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Of course: Mathematics perpetuates white privilege

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A photograph of the Greek letter pi, created as a large stone mosaic embedded in the ground.
pi in mosaic, Berlin/Holger Motzkau

From Toni Airaksinen at Campus Reform:

“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” Gutierrez argued.

Gutierrez also worries that algebra and geometry perpetuate privilege, fretting that “curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.”

Math also helps actively perpetuate white privilege too, since the way our economy places a premium on math skills gives math a form of “unearned privilege” for math professors, who are disproportionately white.

Further, she also worries that evaluations of math skills can perpetuate discrimination against minorities, especially if they do worse than their white counterparts. More.

What garbage. Gutierrez’ (and many others’) real goal is to protect abysmally failing school systems. Put another way: The kid who is failing math (“if they do worse than their white counterparts?”) often negotiates complex games and social media, using a variety of rules and signal systems.

Which naturally leads one to ask, why can just anyone at all teach the kid better than the publicly funded compulsory school systems that Gutierrez is protecting?

A friend describes this woman as the anti-Escalante., He’s referring to an inspired math teacher, Jaime Escalante, who developed methods for helping disadvantaged minority kids achieve (but all his reforms were later dismantled by the tax-funded bureaucracy, of course).

Disadvantaged minority students lag in achievement mainly because the education system banged out in the 19th century is a millstone today. It benefits unions, bureaucrats, textbook publishers, and lobbyists. Of course, the students with the fewest alternatives to these rent-seekers suffer the most. But don’t expect to hear anything like that from a beneficiary like Gutierrez.

Right now, however, the biggest problem is the silence from the big science bureaucracies over the growing number of attacks on science like this one. The ‘crats seem obsessed with, for example, doubt of Darwinism among students.

Hey folks, those are high-class worries compared to what you face from the social justice warriors. Ask Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying.

Unfortunately, the ‘crats will probably avoid the problem as long as they can until they find an unobtrusive way to just cave. Thus, freedom in education—including academic freedom—is about to become more important than ever for parents and students.

Note: Anyone remember the film Hidden Figures? No, we thought not. Maybe that’ll get slammed as racist too, if it hasn’t already been.

See also: Johnny Bartlett: Why teach algebra?

Algebra is not racist.

Bill Dembski’s new online book on inspired learning (It Takes Ganas: Jaime Escalante’s secret to inspired learning)

Nature: Stuck with a battle it dare not fight, even for the soul of science. Excuse me guys but, as in so many looming strategic disasters, the guns are facing the wrong way.

Parents questioning curricula? Must be “anti-science” at work

Biology prof Bret Weinstein’s persecutors face sanctions from Evergreen State College

66 Replies to “Of course: Mathematics perpetuates white privilege

  1. 1

    Utter nonsense. Shameful.

  2. 2
    daveS says:

    “curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.”

    I think there is a reasonable point here.

    Minority students in the US are not always made to feel welcome in some disciplines (including mathematics), and some of “our” traditional names for these theorems/concepts perhaps suggest a greater European contribution than is warranted. I don’t think that we should rename the Pythagorean Theorem, but we should be aware that knowledge of the theorem (but perhaps not its proof) apparently existed long before Pythagoras’ time.

    As Boyer’s Law (due to Hubert Kennedy) states, “mathematical formulas and theorems are usually not named after their original discoverers”.

    OTOH, try telling a Chinese person that mathematics is for “white people”; they likely will find it hilarious.

  3. 3
    News says:

    daveS at 2, What difference would it make if it had ALL been invented by Greeks? Tools belong to those who can use them today, not the dead hands that invented them.

  4. 4
    daveS says:

    News,

    What difference would it make if it had ALL been invented by Greeks? Tools belong to those who can use them today, not the dead hands that invented them.

    That seems obvious to adults such as us with a fair amount of life experience, but I’m attempting to look at this through the eyes of a first-generation minority college student in the USA who is entering a foreign culture. That’s how I’ve heard it described by Latino friends, anyway.

    It takes some time for these students to feel that they really own the culture that they are exposed to in college.

    For that reason, I believe it’s useful to at least be aware of ways in which disciplines might seem “foreign” to some students, and mitigate that if possible.

  5. 5
    News says:

    daveS at 4: And people generally don’t feel that way about cars because…?

    How about this: A flak for a corrupt education system finds it easier to market an “ethnic” buzz around flunking algebra than around flunking one’s license…

    It’s not the kids I have an issue with. They were born into the mess. They won’t benefit from it either.

  6. 6
    daveS says:

    News,

    And people generally don’t feel that way about cars because…?

    I don’t know what this refers to, but for whatever reason, we think differently about cars than people and other things.

    How about this: A flak for a corrupt education system finds it easier to market an “ethnic” buzz around flunking algebra than around flunking one’s license…

    Whether she’s a flak or not, I suspect she’s right about a few things. In particular, that some unnecessary barriers exist at educational institutions, and some of these barriers are related to the concentration of white males in some disciplines. And it’s not that these white males are especially malevolent, but rather that they are sometimes unaware of these barriers.

    It’s not the kids I have an issue with.

    Good; me neither. I’m sure we are both interested in seeing them get the best education possible.

  7. 7
    asauber says:

    some unnecessary barriers exist at educational institutions

    I think what daveS is trying to say, although he’s too much the coward to come right out with it, is that *establishment secular academic culture* is bigoted and closed-minded and has been for a long time. Ya think?

    daveS may even be the product of this culture. But I may be associating him unfairly with this.

    Andrew

  8. 8
    News says:

    All good food for thought. But people like Gutierrez are marketing failure as an identity, to students, to cover their own failures. How bad do things have to get before there is some pushback from the public?

    If I were a poor minority parent, the last thing I’d want to hear is that it’s okay if my kid, in particular, flunks math. Okay for whom? Not the kid.

    Wake me up when the jobs-friendly STEM industries are hiring people who flunked math and then I’ll listen. – d.

  9. 9
    daveS says:

    asauber,

    I think what daveS is trying to say, although he’s too much the coward to come right out with it, is that *establishment secular academic culture* is bigoted and closed-minded and has been for a long time. Ya think?

    I’m not talking about bigotry or close-mindedness, but rather about lack of awareness. It often takes an “outsider” to come in and point out problems that people were unaware of because they weren’t affected by those problems.

  10. 10
    asauber says:

    It often takes an “outsider” to come in

    A Mathematics Education Professor is an “outsider” to academic culture? She’s up to her sweet Conocimiento in it!

    Andrew

  11. 11
    daveS says:

    A Mathematics Education Professor is an “outsider” to academic culture?

    I wasn’t referring to Gutierrez specifically as an outsider, but a Latina Mathematics Education Professor? I’m guessing she qualifies. I had many mathematics teachers in college and can’t remember a single one of Latin descent. Granted, I didn’t take mathematics education, but the vast majority of my teachers were white males.

  12. 12

    daveS: How do you suggest we rename pi and the Pythagorean theorem?

  13. 13
    daveS says:

    TWSYF,

    I don’t, as I stated in #2.

  14. 14
    jdk says:

    FWIW, I used to spend one day a year on the history of math: early Babylonian contributions, the Greeks, the Arabs preserving Greek math while Europe went into the Dark ages, the contributions of the Hindus, the reintroduction of Greek math with Arab improvements, especially algebra during the Renaissance, and then the development of especially coordinate geometry and calculus in Europe.

    What I didn’t ever talk about is how now math is a world-wide activity, with people from such places as China, India, and Russia making major contributions. That would have broadened my students’ perspective.

    I don’t think we can escape, nor be apologetic about, the fact that much of the math we study in school is associated with the work of white Western men. However, to put this into historical context is not really the job of math teachers. (I also have a social studies background so I felt comfortable teaching the history that I did.) However, an accurate history would describe the many ways in which non-whites (and women) were culturally prevented from having the opportunities to develop their skills and make a contribution.

    I certainly don’t think we should change traditional names or not use Greek letters. To whatever extent one thinks that there are embedded discriminations in our culture, of whatever kind, working to improve the world going forward is the thing to do, not trying to pretend that the past as it is commonly known didn’t happen. (Of course, one way to improve the present can be to reassess how we see the past, but that is different, I think, than somehow rejecting the past.)

    This is a complicated subject, but I am not sympathetic to Gutierrez’ theses.

  15. 15
    JVL says:

    What you need are good teachers who try and encourage all their students. Let them know they can do this stuff and that being able to do it will open doors for them, give them opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise. Teach them that, no matter who we remember devising a technique it’s being able to use it well that matters.

    Teachers have limited effect on the surrounding culture unfortunately, at least in the short run.

    Don’t forget, our digits are Arabic. Algebra itself is an Arabic word.

  16. 16
    News says:

    The problem is that Gutierrez’s words are honey to those who continue to prey on the school system, exacerbating social divisions for their own benefit and the students’ direct harm.

    For example, as we know, many girls do well in health care once they buckle down and get themselves through the math part. It’s toxic to tell them that there is some ethnic reason that they should find it too hard and just fail – let alone that they would be just as good in health care if they couldn’t meet the standards that millions of people from the same backgrounds as themselves have met. Or that dead white guys are somehow to blame for the fact that they have to do homework to get there – and homework is boring. (guys with really mournful violins slowly materialize from the shadows… )

    In the end, only a broad-based, decades-long revolt by parents who must use the public school systems can clear out the toxicity. One hopes the charter schools movement, which is currently finding US administrative support, will provide a cudgel. Not that we wouldn’t have preferred to offer a carrot… – d.

  17. 17
    asauber says:

    a Latina Mathematics Education Professor?

    daveS,

    I think you are hung up on identity politics, just like every other PC programmed prog I know. Are you saying a person who spent how many years as a student and then a professor will always be an outsider to academic culture because of their ethnicity? What kind of racists have been running our education system? All your color-blind liberal friends?

    Andrew

  18. 18
    daveS says:

    For example, as we know, many girls do well in health care once they buckle down and get themselves through the math part. It’s toxic to tell them that there is some ethnic reason that they should find it too hard and just fail – let alone that they would be just as good in health care if they couldn’t meet the standards that millions of people from the same backgrounds as themselves have met.

    Are any of these researchers and activists telling girls that they are somehow less capable of understanding mathematics?

    My take is that they are not saying that, but rather that there are structural problems in our educational system(s) which systematically disadvantage girls, and that these problems need to be solved. Is it wrong to point that out?

    In any case, I’d want to see specific examples where it’s claimed that there are “ethnic reasons” why girls should find mathematics difficult—that sounds like something Vox Day would say.

  19. 19
    daveS says:

    asauber,

    I think you are hung up on identity politics, just like every other PC programmed prog I know. Are you saying a person who spent how many years as a student and then a professor will always be an outsider to academic culture because of their ethnicity?

    If that discipline includes very few people of this professor’s ethnic and cultural background, then yes, this professor could be considered an outsider. By that I mean that she might have rare insights and perspectives, for example on how to successfully teach mathematics to students from a variety of backgrounds, for example.

    My university had a fairly large mathematics program, with perhaps 40 professors. One of those professors was a woman. I don’t know if this imbalance had any negative consequences for this professor, but given that sexism exists, it’s a possibility.

    What kind of racists have been running our education system? All your color-blind liberal friends?

    I don’t know; I’ve seen racists in every walk of life, so I assume they play/have played a role in running our education system.

  20. 20
    johnnyb says:

    Just as a note – anyone who thinks that Greek names and letters makes white kids feel more connected with math and it’s history I can tell you for sure that the truth is the opposite. Pythagoras is just as foreign to them as Nkrumah or Moctezuma.

  21. 21
    daveS says:

    johnnyb,

    Just as a note – anyone who thinks that Greek names and letters makes white kids feel more connected with math and it’s history I can tell you for sure that the truth is the opposite. Pythagoras is just as foreign to them as Nkrumah or Moctezuma.

    That’s a good point. At least I think there are other dimensions to this issue. I’m white as can be, but from a rural, agricultural background, i.e., lower middle-class at best, and had essentially no knowledge of what university culture was like at 18 years of age.

    I recall sitting in a college class as a freshman, and at some point the topic turned to the Oedipus Cycle. It quickly became clear that it was assumed we were all familiar with these plays—even though we hadn’t discussed them at all in that class. I was vaguely familiar with Oedipus Rex thanks to a high-school writing teacher, but I was clearly not as well prepared as the others. We whitefolk can also find this focus on Greek culture that one encounters in university to be intimidating and/or mystifying as well, at least at first.

  22. 22
    asauber says:

    And can anyone blame me for being cynical about this? We have the so-called education experts running educational institutions into the ground for decades, and a professor comes out yesterday and tells us that educational institutions have been doing it wrong.

    Andrew

  23. 23
    daveS says:

    A bit off topic: A comment on Prof Gutierrez’ twitter, where she used the word “maths” in a post:

    Wow, PhD-level educator ? “Maths” ? Embarrassing …. Linking math to Identity Politics – scary stuff / lacks scientifIc rigor

    Lots of idiocy there.

  24. 24
    john_a_designer says:

    Is there a reason why Darwin and his cronies are never accused of white privilege? I have read several biographies about Darwin. There is no doubt that he was white, Anglo-Saxon and privileged– very privileged. But for some reason he gets a total pass in these discussions.

  25. 25
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    I’m guessing that Darwin himself would be considered an extreme example of white privilege.

    What should we conclude from that?

  26. 26
  27. 27

    daveS @ 13: Got it. I misread that part of your comment. Thanks.

  28. 28
    john_a_designer says:

    Darwin clearly believed that natural selection working on different populations produced “higher” and “lower” races with different mental capacities. Hence, according to Darwinian theory, one should expect to find races with unequal capacities. This expectation of Darwinian theory helped fuel scientific racism for decades and provided a research agenda for a number of leading evolutionary biologists, most notably National Academy of Sciences’ member Charles Davenport, one of the founding fathers of modern genetics.

    The Darwinian connection to the eugenics movement was even more direct. Darwin thought that human beings and their capacities only arose through a merciless process of natural selection that ruthlessly exterminated the weak and the inferior. But according to Darwin, civilized societies did their best to counteract natural selection and preserve those nature would have killed off. Darwin thought that this counteracting of natural selection had serious negative consequences for the future of the human race. As he put it, “excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.” Given this predicament, one had two choices as a Darwinist: advocate a return to the law of the jungle in human society, or try to institute a “kinder, gentler” form of selection through science. The latter option was the one championed by eugenists because they thought it was more humane than the first option, but both options grew out of a thoroughly Darwinian rationale.
    [emphasis added]

    https://evolutionnews.org/2010/11/darwin_racism_and_eugenics_in_/

    In other words, according to Darwin the reason that blacks do not excel at mathematics is that they are from an inferior race not because of any so-called oppression. In the early 20th century Darwin’s theory became the basis of enlightened scientific public policy in the United States, Great Britain and Germany. In the U.S. the eugenics movement led laws which led to forced sterilizations of so called undesirables, people with low IQ’s or other disabilities. In the 1930’s and 40’s German society took the idea of eugenics much further with tragic results.

    Eugenics was one of the primary moral causes of progressive “scientifically” enlightened elites in the early twentieth century. This should give us some pause. How can we be sure that so called progressive elitism isn’t making the same kind of mistake in the 21st Century?

  29. 29
    daveS says:

    TWSYF: You’re welcome.

  30. 30
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    How can we be sure that so called progressive elitism isn’t making the same kind of mistake in the 21st Century?

    I guess we could examine cases where the progressive elites might be making the same mistake?

  31. 31
    Heartlander says:

    SEE ALSO: New Documentary, Human Zoos

    Human Zoos is a documentary that tells the story of how thousands of indigenous peoples were put on public display in America in the early decades of the twentieth century. Often touted as “missing links” between man and apes, these native peoples were harassed, demeaned, and jeered at. Their public display was arranged with the enthusiastic support of the most elite members of the scientific community, and it was promoted uncritically by America’s leading newspapers. The documentary also tells the story of a courageous group of African-American ministers who tried to stop one such “Human Zoo” in New York City. The documentary features Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Pamela Newkirk, author of Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga.

  32. 32
    Axel says:

    Somebody said this is a complex subject, which, of course, it is. But here is my $0.002 :

    Firstly, I’d like to say that it seems to me that young children are the only true intellectuals, certainly, the truest generically of all the stages of development we pass through, since they truly are interested in discovering the truth about things, uncomplicated by worldly ambitions, and without being forced into the received wisdom, in order to pass exams, etc.

    Aldous Huxley posited that lysergic acid, mescalin, etc, served as a reducing valve in relation to what the brain perceives of worldly usefulness for survival in time, so that the person goes into a state of spiritual perception of the physical world around them; and a very heavenly view of it at that, as it turns out:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGf2loLAwVE

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWodyapGNxI

    A lot of everyday evidence suggests that women tend to be more spiritual and psychically-attuned, and likewise sub-Saharan Africans. Similar evidence suggests that, given propitious circumstances, ie adverse, but not too adverse, – as largely obtains today, thanks to the mayhem caused by extreme economic polarisation by the neoliberal ‘head-cases’ – they show that that they are, if anything, potentially more capable in terms of the worldly intellect than males. Likewise, I am inclined to believe that the sub-Saharan Africans are potentially world-beaters, in terms of the worldly intellect.

    Somebody up-thread mentioned the development of mathematics in much earlier times by various nationalities, but omitted to mention, I believe, the Mayans, who discovered the concept of zero, a thousand years before years before the Europeans, and independently of the Indians, who had discovered it even earlier.

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?dcr=0&source=hp&q=mayan+civilisation&oq=mayan+civilisation&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l10.1328.5871.0.6401.18.18.0.0.0.0.135.1771.10j8.18.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.18.1763…0i131k1j0i3k1j0i10k1.0.dIJATfUDamY

    Moreover, some of the most reflective thinkers seemed to have been slow-developers, haven’t they, and then the first words they speak are a learned dissertation on quantum physics. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but in principle it’s something like that. One of my brother-in-laws(stet!), when he finally spoke, is said to have asked his father : ‘Did you have a good day at the office, today, Father?’ Or something like that.

    I’d always thought of Oppenheimer of the Manhattan Project, as likely to be not much more than a sort of manic swat, but he said something that very much changed my mind:

    ‘There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.’

    It’s been said that there are no bad dogs/pets – only bad owners, and that seem to make a lot of sense, however innocent the particular owner’s folly. However, in the same way, how much better might not the education of children be, if all the circumstances were optimally propitious, absolutely ideal, including the gifts of the teacher. Well, life was meant to be a struggle, and worldly wisdom has a naturally limited shelf life, anyway.

  33. 33
    john_a_designer says:

    Eugenics never really went away. It just went into hiding only to re-emerge in the pro-abortion movement.

    According to [a recent] CDC report, the rate of abortion among African-American women is far higher than among white American women. While black women make up only six percent of the U.S. population, they account for 35 percent of abortions reported…

    Pro-life advocates have long argued that the abortion industry specifically targets minorities, highlighting the movement’s racist roots.

    Planned Parenthood founder and eugenics advocate Margaret Sanger started “The Negro Project” in 1939 to thwart the population growth of the poor and minorities, or, as Sanger put it, to discourage “the defective and diseased elements of humanity” from their “reckless and irresponsible swarming and spawning.”

    Sanger, a Darwinist, enlisted black ministers to convince minorities to use contraceptives, explaining, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out the idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cdc-statistics-indicate-abortion-rate-continues-to-be-higher-among-minoriti

    Ironically, Sanger is someone who is still celebrated by the secular progressive left.

    https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/campaigns/ppfa-margaret-sanger-award-winners

    Notice, who won the prestigious Margaret Sanger Award in 2009.

    These are the same people who lecture us about racism which they now apparently see it everywhere and in everything– even in a traditionally apolitical subject like math. Only a fool would take their nonsense seriously.

  34. 34
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    Are you willing to say directly that you believe HRC aims to exterminate (or at least significantly reduce) the black population, and that her rationale for this is Darwinism and eugenics?

  35. 35
    asauber says:

    re daveS @ 34,

    It’s not surprising that you are defending HRC, a criminal with a pantsuit on.

    But that’s what progs do. They defend the state, even if it’s evil.

    Andrew

  36. 36
    daveS says:

    asauber,

    I’m certainly not defending her; rather, I would like to know if JAD is indeed making that allegation.

    You’re welcome to join in: Do you think the allegation about HRC I summarized in #34 is true?

  37. 37
    asauber says:

    Do you think the allegation about HRC I summarized in #34 is true?

    Thank you for the invite, daveS. 😉

    I do not know if all the specifics of the allegation are true.

    But does it matter?

    She clearly is a population control devotee. She clearly has an interest in having babies are murdered in the womb. She clearly is a liar and a crook.

    You wasting time and energy running interference for her is an absurdity to me.

    Andrew

  38. 38
    daveS says:

    asauber,

    Thank you for the invite, daveS. 😉

    I do not know if all the specifics of the allegation are true.

    No problem. And thanks for the direct answer. 🙂

    To answer yours, in my opinion the truth generally does matter.

  39. 39
    asauber says:

    in my opinion the truth generally does matter

    Great. How do you recognize the truth, daveS?

    Andrew

  40. 40
    daveS says:

    asauber,

    In my experience, JAD says what he means and means what he says, so I will accept a direct answer from him as being truthful.

  41. 41
    asauber says:

    daveS,

    I think you are just confused.

    Andrew

  42. 42
    daveS says:

    How so?

    My question to JAD amounts to “are you saying X?”, and he is best equipped to answer it IMO.

  43. 43

    JAD @ 33: Excellent comment. Thank you.

  44. 44
    john_a_designer says:

    Dave @ #34,

    I don’t think she sees herself defending something like that. I think she sees herself as taking the moral high ground because she is a highly educated and highly accomplished member of society, who some people are just in awe of and she knows it. But does that qualify her to tell everyone else what to believe and think? Are people like her, the so called elites, so “morally enlightened” that they are incapable of doing any wrong or making any mistakes?

    My point was that accepting the Margaret Sanger Award makes her a hypocrite because Sanger was a eugenicist and a racist who did advocate ridding society of the “undesirables.”

  45. 45
    daveS says:

    Thanks for the clarification, JAD.

  46. 46
    kairosfocus says:

    DS,

    I want to remark on Math education a bit, but first on the abortion holocaust and the enabling significance of accepting an “award” from the bloody-handed.

    Just yesterday, my attention was drawn to a Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/oct/26/us-groups-pour-millions-into-anti-abortion-campaign-in-latin-america-and-caribbean

    The link is revealing, the headline and subhead speak for themselves when we contrast the lead picture: “US groups pour millions into anti-abortion campaign in Latin America and Caribbean: Guardian investigation reveals anti-choice groups using sophisticated methods to combat potential easing of draconian abortion laws in the region.” The pic has a background banner: “Columbia por la vida” — Columbia for life. Of course the Guardian’s caption is utterly loaded: “Organisations like 40 Days for Life train anti-choice activists to ‘counsel’ women outside abortion clinics across Latin American and the Caribbean. Photograph: Angelika Albaladejo.”

    In the foreground of the picture is what Guardian probably hopes will further polarise: a crucifix, a figurine of the virgin and one of an angel with a sword. Several people are kneeling, and a poster tells us “oramos por el fin de aborto.” This is, prayers for the end of abortion. (BTW, virgins and crucifixes are relevant, in Lk 2, Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, in mid-pregnancy. John in Elizabeth’s womb leaps in response to Jesus, in very early stages in Mary’s womb.)

    The gap between what is portrayed in a leading progressivist newspaper and what the picture is about — it seems a 40-day prayer vigil for unborn lives and for their protection from the abortion holocaust of 800+ million in 40+ years and mounting up at another million per week — speaks volumes on how utterly bankrupt today’s progressivism is and how utterly blind and bankrupt today’s elites are to what they have been promoting or enabling.

    The real first question is, is there a genuine binding moral obligation to respect and protect innocent human life? Like unto it: is not our posterity in the womb just such innocent life to be protected? Where, the pivotal deep question is the worth of the human soul — far more than the material resources of a planet.

    The corrupt, bankrupt thinking that leads to the sort of enabling behaviour and utter misrepresentation of those who do not line up with the cliff-march of the lemmings, speaks for itself. And, the cognitive dissonance implied then motivates adoption of crooked yardsticks as standards of straightness and accuracy. Where, the truly straight and accurate will never match up to a crooked standard. But, a plumb-line can expose the rot, so a plumb-line test must be avoided at all costs.

    This is the context where the rot is now spreading all across our civilisation. Might and manipulation make ‘right,’ ‘truth,’ ‘rights,’ ‘knowledge’ and much more.

    Now, it has reached Mathematics education.

    Mathematics history is in key parts connected to the advancement of Western Civilisation since the 1500’s and 1600’s. That is, the era of Christendom. And no, the revisionism that assigns credit to the rise of skepticism, deism, the enlightenment and evolutionary materialistic scientism will not work.

    Dead white men, thus: racism.

    Dead white men who easily reached for Greek letters to use as symbols [they likely all did Greek and all did Latin in school, not to mention Euclidean geometry based on that worthy’s synthesis], drawing on Greek antecedents. BTW, I guess they have not got around to attacking Latin Alphabet symbols yet. Nor the roots of the full alphabetic approach to writing: the semitic belt in the ME — maybe even mines for Turquoise in the Sinai, looks like.

    What about decimal numbers rooted in India, and conveyed to us via Arabs? Thus supplanting cumbersome Roman numerals based on re-use of alphabetic characters, and the Babylonian sexagesimal system (still used by Astronomers in C17 and reflected in our measures of angle and time), and leading to an explosion in mathematical capacity. IIRRC, in the 1500s there were fathers who recommended certain universities as they taught long division. That’s how big the gap is between Roman numerals and decimals.

    Algebra, rightly, has been assigned to the Islamic world, preserving and building on Classical and no doubt Indian scholarship. Though, we don’t tend to address the implications of conquest and dhimmitude. Calculus burst on the scene full-orbed in the context of the scientific revolution, being pulled together to solve key problems.

    And Calculus is the key breakthrough that opens up the modern era in Mathematics. So, Newton and Leibniz. Then others, including of course esp. the French and Swiss greats who followed.

    Now, filter such through a cultural marxist, anti-civilisation mindset. Instantly, we get to Mathematics as racially tinged oppression, not liberation.

    For shame!

    Instead, let us go back to Mathematics as the logic of structure and quantity, and the power of mind — a deposit in each of us thanks to Imago Dei — to see deep principles and connexions in reality, through abstract, responsible, reasoned thought. Where, Geometry, Algebra and Calculus are likely pivotal.

    Here, I note, when my son was looking at Geometry, he pulled AutoCad and looked at the theorems in action, especially circle theorems.

    We live in a world with Mathematica and Mathworld online: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/

    Computer based multimedia technology offers unprecedented power to inform, illustrate, demonstrate, motivate and more.

    Why not let us focus on Math as liberation, instead?

    KF

  47. 47
  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: This on laws of thought may give pause, too: http://www.thelogician.net/LOG.....ght-C2.htm

  49. 49
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I don’t want to get into a general debate on abortion, just the specific question I asked in #34. I will go so far as to say I’m not aware of any prominent progressives in our time who desire to exterminate the black population based on eugenics “theory”.

    Why not let us focus on Math as liberation, instead?

    Ultimately, that should be the focus of educators.

    But we have a few problems with our educational system in the US (just like in every other country, I suppose). For example, some populations are not afforded the same access to this liberation as others. Women are literally told in class that they are innately inferior to men in mathematics and the sciences. Cultural differences (and frankly, racism) sometimes prevent minority students from reaching their full potential. As a white person who has had relatively little contact with minority communities in the US, this issue is less visible to me, but I’ve been told about it by minority folks.

    So yes, mathematics is liberating; let’s strive to share that liberation with everyone.

  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    DS,

    I suggest things are subtler now, that’s why I pointed to a concrete case in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. Where, I note that some have advocated global population collapse to about 1/7 current numbers. And, the underlying issue of the first human right goes a-begging, even while holocaust of posterity in the womb moves on at the rate of a million victims per week. Where, those who object to such are targetted as if we were the villains.

    That the case comes from a leading progressive newspaper and one not based in the USA but somehow manages to use and thus endorse much the same rhetorical stratagems indicates how global the problem is.

    As for the notion that somehow racism etc are at a peak, and that such is by implication widely enforced in the classroom, I find that claim highly dubious. Instead, the examples being cited suggest that something very different is at work: cultural marxist agit prop moving in on yet further targets in the education sector, in a context where family stability has been seriously undermined. The notion that Greek letters are expressions of oppression is simply beyond the pale, and invites the reductio, what about Roman/Latin ones too? and didn’t the Arabs indulge in a slave trade too so that decimal numerals are also suspect? (I doubt that Hebrew or Indian scripts will be serious contenders for symbols of oppression.)

    In short, this is nonsensical.

    I suggest, instead, that when a nation manages to spend as much per capita on education systems as the US but is not getting reasonable results in core areas such as Math and English, that points to institutionalised, politicised education fads and fallacies that undermine effective teaching. Indeed, the case in point is a patent illustration in point.

    I suggest, therefore that the first issue is to fix basic education curricula and systems, maybe on the model of Singapore or the like.

    When it comes to girls and math, I think there is some evidence of issues with visual-spatial thought. For boys, with verbal. That suggests, use the power of multimedia tech to make a difference, for both cases. Surely, slicing off a few hundred millions to an education transformation initiative would pay off.

    Except, that that level of funding would be like honey to the flies.

    Sunshine drives out corruption, and some room for competing approaches might make a difference.

    But with the abortion holocaust showing how corrupted key institutions are, especially media, even that can be undermined. We already saw how the very definition of science has been warped from historically sound usage by ideologues in pursuit of imposing radical evolutionary materialistic scientism. Things as natural as marriage and one’s sex have also been warped.

    So, it looks to me like this is one slice of a much bigger problematique.

    Systemic reform is indicated, but will be fought tooth and nail by radicals entrenched in halls of power.

    That tempts me to a very pessimistic view, but surely we do not have to go over the cliff as a civilisation.

    KF

  51. 51
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I suggest things are subtler now, that’s why I pointed to a concrete case in the Latin America and the Caribbean region.

    This doesn’t sound like an example of progressives attempting to genocide a particular race or ethnic group, is that correct? I’m only going to address that very narrow issue.

    As for the notion that somehow racism etc are at a peak, and that such is by implication widely enforced in the classroom, I find that claim highly dubious.

    That’s not the notion I raised. I said nothing about racism being at a “peak”. Furthermore, my comments concern conditions in the USA. You are from a very different country and culture, and have not seen what I see.

    The notion that Greek letters are expressions of oppression is simply beyond the pale, and invites the reductio, what about Roman/Latin ones too? and didn’t the Arabs indulge in a slave trade too so that decimal numerals are also suspect?

    Again, that’s not the notion that I’m extracting from the Gutierrez quote. You yourself recounted the origins of some of our mathematical language/concepts, noting that contributions were made from civilizations around the world; it’s worth pointing that out to students. IMO, Pythagoras rightly gets credit for first proving the PT, but people were aware of this theorem long before he lived.

    I suggest, instead, that when a nation manages to spend as much per capita on education systems as the US but is not getting reasonable results in core areas such as Math and English, that points to institutionalised, politicised education fads and fallacies that undermine effective teaching. Indeed, the case in point is a patent illustration in point.

    There might be a few other factors at play as well!

    When it comes to girls and math, I think there is some evidence of issues with visual-spatial thought. For boys, with verbal. That suggests, use the power of multimedia tech to make a difference, for both cases. Surely, slicing off a few hundred millions to an education transformation initiative would pay off.

    Riiight. “A few hundred millions” indicates that this would be a federal initiative, I presume. We literally cannot do such things in this country without sparking huge political battles.

    That tempts me to a very pessimistic view, but surely we do not have to go over the cliff as a civilisation.

    You’re sounding quite optimistic today!

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    DS,

    Enabling of the ongoing worst holocaust in history is more than enough. I don’t care as to the race of the child killed in the womb, a million of them per week is surely more than enough to wake up reasonable people to what is going on. And, I also cited the case to show where our powerful, influential institutions have gone wrong. If attempts to reform from outright holocaust meet that sort of treatment, what do you think will happen to those that try to fix a broken, ideologically dominated education system?

    As for racism, you may not suggest that it is at a peak, but that is the clear implication of how it is being handled in the media. That is my context.

    The concept that Greek letters are oppressive, racist impositions, is above in the thread, I responded to this and pointed out the onward slippery slope, with Latin letters and Indo-Arabic numerals. It is our civilisation that is under assault, and the agit-prop we are seeing is utterly irresponsible.

    As for the balance of priorities on spend, at various levels, I suggest at Federal level that two F35s would cost about US$ 200 millions. What’s the point of such if your education system is undermining the basis for such to operate and for the next generation of development? MATH is on the firing line now.

    What I did point out is that maybe the problem is that we have reached where honey is attracting too many flies. Big ticket, big politics initiatives in so ideologised a climate as we face, look like losing propositions. Why not, go local and dispersed, with the proverbial thousand flowers blooming?

    After all, multimedia tech is now cheap and there is a fibre backbone Internet out there.

    But then, the ideologues will fight tooth and nail to lock out anything that does not meet their approval.

    they are convinced they are the anointed, who know and can do all good, while those they object to are devils, at least that is the sort of terminology Alinsky advanced.

    Failure at Math and English seems to be what we are looking at, maybe this needs to be recognised as showing things are not working as advertised.

    Funny, the other day, I was reading that about the optical ranging equipment at Jutland.

    It’s been around a long time.

    Education systems that fail at Math and English have failed across the board.

    Sound reform is needed, but will be fought tooth and nail.

    Time for change.

    Lest we go over the cliff.

    KF

    PS: From the cite in the OP, about the prof’s remarks: “curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.”

  53. 53
    daveS says:

    KF,

    The concept that Greek letters are oppressive, racist impositions, is above in the thread, I responded to this and pointed out the onward slippery slope, with Latin letters and Indo-Arabic numerals. It is our civilisation that is under assault, and the agit-prop we are seeing is utterly irresponsible.

    I read the quote as simply pointing out that a great deal of emphasis on Greek terms, names, &tc. might lead students to overestimate the contributions of Greeks to mathematics and to underestimate the contributions of other civilizations. I don’t interpret it as saying, for example, that the use of the Greek alphabet is inherently racist or oppressive.

    The objective is to make mathematics or science not seem like subjects for “other people”, in my view.

    As for the balance of priorities on spend, at various levels, I suggest at Federal level that two F35s would cost about US$ 200 millions. What’s the point of such if your education system is undermining the basis for such to operate and for the next generation of development? MATH is on the firing line now.

    We are deeply suspicious of federal involvement in education. I think it’s also fair to say we don’t traditionally value education to the extent, say, East Asian cultures do. And they are trouncing us in math and science education. OTOH, students in South Korea, for example, commit suicide at very high rates, so perhaps there is a trade-off.

  54. 54
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, Looking around at how “symbols” are being treated by progressivist activists, the singling out in such terms alone is already a red warning flag; and last I looked, texts and courses as well as institutions bend over backward to emphasise non-western contributions to Math and Science. So, it cannot be a complaint on silencing of other voices, it is pointing to the micro-aggressions game, etc. Remember, signs are that Gutierrez is going down that road: e.g. “On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” which is plain silly. Last I checked, logic was about rationality and rationality was not a preserve of “whiteness.” Given the ideologies at work I can see why there are suspicions, but at the same time there is need for a genuinely sound attempt to reform that uses the power of unprecedented technologies now in hand. I have suggested dispersal of effort and decision-making as a way to work around the ideological power games. KF

  55. 55

    DaveS @ 53: “The objective is to make mathematics or science not seem like subjects for “other people”…”

    This seems like an impossible undertaking. How do you propose to do it?

  56. 56
    daveS says:

    TWSYF,

    In case my statement was unclear, I mean to say that we do not want students to feel they can’t succeed in a discipline merely because of their sex, race, culture, or other factors which should be irrelevant.

    So I would think the teacher’s job is somewhat like that of a missionary in a foreign country. I have heard a few presentations by missionaries serving in Africa, and understand that they take steps such as using the local language (obviously), incorporating native musical traditions into worship, and just generally being aware of the culture of the area so that they can communicate effectively.

    The cultural gaps between students in American classes are no doubt narrower, but they do exist and (I am told) do make a difference. Teachers could, and I’m sure already do, take steps along the same lines to increase their effectiveness. I’m not saying that teachers need to, for example, speak Spanish to their native-Spanish-speaking math students mind you. And I certainly don’t have any new ideas; I don’t know much about these issues except that there seems to be a genuine problem.

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, the very act of feeding Math feet first into the maw of the sort of ideologies and activism we see will be counter-productive. For, such agenda activists are never satisfied short of total control and freedom to do what they will with the latest to be paraded before a show trial. A sounder approach is to acknowledge history, warts and all then move on. The point is the importance of math and the challenge to master it. Multimedia tech will help but in the end there is a long steady discipline of doing, practicing, seeking to understand, not to mention sheer memory work. KF

  58. 58
    daveS says:

    KF,

    All I’m advocating is doing a better job at reaching some of our minority students, generally through cultural sensitivity (and less sexism and racism, I hope). I’m not very interested in the ideological wrangling.

  59. 59
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I doubt that we can come to any agreement on these specific issues.

    Do you believe at least that we in the US do have some problems with educating women and minorities in mathematics and the sciences in particular?

  60. 60
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I hear you, though sometimes such wrangling is interested in you. KF

    PS: it seems there is a general crisis with education.

  61. 61
  62. 62
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, pardon a very creationist point. On the premise we are all made in God’s image and are all cousins, essentially the same capability lies in us all, regardless of very superficial issues such as skin colour or hair texture. A focus that starts there would make a difference. KF

  63. 63
    daveS says:

    KF,

    For some interpretations of “essentially”, I would agree. But clearly our aptitudes vary. Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski (hypothetically) could be a first cousin to an unfortunate child with a severe cognitive disability, both being created in the image of God, but it would be a stretch to say their capabilities are anywhere near the same.

    Is there a biblical guarantee that various people groups all have similar intelligence on average?

    If you consider sex, sometimes the claim is made that men’s and women’s intellectual gifts are “complementary” in some sense, but that they are not identical. You raised that possibility above. My wife’s church, for example, would not consider hiring a female pastor, so there is apparently some presumed difference in aptitude there.

  64. 64
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I spoke modulo specific challenges. I suspect that if we learned to consider fundamental issues rather than superficial differences, it would make for a more healthy approach to many things. And as an example of where differences count, I don’t think women should be gas station attendants due to the aggressive nature of the chemical environment. But, I in fact routinely buy gas at a station where the staff are all female. KF

  65. 65
    john_a_designer says:

    The secular progressive left has turned race into a wedge issue which is meant to divide people rather than solve any of the lingering problems which underlie real racism.

    One of the ways they do this is to see racism everywhere and in everything– like math.

    Now you can’t even celebrate Halloween without being racist or racially insensitive. Even if your white dressing up as someone white!

    Here is the lecture one very PC mom gave her five year old daughter:

    “There is one thing I don’t like about the character of Elsa. I feel like because Elsa is a White princess, and we see so many White princesses, her character sends the message that you have to be a certain way to be “beautiful” or to be a “princess”…that you have to have White skin, long, blonde hair, and blue eyes. And I don’t like that message. You are White, like Elsa—if you dressed up as a character like Moana, who has brown skin, you would never change your skin color. But I’m not sure I like the idea of you changing your hair color to dress up as Elsa—because I think Elsa’s character could also be a short, brown-haired character like you.”

    “No,” my daughter refuted. “I want you to make be a long, blonde braid like Elsa’s.”

    “We can do that,” I agreed. “When we are dressing up as a made-up character who is White, it is OK to change how your hair looks, but I just want you to know that if you wanted to, you could dress up as Elsa and not change your hair.”

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/.....ohibitorum

    In other words, if you are white you need to feel guilty about being white. Isn’t that racist? Yes it is because it is a lie to vilify or demonize anyone because of the color of their skin.

    Here is another pertinent quote from same article which was critiquing the PC mom.

    The Left used to insist on seeing people as individuals, not as members of groups. The goal used to be that kids of different races would play together oblivious to one another’s superficial differences. This was commendable, and many a race barrier has fallen. Now the Left is determined to put those barriers back up, to teach kids to obsess over race. It is adamant that pigmentation has to be of overriding concern to you, and if it isn’t to your children, your children must be indoctrinated to divide people based on skin color, to calculate varying levels of “sensitivity” and “privilege” based on melanin. It’s not only ludicrous, it’s alarming.

    Why not just keep Halloween as a fun time of pretending?

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