Math

Much has been written about the government of Ontario’s plan to decolonize Grade 9 math in the name of social justice. It is a stupid idea for any number of reasons. Apparently, math as currently taught is too objective which means that it excludes other ways of knowing. And so on.

In the great sorting hat of modern society, math, because it is objective and only partially language based has always been a route forward for immigrants of all hues for generations. You might not speak English very well, but quadratic equations, trigonometry and algebra don’t care. With some hard work, even if your English assignments were terrible, the Vietnamese kid or the Sri Lankan or Filipino student could get an “A” in math and often do well at physics as well.

Being a math nerd is the least discriminatory niche in a high school ecology.

I was never much good at math. In Ontario I would have been decolonized twice because I took Grade 9 math twice – once during regular term and once in the summer following Grade 9 because my parents recognized that my barely passing the first time was going to be a problem going forward. I stumbled along for two more years. In those years I managed to acquire just enough math to be able to understand and enjoy Physics 11 and Physics 12 (both taught by the single best teacher I ever had, R.A. Nordman.) (Later I learned a lot of statistics as an adjunct to a thesis I was trying to write. The thesis came to a sad end when my advisor said, “Oh, that should not be a problem, all you need are a couple of simultaneous differential equations.” I was cooked.)

The kids who were “good at math” generally went the STEM route in university, we math under achievers went off to the Arts or, sadly, the Faculty of Education where we were rarely troubled by math again.

“The education minister’s spokesperson Caitlin Clark told The Toronto Sun that the new curriculum reflects a changing world.

“We are taking action to ensure all children, especially those facing barriers to success, have meaningful pathways to quality learning, graduation, access to post-secondary education and good-paying jobs,” she said.”

This is reminiscent of the Indiana State Legislature attempting to fix the value of π at 3.2. There may be all sorts of good jobs which do not need a strong grasp of math but there are no jobs where a decolonized version of the subject will give you an edge.

But I may be looking at this through the wrong lens. A more imaginative lens would note that a) there were only so many “good-paying” (yes, the construction does grate but it’s a quote) jobs, b) certain, preferred, racialized groups were not getting an equitable number of those jobs because c) those jobs had the racialist requirement of a grasp of Grade 9 math which, d) was so racist that the preferred racialized groups were doomed by the system to fail. Take down the systemically racist hurdle of the current Grade 9 math curriculum and replace it with “anti-racist, anti-discriminatory learning environments” and “infuse Indigenous knowledges and perspectives meaningfully and authentically into the mathematics program.” Problem solved!

Or something like that.

In fact, all that this sort of nonsense ensures is that smart (and better off) parents – white, black, Asian – send their kids to private school or homeschool them or pay for after school tutoring. When the pure public school victims of this posturing arrive as undergraduates – courtesy of whatever diversity initiative is available – they will have no chance at a STEM education. There is no “Indigenous knowleges” based calculus or computer code or algorithmic logic. In short, the Ontario public education system is rendering its students, apparently all its students, unfit for the modern world.

And, of course, like most such programs the real beneficiaries are those, often already privileged, kids whose parents are able to pay for the Kumon classes or, well, in my case, summer school. The public school victims might get a job as a diversity hire, but someone has to actually write the code, calculate the stresses, figure out the odds and mine the data – and that someone will have a pretty solid grasp of Grade 9 math.

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2 thoughts on “Math

  1. Fred from BC says:

    Awesome. So the person designing the next high-rise I live in or the new bridge or tunnel I traverse on my way home may have only a rudimentary grasp of math or physics? Gee, what could possibly go wrong there?

    (oh, and grammar has also been deemed ‘racist’ in a couple of places down south. Wonderful.)

    These people astound me. I just can’t grasp their mindset…not at all.

  2. Since math seems be learned in spite of the teachers best efforts, and contributes to the success of the wrong type of people, the solution is anti math. Teach the kids a bunch of stuff with no value except the removal of an opportunity to be exposed to a rigorous discipline.

    Keep them stupid and poor.

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