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Where will this insanity lead us?

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https://gefira.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Cecil-Rhodes-2.jpg
photo Danie van der Merwe / University of Cape Town – Statue of Rhodes by Marion Walgate. Unveiled in 1934, and commissioned by a state-run university.

If you think mathematics is about numbers, calculations and things like these, you are wrong. Mathematics is also about “restoring the cultural dignity of children.”1)What is ethnomathematics, and how can it help children in schools? Teaching Children Mathematics; Reston; Feb 2001; Ubiratan D’Ambrosio.If you think mathematics is acultural, then you are in the wrong; true, mathematics used to be perceived that way but it should not, since “an acultural mathematical curriculum […] distorts the facts that children learn about how mathematics has evolved and who has contributed to this evolution.”2)What is ethnomathematics, and how can it help children in schools? Teaching Children Mathematics; Reston; Feb 2001; Ubiratan D’Ambrosio.If you further think mathematics is an objective branch of knowledge which students ought to master, then, yes you guessed it, you are wrong. Students ought to be encouraged to use mathematics “to critique aspects of society” and, indeed, to “critique mathematics” itself because its “algorithms structure our lives in ways which reproduce inequality”,3)Decolonising mathematics: Why it’s good for us, how to begin, BizNews.com 2016-10-17.which is elegantly referred to as “weapons of math destruction”.4)Math Is Biased Against Women and the Poor, According to a Former Math Professor, The Cut 2016-09-06.If you think decolonisation is about lands and nations, then again you are wrong. Nowadays we are in need of decolonising university curricula, science and the language of instruction.5)It’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men, The Conversation 2015-05-08; Why switching to indigenous languages will help solve university crisis – education expert, BizNews.com 2016-10-04.

What’s wrong with mathematics? Indictment number one: it has been created by “dead white men” (so has English literature) who thus continue to “control things”.6)It’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men, The Conversation 2015-05-08.Indictment number two: mathematics “has a problem with diversity”. Why? Because “all over the world, black and women mathematicians remain rare”.7)Decolonising mathematics: Why it’s good for us, how to begin, BizNews.com 2016-10-17.Indictment number three: mathematics (and many other branches of science) “perpetuates stereotypes about who belongs in the field”. And who does? “Gifted people”, and since e.g. in “2013, 73% of math doctorates were male and 94% were white or Asian” and “the proportion of women pursuing mathematics PhDs between 2004 and 2013 actually fell, from 34% of students to 27% of students” mathematics is reprehensibly racist and biased against females.8)Ideas of “Giftedness” Hurt Students, youcubed.Indictment number four: mathematics is “all too often Eurocentric, paying homage to the fair-skinned Greeks as the purveyors of most of our significant mathematical knowledge”.9)What is ethnomathematics, and how can it help children in schools? Teaching Children Mathematics; Reston; Feb 2001; Ubiratan D’Ambrosio.

As a result “children of color as a group have not realized the same level of mathematical success as European American students” although many of these children are “mathematically capable” and their failure is only due to the fact that they “do not realize that they […] do in fact possess a long and rich mathematical heritage”.10)What is ethnomathematics, and how can it help children in schools? Teaching Children Mathematics; Reston; Feb 2001; Ubiratan D’Ambrosio.The remedy? Ethnomathematics. Yes, you heard it right. How is ethnomathematics defined? It is defined by Brazilian mathematician Ubiratan D’Ambrosio as “intersections of culture, historical traditions, sociocultural roots, and mathematics”.11)Ethnomathematics Shows Students Their Connections to Math, Mathematical Association of America.As the proponent of this new field of knowledge he posits that teachers “must teach children to value diversity in the mathematics classroom[?] and to understand both the influence that culture has on mathematics and how this influence results in different ways in which mathematics is used and communicated” because it is not good that “in many classrooms, students are not permitted to construct a personal understanding[?] of the mathematics that is presented. The values, traditions, beliefs, language, and habits reflective of the culture of the students are ignored.”12)What is ethnomathematics, and how can it help children in schools? Teaching Children Mathematics; Reston; Feb 2001; Ubiratan D’Ambrosio.

Lo and behold, apart from mathematicians a new subset has come into existence: ethnomathematicians who act on the assumption that mathematics as a creation of human beings cannot be universal but is grounded in different heritages, which means that every culture has its own mathematics, which in turn implies “the cultural relativity of mathematics”.13)Discussing ethnomathematics: Is mathematics culturally dependent? O. Arda Cimena, ScienceDirect.”Western mathematics [has been] imposed on the other cultural groups by colonization”,14)Discussing ethnomathematics: Is mathematics culturally dependent? O. Arda Cimena, ScienceDirect.which neatly explains why people of colour have difficulties identifying with it15)Decolonising mathematics: Why it’s good for us, how to begin, BizNews.com 2016-10-17.and mastering it properly.16)Ethnomathematics Shows Students Their Connections to Math, Mathematical Association of America.Much the same is true of science in general: failure on the part of people of colour to feel attracted to it can be put down to the fact that science is a colonial product (“Students in the UK are […] asking: ‘why isn’t my professor black?’ and ‘why is my curriculum white?’”)17)It’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men, The Conversation 2015-05-08.and explains the world after a white man’s fashion (things fall because of gravity) rather than a black man’s fashion (thunderbolts are caused by witchcraft).18)Science Must Fall: it’s time to decolonise science, The Spectator 2016-10-17. See also the attached clip.A way to liberate people of colour from the oppressiveness of the dead white men’s burden is to throw a bucket of human faeces over ‘colonial’ science (black student Chumani Maxwele did so with the statue of committed colonialist Cecil John Rhodes on the University of Cape Town’s campus thus initiating the #RhodesMustFall movement)19)It’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men, The Conversation 2015-05-08.and initiate the #ScienceMustFall movement.20)Science Must Fall: it’s time to decolonise science, The Spectator 2016-10-17.And you had better toe the line, especially if you happen to be a descendant of the dead white men or else.21)See the scolding a student received when he dared to bring some sanity to the panel discussion in: Science Must Fall? YouTube 2016-10-13.

The religion of equal distribution of talent and capabilities among humans has made more headway in denying palpable reality. No, there are no naturally gifted individuals, differences in scientific or scholarly abilities between genders or, God forbid the very thought, differences between the human races (we all know there is only one race, the human race, don’t we?). Genetics in this respect is frowned upon the way Trofim Lysenko once prevented it from entering Soviet universities and scientific institutions because admitting human biodiversity would smack of racism, which is a mortal sin. So another explanation why certain categories of people cannot cope with science and, in particular, mathematics is offered. It is prejudice and bias propagated by dead white men who still control “things” because “although people are born with brain differences” [thanks for admitting the obvious], “such differences are eclipsed by the experiences people have during their lives, as every second presents opportunities for incredible brain growth” and so “everyone can learn math well, not only those believed to hold a ‘gift’”.22)Ideas of “Giftedness” Hurt Students, youcubed.Thus teachers “need to believe – to know – that all students can do mathematics”23)Decolonising mathematics: Why it’s good for us, how to begin, BizNews.com 2016-10-17.i.e. everyone can become a Newton or a Leibniz or a Descartes (oops, again those dead white men!). Every teacher or parent knows otherwise, but then who are they that their humble opinion should be reckoned with?

References   [ + ]

1, 2, 9, 10, 12. What is ethnomathematics, and how can it help children in schools? Teaching Children Mathematics; Reston; Feb 2001; Ubiratan D’Ambrosio.
3, 7, 15, 23. Decolonising mathematics: Why it’s good for us, how to begin, BizNews.com 2016-10-17.
4. Math Is Biased Against Women and the Poor, According to a Former Math Professor, The Cut 2016-09-06.
5. It’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men, The Conversation 2015-05-08; Why switching to indigenous languages will help solve university crisis – education expert, BizNews.com 2016-10-04.
6, 17, 19. It’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men, The Conversation 2015-05-08.
8, 22. Ideas of “Giftedness” Hurt Students, youcubed.
11, 16. Ethnomathematics Shows Students Their Connections to Math, Mathematical Association of America.
13, 14. Discussing ethnomathematics: Is mathematics culturally dependent? O. Arda Cimena, ScienceDirect.
18. Science Must Fall: it’s time to decolonise science, The Spectator 2016-10-17. See also the attached clip.
20. Science Must Fall: it’s time to decolonise science, The Spectator 2016-10-17.
21. See the scolding a student received when he dared to bring some sanity to the panel discussion in: Science Must Fall? YouTube 2016-10-13.