On maths education

Having had four kids go through school I have read a lot of school reports and attended many parent-teacher evenings. I only ever paid attention to two subjects: English and Mathematics.

Turns out I’m obviously a white supremacist.

From the WSJ:

This will be the result if a proposed mathematics curriculum framework, which would guide K-12 instruction in the Golden State’s public schools, is approved by California’s Instructional Quality Commission in meetings this week and in August and ratified by the state board of education later this year.

The framework recommends eight times that teachers use a troubling document, “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.” This manual claims that teachers addressing students’ mistakes forthrightly is a form of white supremacy. It sets forth indicators of “white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom,” including a focus on “getting the right answer,” teaching math in a “linear fashion,” requiring students to “show their work” and grading them on demonstrated knowledge of the subject matter. “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false,” the manual explains. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuates ‘objectivity.’ ” Apparently, that’s also racist.

As it turns out, I read about an interesting conspiracy theory that Matt Yglesias was proposing.

In my more conspiratorial moments, I wonder if it’s not a psyop devised by some modern-day version of COINTELPRO to try to destroy progressive politics in the United States by making it impossible to run effective organizations.

Okay – so I had to google COINTELPRO. But yes – there are some idea that are so dumb – SO DUMB – that you cannot but imagine that they are dreamt up by malicious actors trying to discredit some or other worthy cause.

The worthy cause here is that as many kids as possible should do maths for as long as possible.

Okay – so how does Matt Yglesias explain what is happening:

Debating abstractions is difficult and frustrating, and the discourse about “wokeness” and “cancel culture” has become a snakepit of semantic debates, bad-faith actors, and people of goodwill talking past each other.

So I want to talk instead about one specific document, not because I think it’s the most important document in the world, but because I don’t really see anyone who I read and respect talking about it even though I’ve seen it arise multiple times in real life.

I’m talking about “The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture” by Tema Okun, which I first heard of this year from the leader of a progressive nonprofit group whose mission I strongly support. He told me that some people on the staff had started wielding this document in internal disputes and it was causing big headaches. Once I had that on my radar, I heard about it from a couple of other nonprofit workers. And I saw it come up at the Parent Teacher Association for my kid’s school.

If you tell teachers and principals that having a sense of urgency about teaching kids to read is a form of white supremacy, then that is going to hurt kids’ learning. And if young people entering the progressive nonprofit sector believe that any effort to construct disciplined, hierarchical organizations is a form of white supremacy, then they are not going to accomplish anything.

Read the whole of Yglesias’ piece – it is hard to summarise in a few quotes.

Bottom line – this stuff is irresponsible and will undermine education as a driver of social progress.

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54 Responses to On maths education

  1. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    Sinclair if you are a white supremicist for concetrating on English and Maths so are a large number of Chinese and Indian parents are too .
    Sounds good “hes a Chinese WhiteSupremicist “or an Indian one .
    Whoever wrote that is involved in humanities teaching Usefull subjets like gender studies , indigeniu culcha,politics and the other new wank “subjets”.

  2. Daily llama says:

    I knew it. 45 years after I insisted to my German Irish mother that I bombed out in maths and physics due to the hateful racist behaviour of those teachers, I am vindicated.
    All I tried to say was- how can Pi be an exclusively white construct when 4 and 20 blackbirds can be baked thusly?
    We can choose our race, and our sex, so there can be no tolerance of mathematism in our society.
    Mums response to my freedom of expression was a kick up the arse. She had socialist leanings…

  3. PB says:

    You keep dumbing it down until even Dontavious and Laqueesha can get through and become pyramid pilots.

  4. Richard Bender says:

    Lisa Simpson: ” I was wrong – and by being corrected, I learned! And no one cared about my feelings!”

  5. Roger says:

    Bottom line – this stuff is irresponsible and will undermine education as a driver of social progress.

    You regard it as a bug.

    They see it as a feature.

  6. notafan says:

    It will make society even more uneven as aspirational parents seek alternative educational resources.

  7. Ƶĩppʯ (ȊꞪꞨV) says:

    Bottom line – this stuff is irresponsible and will undermine education as a driver of social progress.

    marxism always driving everyone down to the lowest common denominator…

  8. Squirrel says:

    The idea of maths as racist will no doubt be fascinating to all the non-white (as defined) parents who think it’s very, very important for their kids to do well at it – they’re the ones who will be getting the sexy Silicon Valley jobs, not the poor kids who are subjected to the academic equivalent of foot-binding by a bunch of uber-woke nutjobs.

  9. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Steven Hayward had a good article yesterday on this topic.

    Math is Hard—Hardest of All for the Left | Power Line (17 May)

    In recent weeks we’ve seen the announcement that certain Virginia public school districts (and others elsewhere in the country) will discontinue advanced math classes, because “equity,” and the University of California will permanently discontinue using the SAT for admission purposes.

    If you want to know why the left is doing this, have a close look at this chart:

    Graph

    Schooling in California is so woeful for African-American students that less than 20% of them can manage to get to a basic standard of maths. And not much better in English also, as the chart also shows.

    Given the swill taught to these poor kids by woke teachers, as Sinc details above, you can see why. And you can see why the white and asian kids can escape this fate – due to private schools, tiger parents and tutoring.

    Unless the public education system can return to actually teaching meaningful stuff these poor people will remain substantially illiterate and innumerate. That’s a searing indictment of the Left, which utterly controls public schooling here and in the US.

  10. C.L. says:

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  11. Nob says:

    I live in a UK city where if you see a black person in any part of town, they are almost certainly middle-class professional engineers or academics from direct African background. They dress well and go to church. They are usually from the upper classes of Nigeria or Ghana. Not much of a private middle class in Africa.

    You get the odd black drug dealer arriving off the train but they’re easily identified by (usually) their Liverpool or faux-Jamaican accents

    If we dumb down our education like California proposes to, these aspirational Africans will vote with their feet and their wallets and pull the plug on state schools.

    Nobody hates this BLM crap more than actual black Africans trying to get a good education.

  12. Damon says:

    “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuates ‘objectivity.’ ” Apparently, that’s also racist.
    Goodbye to Sudoku and crosswords.

  13. JC says:

    I don’t get the big deal about either getting or not getting the jab. Some people here are treating it like it’s some sort of religious experience – especially the non vaxxers.

    Personally, I don’t give a shit if someone gets vaxxed or not. I don’t care.

    Following on from the day I was vaxxed, I had Makka deriding me for getting the needle. It was like it was some huge disappointment that there were people at the Cat who actually went and had the jab, especially someone like me, who makka really looks up to and tries to copy. He was affronted like the big fucking mary he is and always has been.

    A few others also had the same reaction like Twitchy for instance. Twitchy was affronted that people report having longish term reactions to wuhan Lab Virus ..like millions of people who’ve had it are lying. FMD

    Get a fucking life and stop acting like fucking leftwing morons. If you’re not getting the vax then, good, don’t get it and stop it will the bullshit against those who decide the Trump vax is a good idea.

  14. Old School Conservative says:

    JC, not sure what your post has to do with mathematics.
    But if 2+2 = 22, you can post anywhere you like.

  15. JC says:

    whoops wrong Fred. thanks Old School.

  16. Lee says:

    Mathematics is completely indifferent to “race.”

    I remember several years ago, the young lass serving me in JB Hi-Fi couldn’t even work out extremely simple maths in her head.
    I told her the amount she was trying to figure out, but she had to ask another staff member for the answer.

  17. FlyingPigs says:

    Turns out I’m obviously a white supremacist.

    …good … good… your finally admitting your bias.

    A few more sessions will lock it down…

  18. Lee says:

    For “progressives”, these dumbing-down, “maths is white supremacist” proponents are extremely regressive.

  19. Entropy says:

    Given the swill taught to these poor kids by woke teachers, as Sinc details above, you can see why. And you can see why the white and asian kids can escape this fate – due to private schools, tiger parents and tutoring.

    Unless the public education system can return to actually teaching meaningful stuff these poor people will remain substantially illiterate and innumerate. That’s a searing indictment of the Left, which utterly controls public schooling here and in the US.

    Thanks to Gillard, even private schools in Australia must comply with the national curriculum. The lieboral government has not fixed this terrible act.

  20. Nob says:

    Lee says:
    May 19, 2021 at 7:52 pm
    I remember several years ago, the young lass serving me in JB Hi-Fi couldn’t even work out extremely simple maths in her head.

    That’s Mental Arithmetic which is pretty much a lost skill these days because it’s mostly unnecessary.

    I mean, we live in a world where what isn’t barcoded is entered via picture keys.

    MA would help in quickly spotting some of the more obvious computer or cash register mistakes though.

  21. candy says:

    We don’t see much of Julia Gillard because she has ruined the education system. She knows it, is my thoughts.

  22. Scott Osmond says:

    All part of the plan. We can’t have blacks and Hispanics learning and getting gainful employment. Why, they might get uppity and leave the DemoncRat voting plantation. Uneducated, unemployable, resentful of those who make it, make these people easy to manipulate. It’s getting to the point that employing anyone out of a public school system is a negative.

  23. Dan4eva says:

    Creating a permanent under class available to service the elites every whim for house servants.

  24. Bones says:

    I heard a person who I believe is a retired teacher remark that being able to spell is an upper class affectation; he expanded this comment to say that it would be far better that the student be allowed to spell incorrectly than to label the student as lower class and bear down on the student for this failing.

  25. GregMan says:

    Can’t wait for the next time I drive over a bridge designed by someone who took non-racist math.

  26. Suburban Boy says:

    It is a mistake to ascribe malice to the large majority of teachers, academics and sundry activists who are trying to foist this madness upon our society.

    In their profound ignorance, they really do believe that they will improve society by imposition of their poisonous schemes.

    But there remain a small minority (I would guess) who have the wit to understand the destructive power of these ideas, and wish destruction upon our society through them. They are not all called “George Soros”.

  27. TBH says:

    This story makes me glad of three things:

    1, That I don’t live in California
    2, That my kids are at a private school
    3, That they finish school this year

    This is just insanity. How can you expect a kid of any ethnic background, to say nothing of whether they are black or hispanic, with this idiocy? No good can come from it and I hope there are enough sensible people opposing it. It is Cali though, so probably not.

  28. Scott Osmond says:

    Greg, that’s already happened. Back in 2018 Florida International university bridge. Killed 6. It was load tested but the geniuses didn’t think to shut the road passing under it when they put a load on. It was naturally a diversity inclusion and equity operation. Forget power, flight and bridges, at this point I’ll be happy if we still have flush toilets by 2060. Old age will be a copper plated bitch without plumbing.

  29. JohnJJJ says:

    Maths is replete with racism: differentiation – eh? Wha’ ’bout integration – forcing it. Ordinal numbers should only have first.

  30. Rebel with cause says:

    Sending your kids to a private school is certainly no guarantee to escape woke nonsense. Many of the private schools are the worst offenders, their clients (i.e. upper middle class white collar parents) demand it!

  31. Scott Osmond says:

    As another blogger I read says “home school or die.”

  32. TBH says:

    Sending your kids to a private school is certainly no guarantee to escape woke nonsense. Many of the private schools are the worst offenders, their clients (i.e. upper middle class white collar parents) demand it!

    That’s a fair comment and we’ve experienced a bit of it, but fortunately the majority of the parent body at my two kids schools are generally supportive of a more practical curriculum. By that I mean proper attention to maths, science and languages, as well as high academic achievement.

    I’ve also partially inoculated my kids against this woke nonsense by not only taking an interest in what they’re learning, but also pushing back against some of the nonsense. My son in particular can see right through it.

  33. Adrien says:

    I only ever paid attention to two subjects: English and Mathematics.

    Fail! No music.

  34. Splatacrobat says:

    Barking mad………….in a non binary, multi-coloured, inclusive way.

  35. Baa Humbug says:

    Bottom line – this stuff is irresponsible and will undermine education as a driver of social progress.

    You’re ALL missing the big picture as to why all this unbelievable, incredibly stupid twilight zone events are happening before our very eyes.
    Put women in positions of power and authority, get twilight zone level events.

    Yeah righto, I’m sexist that way. But be totally honest and objective with yourselves. Most of the people pushing this shit are women and faux women (effeminate males).

    The concept of women in positions of power and authority (with rare exceptions….and I mean rare as hens teeth) is a wholly new concept to the human race. RARE….NEW….UNTRIED and UNTESTED.

    What da fug do you expect will happen when that half of our species that believes making life as easy as possible, as conflict and competition free as possible for everybody, get into positions of power and authority???????????????

    FMD we’re in an era that’s NEVER been tried and tested before. Never before in human history have men and women mixed in organizing our societies. Not been done before. We DON’T know what the consequences of this experiment will be.
    I hope it’s the right course, I really do but it ain’t working out too well thus far.

    People whose DNA (women and youngsters) is all about redistribution, reducing competition etc, given the power and authority will reduce competition and maximize redistribution, be it money or school grades or promotion at the workplace.
    For me it’s a no brainer.

    Men and women have worked separately since Adam fvcked Eve and she had Cain and Able. The two sexes working together is a concept that’s barely 70 years old. A mere eye blink in our collective 300,000 year old genes and DNA. IT’S AN EXPERIMENT and we don’t know how it will work out.

    Rant over. FMD.

  36. Diogenes says:

    I posted this on the open thread yesterday, sums it up ..
    Maths Teacher bullied by 1st grader

  37. Iain Russell says:

    Irresponsible?!? Insane!!!

  38. iggie says:

    Diogenes
    Thanks for the great video. A real ‘gotcha’ moment in front of the press.
    But under they’re thinking, she could argue that $2000 + $2000 would equal $20,002,000.

  39. Riversutra says:

    But if 2+2 = 22, you can post anywhere you like.

    “Alternative Math” youtube short film, if you haven’t seen it, please, it’s in a similar vein to the Babylon Bee style. Sooner or later, you can’t tell the difference between real life and satire.

  40. H B Bear says:

    Turns out I’m obviously a white supremacist.

    I note with some concern that more of these idle boasts and personal attacks are becoming more common. Shame.

  41. H B Bear says:

    I bet Snic has the route to the Grampians highlighted in the Melways. Got that ASIO?

  42. Mother Lode says:

    “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false,”

    Sounds like an absolute statement. The idea that 2+2=4 is objectively true is objectively false.

    Look, dear, there really is a world out there that is independent of our thought. Time and again our pest laid plans are frustrated when we run up against it. Do you really think that sometimes when a person steps of a cliff that they hover in the air (without the equipment that we have brought into existence because of the ‘falling’ thing)? If you put one apple, and then another apple, into an empty bag that you might pull out anything other than two apples?

    Do you think that when you put a plate on the table it might fall through it? That when you are not looking at something that it might flicker out of existence only to reappear suddenly when you look back?

    This entire Post-Modern thing is really nothing more than the musings of First Year philosophy students.

    I note the people wo push it tend to argue that other people’s ideas should be doubted, but they never doubt their own – they just use doubt of other people’s ideas as a means to discard them in order to supplant them with their own ideas instead. It is all about power.

  43. TPL001 says:

    Damon (May 19, 2021 at 7:40 pm) is correct. There is a little note in that document -there is no objectivity. Their propositions are presented as objective statements. And, presumably, in the battle of ideas, you do want to affirm that your ideas are truth statements, and that all others are rubbish.

    It is amusing that this stuff is just a tired old variant on critical theory, which argues against power relationships, because they are oppressive. But these guys are simply substituting their power for others. Go figure! Critical theory and neo-Marxism are re-branded humanism – pagan ethics.

    In the supermarket of ideas, I prefer God’s inscripturated law-word, because one has to decide who is in authority: if God, then his law; if man, then whirl is king. The battle takes place within time and history, and after this sojourn, outside of time, in eternity.

  44. Bruce says:

    @CL:

    Did you crank up your old PDP-10 and do that graphic in Fortran? And print it out on the fridge-sized “daisy-wheel” printer?

    We’ve come a long way since the only way of generating “racy” pictures on a computer involved using hand “typed” punched cards to print out ASCII characters as “pixels” on rolls of tractor-fed paper.

  45. Lee says:

    If any lefty idiot maintains that maths is “racist” or “white supremacist”, then surely he or she can’t possibly complain if I short-change or overcharge them!

  46. Diogenes says:

    “Alternative Math” youtube short film, if you haven’t seen it, please, it’s in a

    That’s the one I linked to. My BiL thought I would sympathize with the teacher

  47. Craig says:

    Sinc, about bloody time you acknowledge your racist, colonial, apartheid leaning, black hating past.

    And you know the sad thing Sinc? As much as what I wrote above is not true, it is SO EASY to sit here and write such garbage and then just walk off.

  48. Old School Conservative says:

    At a superficial level, it’s hard to see Uber come in and totally disrupt the highly regulated taxi industry yet no-one can come in and disrupt education in Australia.
    There must be a market for a low fee, classical education focusing on discipline, respect and high expectations with a total avoidance of the National Curriculum.

  49. min says:

    No maths can anyone tell me how a house can be built or the cupboards without numbers ?There is a tv programme called Escape to the Chateau where two Brits bought a really dilapidated chateau in France and have restored and re orated it into an amazing place full of ingenuity and recycling . Husband with an engineering background showed how maths was needed including geometry and trigonometry to work out how to put library shelves in a curved walls of a tower.
    Just asked a uni student if one could do Science degree without maths no way Jose.

  50. Bad Samaritan says:

    The moment i read ‘white supremacy” I kinda go no further.

    The average black IQ is about 75. There are plenty of blacks above this, and many who are very intelligent, but the sad thing is that some of these smarter ones have decided to scam the rest of the blacks by telling them that being stupid is the way to go. And, of course, since the very large majority ARE stupid (the average is a moron remember) this is not hard to do.

    You then get govt-paid whites who are probably under average white intelligence (about IQ 100) joining in to enrich / empower themselves, since why else would they be govt-paid? They see a way to scam everybody, especially the black population (whom they know to be top-heavy with morons) by taking more money from them via govt boondoggies and grants, so they do.

    All this stuff is nought but con-persons ripping off the stupid and/or helpless. Discussing the merits of their claims is no different to discussing the merits of a sham tradesman’s quote to repair the roof of some old lady’s house….when she clearly has dementia. The scamster is not there to fix the roof at all: the “assessment” is simply to rip the victim off, FFS!

  51. Old Lefty says:

    I wouldn’t mind betting that when the idiots who spout this stuff go off on their frequent conferencing and junketeering, they happily fly on aircraft developed by engineers who used the dreaded ‘racist’ Western* mathematics. Any takers for a plane designed by Mr Pascoe with ‘indigenous’ maths?

    * As anybody who is more than semi literate knows, Western maths owes a lot to Indo-Arabic as well as Greek traditions. But pointing that out is also a racist act, I suspect.

    And contra the Dawkins of the world, the medieval clergy also made significant contributions (e.g. Bradwardine and the Merton calculators).

  52. Frank says:

    Just asked a uni student if one could do Science degree without maths no way Jose.

    Tim Flannery managed to do just that.

  53. John A says:

    Ƶĩppʯ (ȊꞪꞨV) says: May 19, 2021, at 7:24 pm

    Bottom line – this stuff is irresponsible and will undermine education as a driver of social progress.

    marxism always driving everyone down to the lowest common denominator

    And there you are using objective mathematical terms to unravel the mathematics of the world. Way to go, Karl!

  54. roman says:

    Like with any dumb person doing dumb shit, authority must be exerted. Because being reasonable with them is self evidently not going to be a thing. That or civilisation continues becoming less so.

    We don’t need to hate them but they do need to shut their mouths and go pull cabbages or something.

    Some things are absolutely true, such as that cultural marxism is shit and as such it must be wiped and flushed and nothing else.

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