Jeremiah 6:14

So it’s complicated. Most of the most prominent of my party in the Math Wars, for example, are of the enemy party in the Class Wars: evidently a determination to cling fiercely to the authority of Mathematics correlates with an eagerness to submit to a Fearless Leader (and revel in said leader’s ability to push people around).

Too bad for my side, ain’t it. But that’s if I had a side.
It’s lonely as hell being the designated mourner for Algebra-as-I-understand-it; the Math Guys all mostly seeming to’ve effected some uneasy truce with the enemies of clarity (“just please let us say what we mean in Calc-and-‘above’ and you other guys just go ahead and tell whatever crazy lies you need to tell to hide the truth from the ‘remedial’ classes; those students don’t want to see us and we don’t want to see them …”)and the publishers just grabbing everything in sight like Visigoths (“let’s make the book bigger and put in more user-proof crudware and be even less precise . . . they’ll order from us no matter what we do!”) before the whole bloated Empire falls.

I speak here of (lower-division) college work, let me hasten to remark. The Math Wars have of course mostly been in the K-12 arena. So that’s where I soon learned (a long time back, in my Newsgroup Era) that I’d often be taken for some kind of Republican because I didn’t think math students should be rated (by their math teachers) on anything but their demonstrated skills in mathematics. The Democrat position evidently being that reasonable people should never stand on principle; math should be just as easy as any other subject for a talented BS artist to qualify in. Well, a plague on both their houses, obviously.

The wingers are always trying to blame everything on The
Union (or Tenure), evidently believing that if Management were only free to push teachers around even more that somehow students would get what they’ve needed all along. Or maybe if we were even more afraid of losing our jobs … or something.
Anyway, they want everybody to be as miserable as possible.
Prisons and wars and all that kind of thing. All so heinous it makes the Math Wars look trivial, as I’ll be first to admit even though the Math Wars obsess me (and I’m not sure I don’t mean this literally).

But then you’ve got the Softies who’re usually right precisely
because they’re willing to be wrong: deciding things as a group
usually is the best way to handle social issues; come let us reason together and all that. Just, dammit, at long last, get away from me with that attitude in the Temple of Mathematics.
It doesn’t fly here. Math tests work. Making it an article of faith that “standardised tests” can’t measure academic achievement makes your program a laughingstock. And, finally, politics be damned: a lie to the face is an insult and the right answer to contempt is more contempt. There’s a whole lot more lies and half-truths and nonsense from this side than the other and I just can’t have ’em as allies.

There’s plenty to go around on both sides of course; if a solid point ever were to be made in one of those old newsgroups, you could pretty well count on it to be replaced with some well-worn strawman real quick … once you’ve decided to talk past each other, it’s a pretty easy trick to quit listening … I imagine I’ll have given the impression that I’ve quit listening …
but it’s the Lefties that are pushing math-without-math and it breaks my heart.


  1. This is an excellent post.

    We should not cling to a Leader just because math seems authoritative.

    I agree with this completely.

    Would you like to write a guest post on my blog?


  2. The scale of the war at your level is less, but the sides are drawn up the same way. And yup, “progressive” and “conservative” line up in funny ways.


  3. Sue

    Thanks for pointing me here. Will comment soon.

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