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Monday, June 27, 2005

Education please, hold the garbage

Focusing on the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic is usually a good idea when trying to educate people. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to happen as a rule. A growing fad in math instruction is ethnomathematics. These excerpts might give you the flavor...
It seems our math educators no longer believe in the beauty and power of the principles of mathematics. They are continually in search of a fix that will make it easy, relevant, fun and even politically relevant. In the early 1990s, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics issued standards that disparaged basic skills like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, since all of these could be easily performed on a calculator.

Now mathematics is being nudged into a specifically political direction by educators who call themselves "critical theorists." They advocate using mathematics as a tool to advance social justice.

Partisans of social-justice mathematics advocate an explicitly political agenda in the classroom. A new textbook, "Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers," shows how problem solving, ethnomathematics and political action can be merged. Among its topics are: "Sweatshop Accounting," with units on poverty, globalization and the unequal distribution of wealth.
The need to politicize everything is part of a mindset with totalitarian tendencies!

Teaching history is quite important. This article reminds us why...

What will slip further down a memory hole will be the major reason why it is important for students to study our history: America is an exceptional country in that we were born out of a shared set of ideas--human liberty and opportunity, accompanied by a common set of values. It is often said that while being a Frenchman or German is bound up in ethnicity and ties to the soil, it is possible to become an American by adopting this nation's creed and beliefs.

We are risking something very basic by failing to communicate the basic ideals of America and instead, as historian David McCullough told me, "raising a generation of students who are historically illiterate." But many of those students will eventually become curious, and without a solid grounding in the past, they could easily fall prey to revisionist history, whether it be of the Confederate or Oliver Stone variety.

Yale professor David Gelernter says that "ignorance of history is destroying our judgment." He points to Sen. Dick Durbin's ignorant comment comparing the actions of U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay to those of Nazis and Soviets.
When Ronald Reagan delivered his 1989 farewell address to the nation, he noted there was "a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewells," and he would make no exception. He told his audience that the "one that's been on my mind for some time" was that the country was failing to adequately teach our children the American story and what it represents in the history of the world. "We've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion, but what's important," he said. "If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit."

1 comment:

Bret said...

Here's a sample problem from an ethnomathematics curriculum: if Jimmy and Johnny are each given 65 cents lunch money, how much money will Tyrone spend on candy at the end of the day?