Link of the Day

A Princeton professor of mathematics begs all of us to come to our senses and recognize that there’s absolutely nothing racist in the idea that there are right and wrong answers in math.

That this needs to be said is in itself quite sad.

One thought on “Link of the Day

  1. It’s not these disciplines themselves that are “white” but the attitudes of some of their practitioners. I got turned off to science already in high school because according to the teachers, if you weren’t a militaristic white male, it was not for you. That’s not the fault of science itself, but of those teachers. We then go back to Robert Edgeworth, my former department chair, the Republican. He was in Classics and this was during the canon wars, people were telling him his discipline was white, etc. He had a correct, if not complete, answer:
    1/ The authors we study are actually of a variety of races, etc., if you look at them in modern terms.
    2/ More of the scholars than you may think are not white. You don’t find out unless you go to conferences and see them in person. They have names in English that could be “white” names, and if you make the default assumption (which is conditioned by the assumption that the default is white, of course), you can think they’re white, if you think about it at all, but that does not mean they are.
    3/ There are more non white people than you think working in this field. Again, you wouldn’t know if you didn’t go to the conferences, but I do. Because of discrimination, which is real, a lot of people who aren’t white end up in teaching colleges with heavy loads and other community responsibilities. So they do not publish as much, but they are working and they are up on what’s going on, and they show up at the conferences and say things. Therefore, once again, the panorama is not as white as you may think.
    What I have just related could be roundly criticized by a woke-type person. They, or even I, would say these persons of color in the discipline had been hiding their identities and writing “as though they were white” to survive. And there is some truth to this. It remains a fact that it is not the material itself that is the problem.

    Everything, about this, for me, keeps coming back to very practical questions. I once had a gig job grading English exams, for people to qualify as high school English teachers in the state of S. Paulo, in Brazil. There was a question about teaching methodology, how can our students best learn English? The examinees were to write about this, in English, citing methodologies, etc. One of them said: forget methodologies, the methodology that is really needed is a method to get these students food. If they have eaten, I can get them to interact in English. The Brazilian examiners wanted to disqualify this answer because it evaded the question on methodology but it was written passionately in good idiomatic English so I used my US native speaker privilege to say well, this person is kind of right, and you can’t say their English is bad, it’s quite a good essay about real circumstances and the English is so good, they obviously can expose their students to real English. AND they are saying key words: they want to get the students to interact in English, that means they have understood every useful part of every official methodology.
    MY POINT: there is material that really exists, and there are situations in regard to the said material that really exist. Also, disciplines have perspectives, and those perspectives can be racist ones and require revision. But: in order to start criticizing you have to really know something. When you try to look smart, like when they covered the Arnautoff murals in GWHS in SF, and you don’t know all the details, you can really screw up.


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