dampening the effort to achieve Dr. King’s Dream simply to advance her own personal interests.

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The modern Church: We must be better than this

This is the last of a five-part series on how the Church can regain its relevance. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

In Part 4 we saw that the Church has in large part come to accept mediocrity rather than strive for the greatness to which we have been called.

That has to change if we are to ever again be able to enact change in our world.

So, how do we make that change? To find the answer, we look back more than 1,000 years.

The incredible persecution of the Christian church by the Roman Empire finally ended with the death of Emperor Galerius and eventual re-consolidation of power under Constantine in the early 4th century. Constantine’s willingness to afford Christians the right to worship freely led to the development of the Nicene Creed, the first major document to present an organized set of doctrines for the Christian faith from among those included in the Apostles’ Gospels and letters.

Christians of the time must surely have been amazed at the progression of their faith in so short a period of time. From the late 3rd to the late 4th centuries, Christianity had gone from being an outlawed sect whose members frequently met with the most gruesome of persecutions to becoming the official state religion of the Roman Empire in 380 under Emperor Theodosius.

But this early experiment in having the state inject itself into religion did not end well, and in fact is one of the reasons the American Founding Fathers were so concerned about not repeating the effort. Once in a position of tremendous influence, Christians during and after Theodosius’ reign did what believers have unfortunately done best for centuries – fight over their differences.

Within a relatively short time, the societal pendulum swung from the ornate grandeur of Rome to a largely dark age ruled by a loose confederation of tribal leaders. It was a time when survival and the quest for power took precedence over education and the pursuit of excellence.

In many ways, it was a time very much like our own.

Illiteracy among the clergy – specifically, regarding the Latin Vulgate Bible of the 4th century – eventually became so severe that it was seen by the Frankish King Charlemagne as a potential impediment to the correct interpretation of Scripture.

Charlemagne managed to reunite most of Europe during his rule, and once that task was completed he set about establishing a system of formal education first within the palace school and then extending to the remainder of his kingdom. To this end, he assembled the greatest minds of the time, and issued what is today referred to as his Charter of Modern Thought for the governance of monastic schools throughout his realm.

The educational reforms enacted by Charlemagne and overseen primarily by Alcuin of York resulted in the first post-Roman renaissance period, often called the Carolingian Renaissance. Significant gains were seen in many fields including the arts, architecture, and literacy. Though the period was short-lived, it laid the foundation for the later Renaissance periods and for much of our current Western culture.

The significance of the Carolingian Renaissance – as it pertains to our discourse – is that it was led by Christians. The renewed emphasis that Charlemagne placed on education mostly in schools which were operated by the local churches changed the society of that day.

That’s exactly what we need.

For too long, knowledge has been seen by many as the enemy of the Church.

For too long, Christians have been content with mediocrity.

For too long, Christians have focused too much on our differences to be able to counter popular culture with a united front.

For too long, we have been content with making Sunday morning overtures to our God – and expected Him to be content with that as well.

To quote the Apostle James, “These things ought not so to be.”

God wants to have an intimate, personal relationship with us. He wants to be present in every aspect of our lives.

He wants to use us to reach the world. It’s not that he has to do so. He doesn’t. He can reach the world all by Himself.

But He wants to use us.

We were designed for the purpose of bringing glory and honor to God. One of the ways we accomplish that purpose is to allow ourselves to be useful tools in His hands – to be the absolute best that we can be for Him.

This doesn’t mean that we all have to have PhD after our names. We are all called to different work, but we are also called to be the best we can be within that work. The more sound we become in both faith and knowledge, the more useful we will be in our given areas.

Ours is a society that sees no value in faith, in knowledge, in effort. There is no remaining outward impetus for human beings – in the West, at least – to worship, to learn, to give our best. We all get a pat on the back, a free or reduced price education, a participation trophy, and a retirement plan, so the outward rewards have become meaningless.

But we never should have needed an outward impetus in the first place.

For centuries, men and women worshipped God because of what He had done for them inwardly. They learned simply for the sake of learning. And they gave their all because they realized that regardless of outcome, the highest external effort yields the greatest internal reward.

Today we have been programmed to seek our rewards outwardly. Our goals in worship, in learning, and in effort are to earn those outward rewards. It’s why we see Christians divorcing, Christian children behaving and performing poorly in school, and Christian athletes who think only the playoff games are important.

We must be better than this.

We must become so sincere in our worship, so desirous of knowledge, and so willing to expend effort that the world has no choice but to acknowledge our expertise. This is the only way forward.

This is the only way we reach a world that cries out for something and someone who is different – by being different from the world – being more sincere, more learned, and more driven than they are.

The alternative is to continue our slide into meaninglessness and simply wait for the end, whether by Rapture or by death.

What a pitiful existence. We can be more. We can be better.

For the glory of God, we must.

The Church is not called to mediocrity (Part 4 of a 5-part series)

This is the 4th of a five-part series on how the Church can regain its relevance. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5.

In Part 3 we saw that drawing closer to God is accomplished by doing all that we do as though we are doing it for Him.

Let’s expand our focus a bit. If your life would look vastly different if you did everything to the glory of God, how much different would your church, your city, your state … your world … look if large numbers of believers did the same?

We frequently hear of Christians being shunned in their work because of their faith, particularly in the fields of science, media, and entertainment. The latest is a USA Today column by Yale Divinity School’s Communications Director Tim Krattenmaker.

In that piece Krattenmaker implies that those of us who accept Creationism are both anti-science and anti-intellectual. This is where we have come to, and though certainly the continual downward spiral of mankind is partly to blame, in large part the Church has brought this upon itself by frequently proving Krattenmaker right.

Quite often, we are anti-intellectual. Though there are exceptions, professing Christians in general perform at the same level as their peers on standardized tests, in the workplace, and in society at large. In fact, there are many believers who have answered the overwhelming liberalism on university campuses with a resounding rejection of higher education altogether.

That does nothing but make the situation worse. If Christians abandon higher education because those institutions are filled with liberal professors, how is that problem supposed to improve?

Answer: It can’t. But it should. In fact, Christians should be modeling excellence not only in our daily lives, but in the pursuit of truth and knowledge.

Let me pose the following scenario:

Some amazing new discovery is made in the field of genetic research. The media rushes to do a story on it, but they need an expert in the field to add credibility to the story. They call the nearest university science professor and ask for the name of the top expert in genetic research so they can have him or her on the show. Now consider this question:

What if – despite the criticism of our faith, despite the discrimination experienced by scientists from their peers and by Christians at large from the media – what if the top genetic scientist in the world happened to be a believer, and was so good at the job that despite his faith he was considered by everyone to be far and away the top expert in the field?

What if he was so far and away better than the next alternative, the media had no choice but to put him on?

If all believers were to approach their jobs with the goal of glorifying God, that’s the situation outlets like CNN would face.

Don’t believe it could happen? Look at the example of Jackie Robinson.

By now most are probably aware of the discrimination Robinson faced when he became the first black man to play professional baseball in what had up to that point been an all-white league. What Robinson endured was of course inexcusable and unfair, and that’s putting it very mildly.

In the end, Jackie Robinson won baseball fans over for three reasons. First, he was supported by people on the inside who had some measure of influence and didn’t mind using it. Second, he somehow managed to maintain his composure despite the hate that was almost constantly directed at him.

But third – and this is most important – Jackie Robinson won over baseball fans because he could flat out play the game. Run, hit, steal, throw – he did it all, and did it all very well. In time, even some of the harshest critics had to admit he belonged in the game – because he earned it with his level of play.

Was it fair to demand that of him just because of his skin color? Certainly not. But Robinson’s skill, his effort, and his character left his detractors with no choice but to admit he did indeed belong.

The same could happen today for believers, if we showed the same level of skill, effort, and character.

It’s not fair that the world demands that we prove our credentials before accepting our input just because of our faith. But like it or not, that is the world we live in – and the only way we defeat that sentiment is to be so much more knowledgeable  than they expect that they have no choice but to let us participate in the discussion.

But we’re not meeting that standard. In fact, we’re not even close. The bottom line is that believers – like most human beings in our current age – have become lazy. The difference is that we have been called to be better.

We accept mediocrity, though we’ve been called to greatness.

That has to change if we are to ever again be able to enact change in our world.

So, how do we make that change? To find the answer, the final entry in our series will take us back more than 1,000 years.

How can the Church draw closer to God? (Part 3 of a 5-part series)

This is the 3rd of a five-part series on how the Church can regain its relevance. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5.

Chuck Swindoll, a well-known pastor and widely recognized leader among current Christian preachers, uses a great illustration to convey the point that the Church has slid away from God. Whether it originated with him I do not know, but it goes something like this:

An elderly couple were riding along, the husband driving and the wife sitting on the far end of the bench seat near the opposing door. After a long silence, the wife remarked how when they were young they had taken many trips together, always cuddled up close to one another. She wondered aloud what happened, and why they no longer cuddled while riding.

The husband answered, “I’m still sitting where I’ve always been.”

Such is the case with Christ and His Church. He is still in control. He is still all-powerful. He is still just as much in love with us today as He was when He died for our sins.

But we have slid away.

The first step for the body of believers to take in regaining a measurable level of relevance and influence in our society is to move back as close to God as we can. He promises that if we do so, He will not reject us.

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh unto you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:6-8

Before we can exert any level of influence over society – before we can expect to become relevant once again – we must first draw nigh unto God. It is only through His power that anything can be accomplished, and when we exclude Him from our daily lives we deny that power. Our faith remains empty even as we proclaim it to the world, and the world will never embrace our faith so long as it remains empty.

A believer who desires to be a powerful instrument for God must first fully embrace God’s power in his or her own private life. If enough of us do so, the Church can regain its relevance and influence.

So, the next question becomes:  How do we more fully embrace God’s power in our private lives?

Again, the answer is simple. We must include Him in all that we do. Work. Play. Relationships. Finance. You name it – He should be involved. And if there is any area in our lives – any at all – in which we’re not comfortable including Him, we must seriously consider giving it up or at least changing the way we operate within it in order to willingly invite Him in.

That’s not an easy task. Ungodly habits and preferences tend to sneak in to our lives gradually and unnoticed, often becoming entrenched without us even realizing it. Generally, we allow these things to become part of our lives by coming up with excuses or rationalizations to quell the initial reluctance brought on by our God-given conscience. Sometimes we figure that the questionable actions or thoughts will only be for the short term, but once the dam is breached there is no stopping the flood.

We must be willing to let Him into every aspect of our lives if we are to fully experience His power. In fact, we should be willing not only to let Him in, but to let Him direct every aspect of our lives.

How do we accomplish that? Well, the first step is to stay in touch with Him. Stay on our knees, stay in The Word, stay in tune with what His Spirit says to us along the way. The second step is to actually follow up on what He says through these venues. Follow the commands in His Word. Follow the instruction He sends through prayer and the guidance of His Spirit.

The best test of whether we are measuring up in this area is to examine each area of our lives and ask ourselves one question:  Are we being and doing the best we can here? If there is room for improvement, we need to engage with His power to improve.

In addressing a division in the early church over the propriety of eating meat that had been offered to idols, the Apostle Paul gave us a command of God that has far-reaching applications.

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1Corinthians 10:31

Whatsoever ye do. Not whatsoever ye do in church, or for the church, or in direct service to God. Whatsoever ye do. That means everything. Again – work, play, relationships, finance, you name it.

Consider for a moment how each aspect of your life might be different if you followed this command. Everything you do, do it to the glory of God. Would your family life be different? Your work? Your finances? Your relationships with coworkers, friends, extended family, fellow church members? Strangers?

Unfortunately, the truth for most of us – including this writer – is that much of what we do on a daily basis would look vastly different if we did everything to the glory of God.

And therein lies the ultimate key to unlocking the potential of the modern church to regain its relevance and influence in society.

In Part 4, we’ll look at how this change could reestablish the relevance of the Church.

Why is the Church becoming irrelevant? (2nd of a 5-part series)

This is the 2nd of a five-part series on how the Church can regain its relevance. Click to read Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Because we have no idea when Jesus will return, it is incumbent upon believers to do everything within our power to ensure the continued relevance of the Church in order to effectively share the Gospel.

But we are seeing the church become largely irrelevant in the lives of its children and grandchildren. Why is this happening?

There is a hint in the end-times description of 2 Timothy that gives us a clue as to why we are seeing so many leave the church – or never become a part of it in the first place.

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves”.

Pride has haunted man since Adam, and will continue to do so until God pulls the final curtain on our existence here on Earth. Left unchecked, pride leads to self-absorption. And it is self-absorption that has led to the decline of the church.

Consider all the ills of the modern church. Over the past 70 years, believers have come to accept a plethora of things that would previously have been anathema, all in the name of personal expedience:  premarital sex, cohabitation, marijuana use, recreational alcohol consumption, pornography … the list goes on and on, with each item becoming more entrenched in the everyday lives of believers with each successive generation.

Our phenomenal decline into self-absorption has also dropped us into a whirlpool of desire for instant gratification. This is the root cause of our educational decline; today’s student sees no value in spending six hours a day learning verb conjugation and the War of 1812 because there is no immediate reward for doing so.

But before you shake your head at the failings of today’s students, take a moment to look in the mirror. We adults are just as much at fault. We fail to retain anything from Sunday sermons – if we go hear them at all. We fail to seek wisdom in God’s Word and to apply it to our daily lives. The inevitable result is that our character is lacking – and it shows in every aspect of our lives.

We show up late for work and leave early. We take a full eight hours to accomplish what could be done in two. We drive 75 in a 55, flip off drivers who cut us off, we “flaunt it if we’ve got it”, and we cut corners anywhere we can as long as it benefits us and we can be certain of not getting caught.

We’re no better at home, mostly because we are more certain we can get away with it there. We smoke, curse, drink, and watch soft porn in front of our children, then chastise them for doing the same. We rail against gay marriage but accept divorce as an unavoidable reality, and we shake our heads over abortion while sneaking around or at the very least flirting with the neighbor’s spouse.

So why do our young people see faith as irrelevant? Because from their perspective it’s been irrelevant to us. We’ve not practiced what we’ve preached, and they’ve been watching. We’ve constantly disrespected the faith that we’ve claimed, and they’ve noticed.

In short, they think we’re hypocrites. And to a great extent, they’re right. It’s no wonder they refuse to waste their time on a faith that teaches sacrifice in this life for reward in the next.

In fact, we should be surprised that any of them still remain at all.

The same is true of the rest of the world. They’ve been watching us all these years and they’ve seen us abandon our professed values when it suited us – while at the same time we’ve decried the lack of virtue in our leaders and in the social-entertainment icons our children idolize.

As a result, in a relatively short time we’ve lost – or more accurately, abandoned – much of the influence that the community of faith has held over society for the better part of the past millennium.

So how do we regain that influence? How does the Church – again, identified as the body of professing believers – how do we become relevant again?

The answer – like most – is found in Scripture. Continuing the passage from 2Timothy referenced earlier:

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.” (verse 5)

There are multiple modern applications for this verse, but the one pertinent to our discussion here is that many who profess Christianity today live in much the same way they would if they’d never heard the term. It’s an undeniable fact, proven in statistics which show that Christians are participating in drug abuse, criminal behavior, divorce, suicide, and most any other negative aspect of society at rates quickly approaching or equal to those of nonbelievers.

We are increasingly denying the power of God to change our lives, primarily because we are increasingly leaving Him out of our lives. Before the Church and our ideals can regain relevance in society, God must become more relevant to us – and it’s not God who needs to change; it’s us.

We will discuss that change more in the next installment.

Can’t take it with you: UK journalist advocates for 100% estate tax

There are times when mankind so shines in its accomplishments that the angels in Heaven must stand and sing praises to the One who created us in His image.

There are other times when one wonders whether the Creator must drop His head to his Hands in frustration like the parent of a screaming two-year-old in Wal Mart asking other customers “Whose kid is that?”

From The Guardian comes freelance journalist Abi Wilkinson’s latest contribution Why not fund the welfare state with a 100% inheritance tax?

At face value, the question seems so absurd as to be unworthy of a second look. But in fairness to Wilkinson, we’ll take one anyway.

Wilkinson’s main point is that in the United Kingdom,

“around ₤77bn [approx. $100 billion] is passed on in inheritance each year … Were that money redistributed by the state, it would cover the cost of adult social care several times over. It could plug gaps in NHS, education and police funding. It could provide the kind of comprehensive welfare state that meant nobody had to worry about their family after they passed away – because there would always be a safety net.”

Unfortunately, the math just isn’t on her side. The annual budget for England’s Department of Health alone – never mind the rest of the Kingdom – is well over $100 billion.

The fuzzy math doesn’t end there.

With an estimated population of 65 million, the redistribution of the entire $100 billion inheritance passed on each year would provide each person in the United Kingdom with an annual stipend of just over $1500 – or $125 per month.

Do you think that’s enough of a safety net to keep dear old Aunt Bertie from worrying about us? I’m sure she’ll be glad to know that upon her departure for the hereafter, the money she and Uncle Ned and all the other dear, departed souls worked so hard for will cover our cell phone, Internet, and satellite TV bills. Provided we don’t go overboard with the luxury packages, that is.

Looking beyond the math, Wilkinson’s arguments in favor of a 100% estate tax read like bullet points right out of the socialist guidebook. For example:

  • Yes, the desire to pass on property to your descendants may be natural – but why should we be slaves to our biology?
  • In contemporary times, most people agree that tax should facilitate transfer of wealth from those who “have” to those who “need”.
  • Morally speaking, people who stand to inherit large sums haven’t done anything to earn that money. An accident of birth placed them in a comparatively wealthy family and they’ve benefited from that their whole life.
  • Cultural norms teach us that the inheritance of private property is the default and any expropriation of this wealth must be justified. It should be the other way round.

But Wilkinson’s greatest shortcoming of all lies in the fact that she doesn’t even seem to understand the notion of private property. After noting that

Some may argue that leaving inheritance is a moral right. It’s not about whether the recipients deserve or need it, nor whether having the ability to do so results in productivity gains. The point is that the deceased earned that money and it should be up to them where it goes.

She follows up with what can only be described as a misguided attempt to claim that the rights of the living should trump the rights of the dead.

The problem is that she fails to see where this line of logic ends.

Let’s pretend for a moment that we enact her proposal. Private property – houses, land, cars, cash, stocks, etc. – is all confiscated by the state at death and redistributed as the need warrants. We live a generation and the scenario plays out all over again. And again. And again. And again.

Who truly owns the property in this scenario? The individual? The family?

If you answered “The State” or in Wilkinson’s case “The Kingdom”, you’re absolutely correct. In this scenario private property is never truly private. Everything – EVERYTHING – belongs to the state, and we are but its wards.

Now that is a scary scenario – one which undermines the entire concept of freedom.

Makes me grateful for the “accident of birth” that put me on this side of the pond.


Postscript: The irony of Wilkinson’s story is too great to ignore – an opinion column in a publication called “The Guardian”, in a section called “Utopian Thinking”, advocating for the distribution of wealth based on need as determined by the state. If you don’t yet see the irony, put Plato’s Republic at the top of your reading list.

We have an algebra problem – and it’s not with those two trains leaving the station

Algebra. For many, the word causes heart palpitations at the thought of letters mixed with numbers. To others, algebra is the gateway to higher mathematical pursuits.

Statistics show algebra to be the most common stumbling block for high school and college students. It should come as no surprise, then, that administrators tasked with raising graduation rates while reducing expenses would question why algebra is necessary for everyone.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The chancellor of the California Community Colleges system says intermediate algebra should no longer be required to earn an associate degree – unless students are in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math. [STEM] Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who heads the nation’s largest community college system of 114 campuses, told The Times that intermediate algebra is seen as a major barrier … preventing too many from completing degrees. About three-fourths of those who transfer to four-year universities are non-STEM majors, he said, who should be able to demonstrate quantitative reasoning skills by taking statistics or other math courses more applicable to their fields.

High failure rates in college algebra are common nationwide. Post-secondary instructors will tell you it is not uncommon for students to take the course a second, third, even fourth time or more. From their perspective, it is easy to see that Oakley is correct that there should be a way for non-STEM majors to learn the reasoning skills at the root of algebra without the abstract concepts many find so challenging.

Schools within the Technical College System of Georgia (Full disclosure: The author is a full-time math instructor at a TCSG school, and opinions presented are his own) are beginning to steer non-STEM majors into statistics and quantitative reasoning, which are less abstract and more applicable to non-STEM work experiences than algebra.

Statistics and quantitative skills are far more useful for the average person. With a greater emphasis on statistics and mathematical reasoning, the average person becomes better informed and more capable in the workplace at large. That can’t be a bad thing, and non-STEM majors will be better off following that route.

The flip side of the coin, though, is downright alarming. Our supposed best and brightest – STEM majors – are also struggling in math. Bigly.

A large number of college freshmen exhibit a truly stunning level of deficiency in mathematics. The same is true for those making the leap from middle to high school.

It was hoped that Common Core would help remedy this situation, but that has not come to fruition. Conceptually, Common Core math is a great idea – get students to think about math the same way that a math genius thinks about it, and they’ll succeed.

Though a great idea in theory, the rollout has been awful. If you are the parent of a school-age child, you’ve been witness to that fact.

Those who succeed in math do so because they have a keen number sense, and they use it to develop shortcuts in their problem-solving methods. For example, we’ve traditionally added 13 and 17 vertically – first adding the ones column and carrying, then adding the tens column to get a total of 30.

But students with strong number sense inherently think of 13 as 10 + 3 and 17 as 10 + 7. They then add the 3 and 7 to get 10, followed by adding that 10 with the other two to get 30. On paper, it looks something like this:

13 + 17

10 + 3 + 10 + 7

10 + 10 + 3 + 7

10 + 10 + (3 + 7)

10 + 10 + 10 = 30

It seems unnecessarily long and complex, but students with sound number sense perform all these operations in a split second. This is but one example of many.

The problem is that we’re asking people who’ve never had to think this way before to teach children how to do it. At the end of the day, everyone – student, teacher, and parents – comes away frustrated. The issue actually predates Common Core, but has become magnified since its inception.

This is not to say that elementary teachers are bad or lazy or stupid, but rather that we’re not training them well and we’re asking them to teach subjects they admittedly don’t fully understand. As a thirteen-year veteran of teaching high school math, this writer has been witness to multiple otherwise great elementary teachers saying “I’m just not good at math”.

Starting in middle school, math teachers are required to specialize in mathematics. That’s not always the case at the elementary level – which is why one of the most important questions to ask at the elementary open house is “What were your favorite subjects?”

Put another way, I love my general practitioner. He’s got the most knowledge and best bedside manner of any doctor I’ve ever known. But if he told me I needed a liver transplant, I’d want a specialist to do it.

In short, we often ask general education practitioners to give our kids number sense transplants, even though number sense is the key to math success and those practitioners don’t fully understand it.

There are many things we can do to fix our math problem. The three below would make for a good start.

First, train our educators better. Teaching math well requires that one have a much deeper understanding of content than the level at which they’re teaching.

Second, redesign our curriculum with a focus on number sense and other overarching concepts at the earliest levels.

Third, change our expectations. Our workforce is quickly shifting toward skilled trade workers. Our training of that workforce should be shifting as well.

Increased post-secondary opportunities mean that we no longer need to require that everyone learn everything. We need to explain to them the importance of getting to work on time and increasing their value to their employer. They should be able to file their taxes, apply for a mortgage, and know where and how to vote.

They should also understand that every choice they make – including what they choose to learn – comes with both opportunities and consequences. But not everyone needs to know how to solve a logarithmic equation.

And as a colleague noted last week – let’s talk about literature. Do I really have any reason to drag out those old Beowulf notes?