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Mathematics Can Be Racist?

  1. Oct 9, 2009 #1
    Either that, or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-racist_mathematics" [Broken] has an aweful name. Although that article skips around actually saying that some teachers think mathematics can be racist, they'd rather rather couch it in the safe terms like "culture", "prejudice" etc. It seems to me like whining; whining that they can't teach or the students don't want to learn.

    What are your thoughts on this?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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  3. Oct 9, 2009 #2
    While I don't believe mathematics can be racist, I do believe that there is archeological evidence, not proof though, but evidence that supports ancient civilizations had scientific and mathematical knowledge beyond what modern researchers believe, or what to believe, they had.
     
  4. Oct 9, 2009 #3
    I think it is mostly an attempt to bring social politics into a relatively controversy free area.
    It would be best to ignore it. It seems though that their main point is more that the history of mathematics is biased more than its implementation today. I think this is an example of the overuse of the word "racist."
    It would probably be more of a western bias in general, rather than an issue of race.
     
  5. Oct 9, 2009 #4
    agreed.
     
  6. Oct 9, 2009 #5
    Sounds like they're listing ways to avoid biases that don't exist.
     
  7. Oct 9, 2009 #6

    D H

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    Ignore it at our peril. We all know about the antiscientific nonsense that comes from the fundamentalist right. All that ignoring this nonsense accomplished was to let the nonsense grow to the extent where a very significant portion of the US thinks evolution is false. "It's only a theory."

    Unfortunately, antiscientific idiocy is also rampant on the far left. The article cited in the original post is the tip of the iceberg. Google the phrase "Newton's Principia Mathematica is a 'rape manual'". After that, think about this statement by Luce Irigaray:
    Is e=mc2 a sexed equation?...Perhaps it is. Let us make the hypothesis that it is insofar as it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us. What seems to me to indicate the possible sexed nature of the equation is not directly its uses by nuclear weapons, rather it is having privileged what goes the fastest...​


    It seems that their main point (besides not having even the foggiest idea of how mathematics is taught) is that they would much rather have math and science teachers teach anything but math and science. Teaching multi-culturism would be particularly nice.
     
  8. Oct 9, 2009 #7
    That reminds me of this guy who thinks the term "black hole" is racist.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-akk3gog34&feature=related
     
  9. Oct 9, 2009 #8
    Yes... Some forget that black is a color not a race. It should not be offensive to refer to someone as black as, that is the color of their skin, when making reference to their skin color. I don't take offense when someone says that I am white when referring to my skin color. (If you wanted to be technical about it I am light brown depending on my summer activities of course) I think the problem arises when someone refers to someone else by their skin color only as opposed to them as an individual.

    One of my favorite lines from the Venture Brothers Cartoon series.

     
  10. Oct 9, 2009 #9

    G01

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    What? :confused:
     
  11. Oct 9, 2009 #10

    D H

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    I didn't say that. Luce Irigaray did. The same crowd that brings the claims that mathematics is plagued with Eurocentricisms also claims that science is sexist, that Principia is a rape manual, etc. Both the extreme right and extreme left have a good share of anti science loons.
     
  12. Oct 9, 2009 #11
    I'll bring it up at the next Illuminati meeting. We shouldn't have all these underlying issues.

    :rolleyes:
     
  13. Oct 9, 2009 #12

    Pengwuino

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    When I read the article, I had to go look up what the term "anti-racism" meant. Apparently the definition of racism hasn't changed so this leads to the question: Has the definition of mathematics changed?

    Then again, I was very VERY offended as a minority when I studied the divergence theorem.

    This nonsense is obviously from people who's only mathematical education ended in junior high.
     
  14. Oct 9, 2009 #13
    Thank you for causing me to google "divergence theorem."

    I think that they also only paid attention to the introduction to the concepts in the beginning of each chapter. You know, where they told us who came up with the concept of
    "0" and division by sixty and whatnot.
     
  15. Oct 9, 2009 #14
    To be fair, the wiki article does state that most proponents of so called anti-racist math don't claim that math is racist (what does that even mean?), but that a student's race may affect how he's (sexist grammar!) taught. All I can say is that most of my students are white and relatively well off, and it would be pretty hard to teach minorities any less than my students' previous schools have taught them.
     
  16. Oct 9, 2009 #15

    Pengwuino

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    How do you even teach math differentially to a different race though? When math is explained to me, it's all in symbols and numbers. Do people go up to a rich white student and say "Imagine this function is like the path your golf ball takes at your country club" and to a poor black student and say "Imagine this function is how many kilograms of drugs enter your neighborhood as a function of t"? Then again, it's been years since I've had a math course that had any realistic connection with reality (and by that I mean a course where real life examples are necessary... high school math for example), so maybe I simply don't remember how math is taught to kids.
     
  17. Oct 9, 2009 #16

    DaveC426913

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    1] Newton's invention of calculus is a common reference in math. There may have been a similar invention in the East but it is not taught that way.

    2] The common symbols of math are Greek.

    I think that's what they're talking about.


    I think the 'racism' label is inflammatory (maybe deliberately, maybe not). I think the more apporpraite word is Eurocentrism.
     
  18. Oct 9, 2009 #17
    I have no idea. I never said I agree with this racist math stuff, but any differences between white and minority students in any subject is due to the fact that 40 or so years isn't enough time to undo hundreds of years of systematic oppression. I'm not sure why math would be specifically targeted.
     
  19. Oct 9, 2009 #18

    Pengwuino

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    Was there a similar system in the East? Are there other, simpler or more useful mathematical systems in the non-western world? If so, that's quite interesting, I'd definitely like to look into that.
     
  20. Oct 9, 2009 #19

    Pengwuino

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    I don't think it has anything to do with the subjects. I think it's who teaches them and what are the characteristics of the system that does the teaching. I feel the difference between a poor minority enrolled school vs. a private school's results isn't the idea that math is any different between the two, it's that one school simply will have statistically better teachers who most likely have better teaching methods. Considering how rigid and controlled ciriculums here are by the government, I can't imagine any subject can have much varied content, let alone something so concrete as mathematics.
     
  21. Oct 9, 2009 #20

    D H

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    Did you read the reference material? Math is racist because it was largely invented by white males. To make it non-racist you as a teacher need to
    • Teach about the contributions of non-whites and females to mathematics,
    • Do so in a balanced manner (i.e., a one hour presentation during the course of a year does not cut it), and
    • Do this with your well-off white students, too. Do anything less and you are teaching your students to be racist.

    The problem with this line of thinking: The scientific revolution happened in Europe, and nowhere else. The Indians most certainly did invent our number system, and that probably should be mentioned in elementary school teaching. India might well have been the seat of the scientific revolution if Indian society hadn't collapsed into chaos and they had removed all the religious mumbo-jumbo / numerological claptrap from their math and science. China might have been the seat of the scientific revolution if the Ming Dynasty hadn't turned its back on mathematics and science. The Islam world might have been the seat of the scientific revolution were it not for the fanatic aspects of that society that made the Islamic world regress. The Mayans' mathematics was solely motivated by religion, politics, and numerology. Technologically, they were stuck in the stone age.

    Dumb luck and the politically incorrect fact that some aspects of European thought are superior let Europeans and no one else to get past the political, religious, and anti-scientific hurdles that got in the way of a scientific revolution.

    I suppose there is an alternative. Strip mathematics teaching of all references to Pythagoras, Euclid, Newton, Leibniz, Pascal, Fermat, Euler, Lagrange, Laplace, Gauss, Hamilton, Cantor, ... Rename all the theorems of mathematics named after those white males into something innocuous. Make the subject as inhumane and dry and boring as possible.
     
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