We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Being able to do calculations is a simple skill (remembering the rubric that simple never implies easy) that computers can do better and faster than most people.
That said, it still takes a person to understand what the results of the calculation mean. Without working through the math, I don't see how you can acquire that skill.
We're already at the point where generally only half the people in a room will understand my joke that seven fifths of Americans don't understand fractions. To try to explain that quantity A varies with the rate of change of Quantity B, or that Quantity C varies with the square of quantity D requires a level of math that unfortunately you can graduate from high school in this country without mastering.
Another Guy named Dan
After Algebra I, there is something artificial about it, but that doesn't make it useless. Few people will use anything more, but it is an exercise in slowly assembling more and more complicated material, requiring greater levels of abstraction and increasing ability to hold one calculation result (or two, or even three) aside in your head while you work on another, to be combined later for a final result. This mimics other complicated decision-making, such as where to relocate an office, how to change work schedules to maximise critical-period staffing, or how to choose a school curriculum. People don't approve of standardised tests because they only take 2-3 hours. Math takes all of high school to test the same skills. Which is why good grades in AP classes are more important.
My stepfather used to say this is why have children study Latin, but this turned out not to be true. One gains some information from the study of Latin, but it does not actually increase precision of thought.
The objection to math contains a subtlety. It measures intellectual intelligence. But the people currently in charge have social intelligence, an ability to intuit what is cool and what they are supposed to believe. That is the skill they want rewarded with status and security. They aren't necessarily good at intellectual things, so they devalue it.
The names Bill Clinton and Barack Obama may come to mind as illustrations.
Assistant Village Idiot
As a senior who is still working, having basic math skills is an essential as I sort out my clients' books. We're not talking algebra and quadratic equations - though they were fun back in the day - let alone calculus, but a basic comprehension of addition, subtraction, and the times tables is essential if one is going to have any ability to understand simple arithmetic.
Which is why we are pushing the fundamentals on the grandbrats: we want them to be numerate as well as literate.
"A great deal of what we learn at school is of little use in later life. This is especially true of mathematics...Number guessing is an exception. Why is this not taught in the schools? ... Everyone has encountered one of these little tests, and we all know how much depends on them - that place in a really good university, that step up in the firm that has been hanging fire for years, that membership in mensa - that chance to look down on more and more stupid people who cannot guess the next number..."
Mathematics Made Difficult, Carl E Linderholm, p.89
If you could predict accurately the life trajectory of the 12 year old in front of you, you could decide with certainty what education would best suit him. But you can't. And if you think math only benefits those who will become engineers and scientists (and you don't know who will) then by cutting math education you eliminate all future engineers and scientists.
Better to bore the easily bored, the parasites-to-be, than shut off the water and electricity.
You are so right; while you can pick out the precocious, you can't identify the late bloomer. My spouse is one of those: went through high school on the "general program" (suspect was guided by an older cousin) and realized after graduation that the job opportunities for one with that diploma were not really great. After a stint in a mushroom farm (shoveling you know what), managed to get back into school via distance leaning and gained enough credits to get into the local polytechnic. By the time we met, spouse was a tech at a mine and had realized that the Tech credentials were limiting. So we married, and I supported the spouse through four years on university.
Those four years were the best investment we made; spouse was able to get a fulfilling career as a professional until retirement.