The Racism of Mathematics? By Brian Simpson

     As a high school maths teacher, I have long speculated about how the woke politically correct would get their talons into my abstract discipline. Now I know:

“Is mathematics next on the chopping block to be deconstructed as a form of "Western imperialism"? A young woman describing herself as a teacher, Ph.D. student, and "social justice change agent," recently gained notoriety for tweeting, "The idea of 2+2 equaling 4 is cultural," a product of "western imperialism/colonialism." Yes, even mathematics, held up as the most objective and neutral of disciplines, is being reshaped by critical theory, which claims that all ideas are social constructions by groups using their power to advance their own interests. This is not just the inflammatory language of young social justice warriors.  Alan Bishop, who teaches at Cambridge University, wrote an article titled "Western Mathematics: The Secret Weapon of Cultural Imperialism," in which he deplores "the process of cultural invasion in colonised countries by western mathematics." In Educational Studies in Mathematics, two math educators at Georgia State University write, "Dominant mathematics is a system established as right and True by the White men who have historically controlled and constructed the game."  The authors call for "critical mathematics" to expose "the power dynamic between the oppressor — White, male mathematicians — and the oppressed — the marginalized Other." Rochelle Gutiérrez, an education professor at the University of Illinois, writes that "mathematics itself operates as Whiteness.  Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as the mathematical community is generally viewed as White."  Gutiérrez charges that algebra and geometry perpetuate white privilege because the textbook version of math history is Eurocentric: "[c]urricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans."

I'm not sure which history textbooks she's talking about.  We all use Arabic numerals, and in my college math class, we learned that the concept of zero as a place holder came from India; that the Babylonians gave us the 360-degree circle and the 60-minute hour; that the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Chinese all had a rough idea of the value of pi.  The approximate ratio for pi even appears in the Bible: "And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about" (1 Kings 7:23). A website for teachers, "K–12 Academics," calls for the development of "anti-racist" mathematics: Anti-racist mathematics is part of a larger social constructivist movement in which traditional Western or scientific world views were developed within the context of a Judeo-Christian Western culture or set of cultures.  Anti-racist educators suggest that these assumptions are dominant because of the abuse of political power. Note the accusation that racism is a product of Judeo-Christian or Western culture, which became dominant not because it made any genuine contributions, but only "because of the abuse of political power." Critical theory takes to heart Marx's dictum that the purpose of philosophy is not to interpret the world, but to change it.  It calls people to become activists — to identify groups as either oppressors or oppressed, and then to liberate the oppressed from their "false consciousness" and resist their oppressors. In critical theory, the key question is not whether an idea is true, but rather, whose interests does it serve?  How does it legitimate domination?  How does it perpetuate unequal power relations? Critical theory has been dubbed "the sociopolitical turn" in mathematics education.  It has roots, like Marxism itself, in the philosophy of Hegel.  The German philosopher held a kind of pantheism, in which the real actor in history is not the individual, but a collective consciousness that he called the Absolute Mind or Spirit (in German, Geist).  This collective consciousness expresses itself through a community's language, laws, morality, religion, and culture.”

     At this late stage of the game, my view is that our tribe should stopping trying to appease their tribe. If they don’t want Western science and mathematics, then fine, go without. It is long overdue that we should start looking after ourselves rather than we being universal doormats to the world. This universalism is destroying the northern European people and is at the root of most of our survival problems. 



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