Maybe If I Ignore It …

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the best parts of my job— perma-temping at a community college—is the one-on-one tutoring I do in our “Learning Center”. Now, what with having done seven years of graduate work in math and all, I’m fully capable of working with students from any of the classes offered here. But not all of our faculty can make this claim, and the stated requirement is that all the tutors should be comfortable with all the material “up to the pre-calculus level”. For Business Math, Statistics, and Calculus, we’re asked to put checkmarks in boxes for whichever (if any) we’re willing and able to tutor students of.

I’ve always checked the Calculus box, of course … but never Business or Statistics. I never studied these subjects and, in fact, find them distasteful (“business” because of the God/Mammon thing— they like to pretend that a “good” is the same as “something that can be bought and sold”; “statistics” because its principal application is to propaganda). Up until today, though, I’ve always been glad to help out students from these areas whenever they showed up. Now I’ve had it. The math-ed “reformers” appear to have succeeded in butchering the course content in the Statistics class to the extent that I’m embarrassed to talk to the tutees.

One now encounters even more questions of the form “Read my mind; tell me what I think in your own words.”—exactly the kind of thing I became a math major to avoid. The pages of the new book are covered in screenshots of some point-and-click computer application and look more like a “Windows for Dummies” manual than a mathbook. So on. And I think I’m finally just gonna have to start saying, “Sorry; can’t help you” whenever I see one of these poor blighters with their hand up.

And I’ve got this weird feeling of not having been paranoid enough. When I wrote my third post and its sequel, about textbooks suppressing notations that have been standard for generations in an effort not to look so mathy, I think I would’ve considered the fact that my first example was taken from the field of Statistics as just that, a fact. My next example was from an Algebra book; it probably could have gone either way. But it now occurs to me: the “reformers” have been pushing “more statistics” in public school at least since the notorious 1989 Standards. I’d always taken this as a euphemism for “less algebra”, of course … but never really felt that it was much of a threat to my way of life. But now we’ve got all these mathless stix classes here and are running more of ’em every year … and the books all keep getting worse …

It begins to feel that some Dr. Evil somewhere must have decided “We’ve turned just about everything in the world into money and waste products; kept the money; and spread around the waste products. While the public cheers: ‘Give us bread and circuses! Give us miracle, mystery, and authority!’ And still, our archenemy, Mathematics, resists! Even mathophobes seem to believe that no human power can alter mathematical truth—this must stop for our authority to be absolute. But how?” Then some sycophant sidekick whimpers “try to replace it with statistics” … but not too loudly … the boss is going to want to pretend it was his idea …


  1. 1 cut & paste | the livingston review

    […] Maybe If I Ignore It… the statistics […]

  2. 2 Vlorbik On Math Ed | the livingston review

    […] 09/28/07 Maybe If I Ignore It… the statistics […]

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