I hardly know what to say. I can only conclude that the woke culture has definitely crossed the line into insanity. (Okay, that likely happened some times ago.) It isn’t enough to cancel Dr. Seuss or ponder questions like, “Is the Cat in the Hat Black?” (No. The Cat in the Hat is a cat. Animals do not fit into human categories of race.) Now, it seems, anti-racist activists insist that math is racist. Why? Because of an emphasis on getting the right answer. I’m not joking. Here is what “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction,” a document funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has to say about it:
“White supremacy culture shows up in math classroom when … The focus is on getting the ‘right’ answer. Instead … The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so. Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.”
This is not only false, but dangerous. The whole point of math is to find the correct answer. Indeed, so much of what works in the world depends upon it. Can you imagine engineers constructing a building considering options other than two plus two equaling four? The document goes on to say that “Sometimes a wrong answer sheds more light than a right answer.” This is true, of course, in the same way that Thomas Edison discovered a thousand ways not to make a light bulb. A wrong answer can be a critical step in finally discovering the right answer, but the goal is to eventually discover the right answer (and without the scare quotes). Objectivity ought to be perpetuated in the math classroom, because there are objectively right and objectively wrong answers. I have no idea what they mean by a focus on finding the right answer leading to a “fear of open conflict.” What?
The document includes anti-capitalist and anti-individualist thinking, along with the requisite holding up of communal ideals. This is consistent with the woke movement’s attraction to socialism and refusal to see people as individuals, insisting on seeing and judging them first and foremost as members of a racial or ethnic group. Of course, seeing and judging another first and foremost on the basis of their racial identity is the heart of racism. Ultimately, the effort to label math as racist is exactly that: racist. The document implies, and in not very subtle ways, that minority students are not capable of doing math. (I recall Joe Biden’s remark that “poor kids are just as bright as white kids!”) So, rather than challenge them to rise to the occasion, the document demands that standards be lowered. How patronizing can you get?
Sergui Klainerman is a lot smarter than I am. An immigrant to the United States from Romania, he is a mathematics professor at Princeton University specializing in the mathematics of black holes. He is a MacArthur fellow, a Guggenheim fellow, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He has written an article critical of the notion that math is racist. Klainerman has a lot to say about this movement to deconstruct mathematics of its white supremacy, including the following:
“It is precisely this universality of math — together with the extraordinary ability of American universities to reward hard work and talent — that allowed me, and so many other young scientists and mathematicians, to come to this country and achieve success beyond our wildest dreams. The idea that focusing on getting the “right answer” is now considered among some self-described progressives a form of bias or racism is offensive and extraordinarily dangerous. The entire study of mathematics is based on clearly formulated definitions and statements of fact. If this were not so, bridges would collapse, planes would fall from the sky, and bank transactions would be impossible.”
There is nothing wrong with focusing on the needs of students when teaching math. There is nothing wrong with giving those who come from backgrounds of poverty or from homes where education is not important to dedicate the time and to accommodate the methods of education according to their unique challenges, whether they are black, white, or whatever. This is a far cry, however, of trying to force the idea that white supremacy is the root of every minority child’s difficulty in grasping certain mathematical concepts, or of lowering standards because you don’t believe minority students are capable of meeting them.
Professor Klainerman wrote his article as a guest writer for Bari Weiss’ Common Sense website. Ms. Weiss shares that, in an email to her, Prof. Klainerman wrote that this type of thinking, which is becoming more dominant even in STEM courses of study, reminds him of the statement from the renowned economist Thomas Sowell:
“Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.”
I could not agree more. You can read Prof. Klainerman’s article here:
There Is No Such Thing as “White” Math – Common Sense with Bari Weiss (substack.com)
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.