Did you know that Corn Pops are racist?
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) October 24, 2017
Kellogg’s fired the brown corn pop, by the way, after Citizen Ahmed’s brave stand. Has anybody checked out the diversity positioning of Froot Loops? Are they woke Cheerios?
Anyway, like I said, everything is racist, even numbers:
A math education professor at the University of Illinois says the ability to solve geometry and algebra problems and teaching such subjects perpetuates so-called white privilege.
Rochelle Gutierrez laid out her views on the subject in an article for a newly published anthology for math educators titled, “Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics Methods.”
“School mathematics curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean Theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans,” she says, according to Campus Reform.
She also says that addressing equity in mathematics education will come when teachers can understand and negotiate the politics outside the classroom.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as white,” she writes.
Further, she says mathematics operates with unearned privilege in society, “just like whiteness.”
More on Gutierrez’s work, from Campus Reform. According to Prof. Gutierrez:
Math [according to Gutierrez] also helps actively perpetuate white privilege too, since the way our economy places a premium on math skills gives math a form of “unearned privilege” for math professors, who are disproportionately white.
“Are we really that smart just because we do mathematics?” she asks, further wondering why math professors get more research grants than “social studies or English” professors.
Further, she also worries that evaluations of math skills can perpetuate discrimination against minorities, especially if they do worse than their white counterparts.
“If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
You would have thought the Social Justice Warriors couldn’t ruin something as objective as mathematics. You would have been wrong.
Meanwhile, Stephanie McKellop, a PhD history student at Penn, has caused a more conventional PC ruckus. From the Daily Pennsylvanian:
Could this possibly be more racist and sexist on its face? But it’s okay, because as Alvy Singer taught us:
The problem here is not prejudice, but rather university administrations caving in to “right-wing outrage” according to Prof. Rebecca Martinez, interviewed by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Funnily enough, the reporter didn’t ask the prof what students who feel discriminated against by what they regard as the bigotry of progressive teachers are supposed to do — especially when the progressive academics go to social media and brag about their bigoted practices, as Stephanie McKellop did! The fact that the reporter for the Chronicle asked six questions without once questioning Martinez’s premises is telling about the bubble these people live in.
Trump comes from somewhere, people.
The thing to read is Scott Alexander’s great short essay on what a culture of ideologically driven lying does to communities that are supposed to be about the pursuit of truth. Like, you know, faculties of mathematics. Excerpts:
The average person who grows up in a censored society may not even realize for a while that the censorship exists, let alone know its exact limits, let alone understand that the censors are not their friends and aren’t interested in proofs that the orthodoxy is wrong. Given enough time, such a person can become a savvy Kolmogorov who sees the censorship clearly, knows its limits, and understands how to skirt them. If they’re really lucky, they may even get something-like-common-knowledge that there are other Kolmogorovs out there who know this stuff, and that it’s not their job to be a lone voice crying in the wilderness. But they’re going to have a really cringeworthy edgelord period until they reach that level.
All of this would be fine except that, as Graham says in the quote above, scientists go looking for trouble. The first virtue is curiosity. I don’t know how the internal experience of curiosity works for other people, but to me it’s a sort of itch I get when the pieces don’t fit together and I need to pick at them until they do. I’ve talked to some actual scientists who have this way stronger than I do. An intellectually curious person is a heat-seeking missile programmed to seek out failures in existing epistemic paradigms. God help them if they find one before they get enough political sophistication to determine which targets are safe.
So imagine the most irrelevant orthodoxy you can think of. Let’s say tomorrow, the government chooses “lightning comes after thunder” as their hill to die on. They come up with some BS justification like how atmospheric moisture in a thunderstorm slows the speed of light. If you think you see lightning before thunder, you’re confused – there’s lots of lightning and thunder during storms, maybe you grouped them together wrong. Word comes down from the UN, the White House, the Kremlin, Zhongnanhai, the Vatican, etc – everyone must believe this. Senior professors and funding agencies are all on board. From a scientific-truth point of view it’s kind of a disaster. But who cares? Nothing at all depends on this. Even the meteorologists don’t really care. What’s the worst-case scenario?
The problem is, nobody can say “Lightning comes before thunder, but our social norm is to pretend otherwise”. They have to say “We love objective truth-seeking, and we’ve discovered that lightning does not come before thunder”. And so the Kantoroviches of the world will believe that’s what they really think, and try to write polite letters correcting them.
The more curiosity someone has about the world, and the more they feel deep in their gut that Nature ought to fit together – the more likely the lightning thing will bother them. Somebody’s going to check how light works and realize that rain can’t possibly slow it down that much. Someone else will see claims about lightning preceding thunder in old books, and realize how strange it was for the ancients to get something so simple so wrong so consistently. Someone else will just be an obsessive observer of the natural world, and be very sure they weren’t counting thunderclaps and lightning bolts in the wrong order. And the more perceptive and truth-seeking these people are, the more likely they’ll speak, say “Hey, I think we’ve got the lightning thing wrong” and not shut up about it, and society will have to destroy them.
And the better a school or professor is, the better they train their students to question everything and really try to understand the natural world, the more likely their students will speak up about the lightning issue. The government will make demands – close down the offending schools, fire the offending academics. Good teachers will be systematically removed from the teaching profession; bad teachers will be systematically promoted. Any educational method that successfully instills curiosity and the scientific spirit will become too dangerous to touch; any that encourage rote repetition of approved truths will get the stamp of approval.
Some other beliefs will be found to correlate heavily with lightning-heresy. Maybe atheists are more often lightning-heretics; maybe believers in global warming are too. The enemies of these groups will have a new cudgel to beat them with, “If you believers in global warming are so smart and scientific, how come so many of you believe in lightning, huh?” Even the savvy Kolmogorovs within the global warming community will be forced to admit that their theory just seems to attract uniquely crappy people. It won’t be very convincing. Any position correlated with being truth-seeking and intelligent will be always on the retreat, having to forever apologize that so many members of their movement screw up the lightning question so badly.
Seriously, read the whole thing. Don’t be the sort of person who thinks this is just one more thing the wacky left-wing professors are up to, and that it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme, except to right-wing nuts. The professoriat is shaping the elite minds of tomorrow, the people who will be running the institutions. If systematically discriminating against classes of people within the university becomes an accepted practice, what good can possibly come out of it? And if you think science can defend itself from ideologues, you should read about Trofim Lysenko.
I do not understand why university administrators aren’t more on top of this stuff. Do they really think it’s to their advantage for their institutions to become known as cesspits of ideology and bigotry? Who on earth wants to study at a university where a mathematics professor thinks geometry is an expression of “whiteness”?
UPDATE: A reader writes:
You’re mostly spot on here, but one clarification…Gutierrez is not in the math department or a mathematician of any flavor. She a professor of education (natch) with a BA in “Human Biology”, MA in “Social Science”, and PhD in “Education”. She has no degrees in mathematics, and has not published any papers in mathematics. Her CV is available here.
But here is the problem. She is training teachers and particularly writing about how to work with students in “urban” schools. The topics are things like “Creative insubordination”, “Problematizing research on the achievement gap”, “Embracing the inherent tensions in teaching mathematics from an equity stance”, “Why (urban) mathematics teachers need political knowledge”, and so forth. The National Science Foundation (!?!) awarded her $900,000 for an award titled “Noyce Illinois: Preparing Excellence and Diversity in Secondary Mathematics Teachers for Illinois’ High Needs Schools.” Most Noyce awards I’ve seen provide grants to teachers working on an Master’s degree in teaching in a STEM field. So your best math teachers in the great state of Illinois are being paid from NSF funds to teach math teachers about creative insubordination, problematizing research on the achievement gap, etc…
In the end, the students being taught by teachers who buy into this nonsense will be empowered not to excel in algebra, trigonometry, geometry, statistics, and calculus. Not how to excel at the math portions of the ACT/SAT, not how to apply math to their chemistry and physics classes.
No, what they will learn is that expecting them to do math as well those asian students is racist. The SAT/ACT – racist. It is a giant white conspiracy to put asian students at the top of the heap because some kind of weird fetish that white people have. The reason they don’t do well in school and won’t do well in the future – racism. These teachers can’t fix all the problems plaguing students. Parents, home life, social environment all matter a lot. But at the very least we can expect them not to make problems worse.
But what do I know. I’m just a middle-aged physics professor. Maybe all this PC nonsense has helped increase the number of URM in STEM disciplines. It just so happens that there is data on this, so we don’t have to suppose. What has these $900,000 Noyce awards coming from the National Science(!) Foundation gotten us? From 1995-2015 the percentage of bachelor degrees awarded to black students in Math/Stats went from 7% in 1995 up to 8% in the late 90’s before declining steadily to 4% in 2015. I blame Trump. But maybe all of those math students have had their eyes opened to new opportunities in science disciplines like Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering. Nope. In Chemistry the peak was in 2000 at almost 9% before declining to 7% in 2015. In physics, the peak was about 5% in the late 90’s and is 2% today. Engineering peaked at 5% in 2000 and is 4% today. Maybe all these students have stampeded out of Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Engineering so they can become doctors and are majoring in Biology instead? Nope. The peak there was a bit later (2004 at almost 8%), but also has seen a steady decline to just under 7% in 2015. Meanwhile the college age population of black students has increased from 14% to 15%.
The bottom line is that there is no evidence that the money being spent to entice URMs to go into stem field by problematizing the achievement gap and teaching creative insubordination. There is evidence that all the stuff we are trying to do to improve STEM education is driving minority students away. My worry is the we are losing potentially talented scientists and mathematicians because of the drivel coming out of our education schools. Perhaps these trends aren’t the fault of PC nonsense coming out of the University of Chicago. But I would like to see an experiment run where we cut off all funding for this nonsense and see what happens to minority enrollment in STEM disciplines. I’d put money on seeing a rebound.
Thanks for this. I would simply like to point out that academics like McKellop, Gutierrez, and Martinez are actively promoting racial and gender hatred.