“Men make revolutions for private reasons.” – Aristotle
Well, my son, there are facts and there are feelings. They are not the same thing. It’s something they should be telling the kids, but that is not the case.
The word salad that accompanied the introduction of the new Ontario Grade Nine Math Curriculum was very flowery. Almost impossible to read as English, but flowery nonetheless and premised to impress the right parties.
“Mathematics is often positioned as an objective and pure discipline. However, the content and the context in which it is taught, the mathematicians who are celebrated, and the importance that is placed upon mathematics by society are subjective. Mathematics has been used to normalize racism and marginalization of non-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges, and a decolonial, anti-racist approach to mathematics education makes visible its historical roots and social constructions. The Ontario Grade 9 mathematics curriculum emphasizes the need to recognize and challenge systems of power and privilege, both inside and outside the classroom, in order to eliminate systemic barriers and to serve students belonging to groups that have been historically disadvantaged and underserved in mathematics education.”
If I hadn’t laughed out loud, I might have mistaken it for something I came upon along the pathway and had to step around.
Sorry Junior, it seems that two plus does not equal four. Two plus two now adds up to white, colonial and racist. And challenging power and privilege which is of course what math was always about anyway. (Cue moment for mirth) We seem to have reached an odd disconnect where our aims have been hijacked by something else altogether. Of course, math is a pure science. It’s about the facts ma’am. Nothing but the facts. Until critical theory came along. I imagine under the new math, the range of answers will be happily diverse, subjective and everyone will have forgotten that the real purpose of math is to find ironclad answers that cannot be challenged because you can prove them six ways back and forth to Sunday.
We live in odd times where matters of identity have come to the fore. How you feel about things seems to eclipse what may actually be. A certain dyslexia reigns, where subjective thinking is substituted for truth.
Nowadays you can be what you identify as. A boy can be a girl, equipment notwithstanding, you can now identify as Aboriginal even if you are not, you can be trans-racial if you FEEL like you might be black, and there is even a recognized kind of dysphoria (Body Integrity Identity Disorder) where someone imagines they are without a limb when the limb is actually intact and whole. The problems come with taking such people seriously.
Mostly, I am glad that I grew up before this current age of indoctrination where schools supposedly educate people but those same people cannot find work once they come out of the system. The only burgeoning industry these days seems to be government. Its prosperity is not related in any way to its efficacy, but if you took gender studies or you are a slightly darker shade of colour you are a shoe-in for a job. You may not be sure what you are DOING in that job, but rest assured you will be decolonial, racialized and diverse.
In the brave new world coming down the pike your identity will be first and foremost. You will have to prove that you are not associated with the patriarchy, colonialism, and that you are challenging power structures of the past as defined by the new rules. As such nobody really cares about math, for now anyway.
I just remember my old math teacher Mrs. Sowerby. She was the kind of school ma’arm that when she cast her eyeball on you everybody involuntarily puckered, and shut the hell up. Her husband and son had been in the papers. They had built an airplane in the garage, and had to knock out a wall to get the thing out of doors when the time came to fly it. She had also been in the news because a friend had taken the same plane for a spin, had crashed it and died. There would be a lawsuit.
Mrs Sowerby came into the class and you could have heard a pin drop. She told us to put our books away, we were going to get a life lesson in math. “All of life is math”, she said. “It counts that you go through the steps and are accurate.” The man who had crashed the plane had skipped all the necessary precautions that preclude a flight. If you do NOT do the math, you will only know the aircraft is unsafe when there is a grand accident. “DO YOUR MATH!” she said. “It is life’s most important lesson.”
Those who have currently decided that ideology can substitute for facts, are in for a crash landing, and I am not sure I want to be around to see it. But it will happen just the same, because no matter how you approach it, two plus two will always equal four, matters of equity, diversity and inclusion notwithstanding.