As I've stated previously in this blog, on two occasions I attempted to earn a degree in computer science and ultimately failed. The largest stumbling block for me was calculus (although all the introductory classes were challenging). The following paragraph is taken from the introduction to the 1998 version of the book Calculus Made Easy.

Introductory courses in calculus are now routinely taught to high school students and college freshmen. For students who hope to become mathematicians or to enter professions that require a knowledge of calculus, such courses are the highest hurdle they have to jump. Studies show thatIt was nice to find out that my situation is common. I'm also proud to say that, after failing calculus the first time, I did not give up. I took it a second time and failed again. Besides the fact that the subject is so difficult, there were two other factors that made things difficult for me. The first was that, unlike the majority of the other students who were taking it as a means to achieve high-paying careers, I was actually interested in the subject matter. Most of the other students were not really interested in the math itself, and the teachers did not even make a pretense of presenting it in an interesting way. It was an extremely joyless environment.almost half of college freshmen who take a course in calculus fail to pass. Those who fail almost always abandon plans to major in mathematics, physics, or engineering -- three fields where advanced calculus is essential. They may even decide against entering such professions as architecture, the behavioral sciences, or the social sciences (especially economics) where calculus can be useful. They exit what they fear will be too difficult a road to consider careers where entrance roads are easier.

Also, computer science, as well as most areas that require a knowledge of calculus, are extremely competitive. The introductory calculus classes seemd to be set up as a way of weeding out the weaker students before they advanced further into their respective programs. Classes were frequently scheduled at 8 am to lower attendance, and in one of the classes, there were simply more students than desks. After a few weeks when enough students had dropped out, there were finally enough desks for everyone. I really felt uneasy with that atmosphere in which everyone was seen as expendable. Considering how much tuition costs nowadays, I question the ethics of treating students that way.

Eventually I went back to languages and finished my major in French. Language students are so much happier. They are not there for the promise of getting a prestigious job; they are interested in the subject matter. And the teachers do their best to help and maintain their students. (Sometimes they make things a little too easy for the students, but that is another post.)

Of course I have to take some responsibility for my failure. After all, many students just breeze through calculus with very little trouble. And even in an ideal learning environment, I may very well still have failed. Calculus is extremely difficult for me. I haven't given up, though. Someday I will go back and master calculus. But for now I'm taking a decade-long break from it.