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Chronicles of the war on math: Why math is racist

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It’s getting harder all the time to believe that these people even try to delude themselves that they have children’s best interests at heart:

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) recently encouraged teachers to register for training that encourages “ethnomathematics” and argues, among other things, that White supremacy manifests itself in the focus on finding the right answer.

Sam Dorman, “Oregon promotes teacher program that seeks to undo ‘racism in mathematics’” at Fox News

Not everyone is buying it:

Liberals believe that scientific and mathematical talent are distributed unequally among the races, with Asians being well-endowed in those areas, and blacks below average. Therefore, it is appropriate to discriminate against Asians and to lower standards for blacks–e.g., by pretending that it is unimportant to get the right answer to a math problem.

Are they right? I doubt it. Shelby Steele made the opposite case in an interview in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

John Hinderaker, “Why Math Is Racist” at PowerLine

Commentator Shelby Steele’s comments at Wall Street Journal are paywalled but here’s the part quoted:

[Steele] points to affirmative action and diversity—“the whole movement designed to compensate for the fact that blacks were behind”—and says that blacks today have worse indices relative to whites in education, income levels, marriage and divorce, or “any socioeconomic measure that you want to look at” than they did 60 years ago.

“It’s inconceivable,” says Mr. Steele, “that blacks are competitive in universities today.” In the 1950s, by contrast, they matriculated with slightly lower grade-point averages than whites and graduated with GPAs slightly higher than whites. “Nobody gave them anything,” Mr. Steele affirms. “They didn’t want them in universities then. We would never put our race on an application, because it would be used against us. The minute we started to get all these handouts from guilty America in the civil-rights era, we entered this uninterrupted decline.”

Tunku Varadarajan, “How Equality Lost to ‘Equity’” at Wall Street Journal

Hinderaker adds, “I suppose it would be possible to come up with a better plan to destroy black academic performance than by telling black students not to worry about getting the right answer to a math problem, but I can’t think what it would be.”

Wethinks that the big winners are teachers who can’t teach, protected by unions. The big losers are kids who leave school innumerate and must cope with a workplace that no longer needs innumerate people. We have machines now.

See also: Why can’t Winston count?

7 Replies to “Chronicles of the war on math: Why math is racist

  1. 1
    BobRyan says:

    The mindset for those who believe blacks cannot achieve on their own today is the same of those who believed black men could not be pilots in WWII, despite evidence from Canada to the contrary, who had an integrated Air Force. Black American pilots were the best escort fighter pilots in Europe.

    Recent ancestry, as opposed to the distant we all share in Africa, has no bearing on who is more likely to be a mathematician, anymore than it has a bearing on who is more likely to be a physicist or anything else. What separates us is our own abilities, which is why Hawkins had no difficulty with math, unlike Darwin.

  2. 2
    mahuna says:

    You need to start by understanding the principles of the Urban Contemporary Lifestyle: 1) DROP OUT OF SCHOOL WITHOUT GRADUATING; 2) produce children without the benefit of marriage; 3)REFUSE WORK when it is offered; 4) supplement welfare by committing crimes.
    NONE of these require any understanding of numbers, and in fact demonstrating an understanding of mere Arithmetic (let alone Algebra) is gonna get you tagged as “acting White”.
    So you’ve got things kinda backwards. FIRST, come of with a reason why a guy who sponges off his baby-mama’s welfare checks needs to USE Math. Second, come up with a convincing explanation for why knowing that 2+2=4 is NOT just Acting White.
    But that AIN’T happenin’, and in fact increasing numbers of Whites are adopting the Urban Contemporary Lifestyle themselves. The key of course is that mothers of “bastards” (a precise technical term) get subsidized housing and monthly cash payments for simply BEING a drag on the rest of society.

  3. 3
    mahuna says:

    Bib Ryan @1 — Hoo-hah
    The Apollo program was cancelled because NASA couldn’t find ANY black test pilots (the proxy pool for “best of the best) to to send to Astronaut school. The Space Shuffle program really just needed bus drivers, but of course the Space Shuttle program was ONLY about making people “astronauts”. It’s only purpose was to build the Space Station, and the ONLY reason to build the Space Station was so the Shuttle had SOMEPLACE to go.
    IQ testing became a LARGE scale program because the Army needed to QUICKLY sort a million or so draftees headed for France in WW1. IQ Testing performed as advertised, and after WW1 social scientists continued testing IQs to see what else they could relate to high or low IQ scores. Turns out a WHOLE lotta stuff is related to IQ, and average IQs differ by RACE, or Nationality if you prefer. The last list I saw said that Australian Aborigines have the LOWEST average scores on the planet (um, 75?). IQ being a DISTRIBUTION, there are of course Abos with IQs of 130. Just not a LOT of ’em.
    The same is true for Black Africans: their MEAN IQ is 85 (rather than 100) and their Standard Deviation is 10%, rather than 15% (for Europeans). So to get to 120 (genius), you have to locate the smartest 4th Standard Deviants (1%??).
    But this is all just statistics, and there is a HUGE international community that tracks IQs.

  4. 4
    polistra says:

    Numeracy isn’t really the question. Now that we have computers we don’t need to know that 2+2=4. What we desperately DO need to know is how to see a problem, WHETHER to reduce it to computable form, HOW to reduce it to computable form, and how to judge the computer’s result. The computer will never tell us that 2+2=5, so that’s not the point where we need judgment. The computer WILL give us completely useless numbers if we don’t know how to form the problem in the first place, or if it’s not a problem that SHOULD be quantified.

    Some of the ‘woke’ approaches come a lot closer to these practical judgments than the traditional way of teaching math by theorems and proofs.

  5. 5
    Querius says:

    Of course a lot of racism was encouraged by Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, published in 1859. I’ve always noticed how biology texts either danced around or ignored the evolutionary implications of race.

    In contrast, the Biblical perspective on race is that all humans descended from a single pair of heterozygous humans (non-white) who were free from any genetic load.

    The real problem is the obscenely ineffective public education that children receive in the U.S., especially in inner cities. The math curriculum is also largely irrelevant as well as ineffective for a large majority of students.

    But it doesn’t stop there. Ask yourself this. What knowledge and competencies do you think is essential for students leaving high school for success in life?

    I once had the privilege of spending time observing the instruction and interactions in a secondary school located in an area that had some of the lowest test scores in the state. It was a school within a school run by master teachers who wanted to make a difference–and they did! In math, the kids in the program advanced 2-3 years in math for every year they spent in the program.

    You’d think the work and innovation of these dedicated and enterprising teachers would serve as a model for the other districts in the state, but you’d be wrong. I still remember the part of the principal’s report to the superintendent and the state board of education, informing them that these students did “no worse” than those students in the regular program.

    This was technically true, but highly misleading! I came to realize that most school systems and their administrators have no incentive to deliver better educational outcomes nor are they interested in following up on the students that they graduate–as the “school within a school” did.

    So maybe 2 + 2 can equal 5 for all the difference it makes to many students. Maybe we should abolish public schools instead of the police.


  6. 6
    mahuna says:

    Querius — You missed the definition of the Urban Contemporary Lifestyle, whose very FIRST principle is: Drop out of high school without graduating. Actually LEARNING anything, even in grade school, is “acting White”. I can still recall the first article I read about this, in the Washington Post. That was more than 20 years ago now.
    You don’t need ANY of the arithmetic or grammar skills taught in schools. Your income comes from your baby mama’s Welfare checks, as does your free apartment. And of course if you want more cash you can shoplift and sell drugs.
    You can’t understand the problem until you STOP imagining that ALL the students have the same goals and motivation as White suburbanites.

  7. 7
    Querius says:


    I respectfully disagree. Have you ever watched the documentary, Waiting for Superman? If you haven’t, I’d really encourage you to do so! It’s about inner city parents desperately trying to get their kids into a charter school for a better future.

    But the powers that be, need to feed the dragon–the school-to-prison pipeline. In the 2019-20 budget, the state of California spent about $215 billion total. Of that total, California spent about $103 billion for K-12 education or about $17,400 per student per year to achieve one of the lowest educational outcomes of all states in the U.S.

    I once had the privilege of observing an excellent “school within a school” high school program that produced outstanding results in one of the lowest scoring districts in the state. The kids were enthusiastic, motivated, and successful. The teachers in the program even followed up with students after they graduated! Sadly, the local district relentlessly worked to kill the program and after a number of years were finally successful. It would break your heart!


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