Thursday, September 29, 2005

Politicized math

An outfit called Rethinking Schools opines that being for solid math instruction and against turning math into a political circus is committing a "right-wing" act. Shouting "right-wing" is a poor substitute for an argument.

We think Diane Ravitch and her fellow right-wing pundits have gotten multiculturalism -- and us -- all wrong.


In June Ravitch penned a Wall Street Journal opinion piece lambasting multicultural approaches to teaching mathematics. And she singled out our new book Rethinking Mathematics for special scorn.

Quoting from the table of contents -- in a manner that suggests she never bothered to read further -- she decried the book for trying to make math education culturally relevant to the children actually being served by U.S. public schools.

Ravitch accused Rethinking Schools -- and math teachers who believe in multiculturalism -- of abandoning academic rigor in favor of "political correctness."

Other right-wing pundits quickly took up Ravitch's chant and Rethinking Mathematics became a lightning rod for right-wing pundits and bloggers. Notably, Baltimore Sun columnist Gregory Kane -- who also seemed content to scan the book's table of contents and read no further -- blasted away at Rethinking Schools and multiculturalism.


NYC Educator said...

I'd hardly characterize Diane Ravitch as a "right-wing pundit." If she says the book is crap, it most certainly is, and if that was the best retort the authors could muster, they are troglodytes indeed.

cowboylogic said...

I recently finished reading "A Mathematicians Apology" by GH Hardy, In his writing he took great care to establish the harmlessness of mathematics, I saw his arguments on this point flawless. Being a student of mathematics myself, I see math as having no morality in itself. Math simply exists (independent of human society). I do not contend that there ar no socially insensitive applications and descriptions utilized in math text. However, to consciously utilize math for poltical means is more devious, contempuous, underhanded, narrow minded and flat-out wrong, than minor oversights. It is a shame that those who claim to want to help youth learn math would set low expectations for the youth (somewhat racists expectations) "Other, traditional forms of math are often too abstract, promote student failure and self-doubt, and, frankly, are immoral in a world as unjust as ours. Traditional math is bad for students and bad for society." They are saying white kids "get it" but minorities don't. Math is concrete, it is the developing understanding that is abstract, so clouding the issue with other politically motivated policies further confounds the students and prevents actually learning the material.
That's just my thought on the issue.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'll be happy to read past the TOC if they'll send me a Free Review Copy.

catherine Johnson said...

Have you seen this book?

How to Teach Math to Black Students by by Shahid Muhammad