Guest Column: Mathematics As Indoctrination

Racism mathematics

by Mrs. Q

[This, a comment in last Friday’s Open Forum, which followed upon Steve Witherspoon’s directing our horrified gaze to Oregon’ teaching program that seeks to undo ‘racism in mathematics.’ The links are here, the here, and here, is presented as a Guest Column, not Mrs. Q’s first.]

This reminds me of Erika Mann’s discussion of mathematics education (Völkisches Rechnen or people’s arithmetic) under Nazi rule in the 1930’s, in her book School for Barbarians. Here’s an example (page 67):

An airplane flies at the rate of 240 kilometers per hour to a place at a distance if 210 kilometers in order to drop bombs. When may it be expected to return if the dropping of bombs takes 7.5 minutes?
-From National Political Practice in Arithmetic Lessons.

A question like this may not initially point to a scholastic propaganda problem until the other questions come into play, questions like:

  • “What was Germany’s population loss due to the Versailles Treaty?” What is the load capacity of four gas bombs?”
  • ” How many people can fit into a bomb shelter?”
  • “What percentage of the German population is home to “alien” Jews?”

It suddenly becomes more clear that these questions are preparing these kids for war…and compliance with the state.

Now one could fairly ask if I’m using the the Nazi examples unfairly. However I make this comparison because the point of this supposed “equitable” education has a similar purpose: to prepare American kids to go along with the new racial orthodoxy, rather than foster intelligence or skill retention.On page nine of the PDF Steve shared, the text notes the purpose of this “antiracist” math is to:

  • Cultivate mathematical identity
  • Recognize how POC engage in math (hello stereotypes).
  • Teach culturally relevant math (more stereotypes).
  • Provide opportunities to use math as a form of resistance.
  • Center ethnomathmatics.
  • Teach that math can solve specific community problems and “can be used as a solution to their immediate problems, needs, and desires.”

“Whoever has the youth has the future,” Hitler said. He had a point. Those who fancy themselves proper and righteously “Elect” in education may have good intentions Some kids of color in the past, and maybe even now, have been left behind due to some lingering racism.

At the same time, as linguistics professor John McWhorter, who is black, notes that getting rid of Gifted and Talented programs which I personally benefited from and which led to greater self-esteem and a lifetime love of learning) while not directing students of color who fall behind to the many free resources for test prep and skills improvement is its own kind of racism. McWhorter conveys his disillusionment with antiracism based education by saying:

I shudder at the thought: teachers with eyes shining at the prospect of showing their antiracism by filling my daughters’ heads with performance art, teaching them that they are poster children rather than individuals.

Unfortunately my home state of Oregon is at the forefront of what I consider the dehumanization of all students, including those of color, in the name of a set of principles that are oppositional to student success. The point is to create a new creature, steeped in racial myth and Marxist propaganda, that will unquestioningly load those bombs, and make sure the “alien” whites get “what they deserve.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if one day, we hear students sing out (following in the footsteps of Horst Weasel):

Listen to the drums, boom, boom, boom –
Listen to the trumpets, tateratata!
Come on, clear the camp!

And they’ll be dumb as bricks and as vicious as tyrants while they’re singing it.

7 thoughts on “Guest Column: Mathematics As Indoctrination

  1. “It suddenly becomes more clear that these questions are preparing these kids for war…and compliance with the state.”

    Absolutely. Children in the Third Reich were surrounded by propaganda, almost from the cradle.

    My grandmother was born in 1930. Hoover was President, but FDR was the only President she really knew until she was 15 years old. But Grandma had newspapers, radio and films that presented other points of view. She was given an education that allowed for dissent. Her parents were not afraid to speak in front of her.

    A boy born in 1930 in Germany would not have known anyone other than Hitler until he was 15. He would have been educated in Nazi ideology which would have been backed up by every newspaper, magazine, radio program and film, to say nothing of the Hitler Youth, which would have been mandatory by the time he turned 10. There would have been no one to tell him anything else because anyone who could have would have risked his or her life. Those boys were among the most fanatical fighters in the last days of the war in Germany.

    • Excellent point. The youth were also used as little informants to tell on their parents and families, if they didn’t follow Nazi rules. This provided the needed wedge to break family cohesiveness. Those youth groups encouraged “reporting” on family (as did school teachers). According to Mann, at home, even before saying “good morning,” family members were supposed to say “Heil Hitler” first thing.

      All of the factors you mentioned, regarding youth indoctrination, helps to explain how the non-Jewish citizens of Germany were also deeply affected by Nazi policies. They lived under fear too. Mann said of the youth:

      “It is true that the average child is neither gay nor very serious. He is cruel, but not courageous; hard, but not firm in character; sly but not clever; unchildlike, not mature. So far, the average German child is neither unhappy nor even rebellious.”

      I already see some of these traits in the children of my über progressive friends.

  2. One example from the workbook.

    White supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when…
    Math is taught in a linear fashion and skills are taught sequentially
    without true understanding of prerequisite knowledge.
    Instead…
    While some mathematical skills and concepts build off each other, the forced construct of linear teaching
    reinforces objectivity. A prime example is how matrices is considered a precalculus standard, even though the
    only math skill needed as a prerequisite is arithmetic. This is highly detrimental to students because they are
    systematically deprived of knowledge they could access due to false constructs. Math teachers have internalized
    the sequences that have been predetermined by standards and textbooks, rather than sequencing

    I am at a loss to understand how this is “white supremacy culture”.

    On a related note.

    http://www.edweek.org/leadership/opinion-what-happened-when-my-school-started-to-dismantle-white-supremacy-culture/2019/07

    They are making up this thing called “White Supremacy Culture”, even though none of the examples listed have as much to do with white supremacy as the People Democratic Republic of North Korea has to do with democracy or republics.

    It is as if these people want to defame America as some huge giant Good Ol’ Boys Roundup.

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