I was initially impressed with my son's high school statistics class. It taught him how to produce graphs and charts that represent data. He did very practical projects, such as polling people on their tastes in music and correlating it to their age or geographic location. He was learning how to do stuff that's done routinely in nearly every profession.
It was the first time that I felt that a math class--to the degree you can even call statistics math--was taught at the appropriate level of detail for the non-mathematician. Math classes tend to start out with basic mathmatical concepts but then take the students into absurd levels of detail that no one but a mathmetician or scientist will ever encounter in his or her career, spawning that all too apt Facebook meme: "another day and I didn't use algebra."
Then I started noticing the exact same thing happening to his statistics class. It moved away from broad, useful concepts into intricate methodologies befitting a statistician. It went from providing something entirely practical to providing something entirely impractical. The class got really boring.
Why is it that the education system insists on providing such a scourge of detail and thus killing off any interest in the subject matter? Here are two bad but true reasons:
1. We have a system based on grades. In order for everyone not to get an A, the material must get harder and harder. God forbid everyone gets an A. Thou shall sort out students.
2. The school system deems a general subject matter important, and thus thinks that it has to spend an entire year on it, rather than moving on to something else or allowing certain kids to go deeper if they wish. The education gods have decreed that all subjects must last a certain length in time and become absurdly arcane.
How is it that no one asks: do we really need to teach this subject at this level of detail right now? Does that make sense?
Yet we've been teaching the same subjects in the same way for more than a 100 years. We are indeed a product of our school system.