Sunday, October 27, 2019

Mathematics a tool of racial oppression, Seattle public schools committee says - Eric Utter

by Eric Utter

Condemning "power and oppression" in mathematics.

Something called the "K–12 Math Ethnic Studies Framework," created by a Seattle Public Schools "Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee," is intended to instruct students that math is intimately connected to racial oppression. Students will be taught "how technology and/or science have been and continues [sic] to be used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color." The framework, the final draft of which is scheduled to be completed by September 2020, will also attempt to "explain how math dictates economic oppression." That's correct: math.

Tracy Castro-Gill, the ethnic studies program manager at Seattle Public Schools, noted that the framework is intended to redress the fact that the district has not been properly serving minority students. Castro-Gill said, "The goal is to disrupt the status quo and do something different." Disrupting the status quo is the goal — and sacred quest — of all progressives. She added, "It's important to break down barriers while valuing our differences." Those of her ilk love breaking down barriers. And fences. And standards.

The framework curriculum will consist of four themes: Origins, Identity, and Agency; Power and Oppression; History of Resistance and Liberation; and Reflection and Action. Riddle me this: how is telling minorities that mathematical concepts have historically enslaved them providing them with a great service? Resist those integers! Free yourselves from the bonds of multiplication!

Here is how the framework characterizes the Power and Oppression theme:
Power and oppression, as defined by ethnic studies, are the ways in which individuals and groups define mathematical knowledge so as to see 'Western' mathematics as the only legitimate expression of mathematical identity and intelligence. This definition of legitimacy is then used to disenfranchise people and communities of color. This erases the historical contributions of people and communities of color.
Doubtless, disenfranchising minorities was surely the reason most famous mathematicians pursued their work.

Or not. Take, for instance, the number "pi," or π. It is a mathematical constant originally defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter and is approximately equal to 3.14159. It is also known as "Archimedes's constant" and is used in many formulas in virtually all areas of mathematics and physics. Would minorities truly be better off — less oppressed, as it were — without the staggering advances people like Archimedes, Ptolemy, Pythagoras, Euclid, Descartes, Einstein, and Alan Turing made possible? Would any of us? They took us from a time when people thought the world was flat and made it possible for us to fly to the stars. In between, their work ushered in countless advances that have led us all to live longer, less painful, more rewarding, enjoyable, and prosperous lives. They were the ones who disrupted the status quo to the betterment of the human condition. 

I don't want to get off on a tangent here, but Seattle's "Ethnic Studies Framework" is a sad sign of the times.

I can already hear the woke students protesting: "Hey, hey, ho, ho…'Archimedes's constant' has got to go!"

Eric Utter


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