Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Decolonizing" Mathematics

   Or: education major throws around buzzwords about a field she doesn't understand at all.
   Look, if you think this stuff is just going to go away, you're wrong. Reasonable people need to start pushing back, else 20 years from now you're going to discover that your state universities are wasting faculty lines on "ethnomathematicians."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How to push back?

9:48 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

At least inform yourself and argue against it--rationally, but forcefully--when it comes up.

Too many sane liberals I know refuse to take the problem seriously, and find it weird that I do. They just kinda shrug and move on...stuck in some superposition of states of "this isn't a big deal" and "this will go away soon."

No, and No.

Take it seriously, push back against it.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, anyway...that's what I think.

I get a little too mad about this stuff.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like a two front war to me. The handful of people inside academia can push back. The rest of us would need to lobby state legislators to use their budget powers to curb this kind of stuff. That would not be pretty.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I don't think I'd want legislatures putting pressure on academicians for their views. That seems like a clear violation of academic freedom...

...Though, come to think of it, the politicization of academia by the left *itself* challenges political freedom. They basically have a theory that sais "it is permissible to politicize our scholarship and teaching." That's consistent with believing that it's permissible to attempt to brainwash students. These views are stupid, and *shouldn't* be in universities--if you want to be guided by politics, do it on your own time, and don't inflict it on your students. But it *is* in academia, and the theory itself says that it's ok that it is. It's awful, but I don't think we should try to kick it out. I view it more-or-less like I'd view a theory that said that it is permissible to kill and eat people... But our own principles seem to say we have to countenance it.

It's weird...I have an urge to say something like "academic freedom isn't a suicide pact"... And I have no doubt that this crap (a) has bad motives, (b) is bullshit, (c) is ruining students' minds, and (d) undermines the value of the academy wherever it spreads...

But I think my principles bar me from doing anything other than arguing against it.

What can you do if you're not in academia? I don't know. Speak out against this stuff reasonably in conversation with friends? Make sure you're well-informed about it and have $0.02 to throw in against it when the topic comes up? Write to your alma mater if they start doing crazy shit and tell them you'll send less money? Speak up on internet fora?

I'm just not sure, really.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this is happening at a state university, taxpayers are funding it. If people whose salaries are being paid by the public are peddling illiberal views that are making kids dumber and harming the body politic (which you allege in your blog), they should at least have to explain what they're doing at a hearing before the appropriate committee of a state legislature. Maybe they could make a good case, and maybe more parents, citizens, and voters would learn what's going on.

I know this is a chainsaw approach to a problem that needs a scalpel. But if no one is using a scalpel...

6:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I feel you on this...I mean, there have to be limits, one would think.

Suppose I teach in the philosophy department and claim that my inquiries have led me to believe that Scientology is true, and that all other human teaching is a snare and a that it's my professional opinion that I should brainwash all my students to be Scientologists...'d think that the department and the college and the university would all be permitted--even obligated--to kick me out. And if they didn't, then the state should be permitted or obligated...

I guess...right?

But OTOH, state interference of any kind is such a serious matter and sets its own awful precedent.

Perhaps few professors actually resort to outright, unabashedly biased proselytizing... Perhaps it's distributed...

I dunno, but my position is that there's a strong presumption in favor of non-interference. I'd have to think a lot more about it and see some really strong arguments before I think I'd be willing to support something like that.

I don't think academia would put up with widespread conservative indoctrination.

Though maybe I'm wrong about how much left-wing indoctrination there is.

Damn. I don't want to think about this.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Before we even considered something like that, academia would have to try to address the problem itself. E.g. other departments would have to consider openly criticizing the departments and profs who do that sort of stuff.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep. How is that going?

7:15 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

We'd have to try it to know... And I'm not holding my breath.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I'm a different anon, just to be clear)

I think that the first step to quelling this sort of thing is to stop being afraid of the PC-left long enough to wage cogent and assertive arguments against them. Many of the people who I speak to seem to actively avoid confrontation from these people because they do not wish to be labeled (or mislabeled) a 'racist,' 'bigot,' 'sexist,' or whatever.

I'm at the point where I sort of just let it fly with these people and let them know that I won't be intimidated, while also presenting what I take to be sound arguments. I've always figured that it's more about convincing the moderates and reasonable folk on that side of things, anyway.

It also probably wouldn't hurt making Academia more transparent to the public.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I absolutely agree, A2.

I'd say that people--especially academicians and people who are in any way part of the chattering class and so forth--need to:

a. Recognize that PC exists. (Some don't)

b. Admit that PC is not "merely being polite" (This is one of their main ways of defending it, and it's BS).

c. Recognize that it's illiberal.

d. Recognize that it is generally wrong.
(Many don't. Many "liberals" or progressives actually aren't liberals at all--they really are identity politics leftists. Those are people who have thought of themselves as liberals, but who really just never had a leftier alternative before. Same thing happened with paleo-PC. PC separates liberal's concern for reason and freedom from their concern to promote the interests of minorities. Genuine liberals, I say, should typically choose the former when the two conflict; the identity politics left chooses the latter. But anyway, many "liberals" do not believe that the left can *ever* be wrong.)

e. Stand up to it.
This requires a clear view of what's at stake. And, as you note, a willingness to be shrieked at and to endure false accusations of racism, sexism, and whatever other -isms and -phobias the left has cooked up.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon #3 here, the fixated one. The content-internal methods above are certainly part of it, but this stuff is like mushrooms, and universities are structural shit piles on which they grow. The long term solution to the PC problem has to target the incentives, roles, and self-conception of the students, faculty, and and shadow faculty:

(1) Decouple teaching and research. As long as it is deemed necessary to have a long publishing record in order to teach High School ++, the journals and academic presses will be filled with garbage - garbage that tries to hang a moral/political imperative on reading it. The constant "untold stories", "radical reanalysis", surreal and infuriating speaking-truth-to-power pose of the academic humanities is a sign of desperation more than anything else.

(2) End the graduate school Ponzi scheme. As long as higher level universities continue to rely on there being 3 graduate TA's for each lecture course, there will continue to be 5 PhD's for each real faculty job and a mass of embittered PhD's struggling to secure their positions at the Center for Student Justice Life Action by keeping campus in a constant state of tension.

(3) Abolish MFing Tuition. So much of the fuel for on campus "tension", aside from its nurturing by the shadow faculty, arrises from tuition. Students who know themselves to be unsuited to engineering tend to feel disaffected when they reflect on the coming decades of monthly loan payments without their education making a high paying job likely. And the kids who can afford current tuition tend to adopt the entitled, customer service mentality. Why was that girl yelling at a Yale professor about "home" like she was upbraiding the steward on a $200,000 cruise? Because that's pretty much what Yale is.

These are just three off the top of my head, and are lobbying points that faculty, citizens, and even shadow faculty can aim aim at University Administrations and State Legislators.

It's funny, Republican dominated state legislatures have been gutting state university budgets for the last 40 years. Some of it is their basic contempt for effective public services, but some is ideological opposition to leftist academia. Yet much of the lefisization of academia is in response to conditions created by the gutting, or so I believe.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Whoa, good points, fixated anonymous.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a discussion of a recent paper's model of negative effects of publish-or-perish in the experimental sciences. Analogues of PC exist crop up all over the University, just with groundbreaking in place of radical. In feilds like Psychology, there's overlap: consider how much of the replication crisis has been on papers advancing the ideologically-driven embodied cognition thesis.

5:06 PM  

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