ACHING FOR ALGEBRA: Political scientist and professor emeritus Andrew Hacker kicked the hornet's nest this weekend with his opinion piece in the New York Times, "Is Algebra Necessary?" He points out that lots of the kids who drop out of school can't pass algebra. Getting rid of algebra, he writes "need not involve dumbing down," and he adds: "I hope that mathematics departments can also create courses in the history and philosophy of their discipline, as well as its applications in early cultures." Ouch. Algebra seems pretty darn fundamental to us. Skipping algebra sounds like a path that will even further restrict the number of students--particularly disadvantaged students--from pursuing math or science professions.