Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Diversity of Ignorance

Commenter LN points out the latest installment of multicultural lunacy with which Britain seems to be so thoroughly infected. From the Daily Mail:

Multi-culti MathChildren will be taught race relations and multiculturalism with every subject they study — from Spanish to science — under controversial changes to the school curriculum announced by the Government.

In music and art, they could have to learn Indian and Chinese songs and instruments, and West African drumming.

In maths and science, key Muslim contributions such algebra and the number zero will be emphasised to counter Islamophobia. [Oh, yes! That’s bound to be effective. — ed.].

And in English, pupils will study literature on the experiences of migration — such as Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth, or Brick Lane, by Monica Ali.

[…]

Under the recommendations — put forward in a report by former headmaster Sir Keith Ajegbo — teachers will be expected to make ‘explicit references to cultural diversity’ in as many subjects as possible.

A new central theme covering ‘identity and diversity’ will be added to citizenship classes, which have been compulsory since 2002.

[…]

Pupils could even be tested on their attitudes to diversity in A-level and GCSEs, which will be redrafted to ensure they include ‘issues related to diversity’.

Not everybody thinks this is a good idea:

However, [MP Douglas] Carswell said: ‘This report is prescribing precisely the wrong medicine to heal the wounds of a society that multiculturalism has divided. This is a stark example of the politically-correct lobby hijacking the citizenship agenda.

‘Recent arrivals to this country have all the more reason to be given a sense of what we are all about so they can become part of it and share it. But instead this will give the green light to every politically-correct Left-Wing educationist to further undermine our society.’
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Now, before you say, “Wow! Those wacko Brits! It’s a good thing we don’t have to deal with this kind of crap over here!” — you might want to spend a little time with Dr. Google assessing the status of American multicultural education.

Since my field is mathematics, I went looking for multicultural math. Believe me, there’s plenty to be found; I had to quit long before I looked at every link — gnashing my teeth was giving me a headache.

You could, for example, look at InGEAR: “a multi-university project titled Integrating Gender Equity and Reform”, specifically equity in mathematics, science, and engineering instruction. In this context “equity” is always an ominous word; it means favoring less capable students over the more talented, all because of race, gender, sexual orientation, abled-ness, species, or planet of origin.

Or check out the Electronic Magazine of Multicultural Education:

I propose that teachers consider at least three ways to infuse multicultural education into the math and science curriculum. Firstly, they may adopt into their curriculum mathematical and scientific contributions that different societies have made to the advancement of human knowledge. Secondly, they may undertake biographical studies of mathematicians and scientists from various cultural and gender backgrounds. Thirdly, they may apply culturally relevant pedagogy to their math and science instruction so that all students, including students of color, students from low socio-economic status, and females, will receive quality education and an equal chance to perform to their maximum capacity. Articles and reviews of resources published in this issue will help teachers infuse multicultural contents and pedagogy into their math and science curriculum. Some readers may be surprised to discover that a significant amount of information is available to assist their instruction.

When I was in school, we didn’t study the biographies of mathematicians. If you were interested in such things, you might take a book out of the library on your own time, but in math class you studied — wait for it — math. The only way the mathematicians themselves showed up was in the theorems named for them: Pythagoras, Leibniz, Taylor, Euler, Napier, etc. I never knew what race or gender those people were — they were just the names.

Ah, but the fact that they were all Dead White Males was later held against us, of course.

Here in the United States the federal government doesn’t write school curricula; it can only kink or unkink the money hose. So Uncle Sam can’t pull a stunt like the British government is doing; the mischief is all occurring at the state and local levels, co-ordinated by the education schools and the teachers’ unions.

But that doesn’t stop the feds from spending your tax dollars on all the necessary multicultural “research”. Take, for example, some excerpts from ERIC Digests, which were midwifed in part by the bottom line on your 1040. First there’s “Content integration”:

The first dimension of multicultural mathematics identifies diverse cultural contributions to mathematics. This dimension is important because so many people view mathematics as Eurocentric. Consequently, students from non-European backgrounds may feel that they cannot contribute to the field and thus develop a helpless and powerless attitude toward mathematics.

Students from non-European backgrounds may feel that they cannot contribute to the field.

Did you know that the best mathematicians in the world are from India? That if ethnic quotas were ever instituted among math graduate students at our major universities, Indians would have to be thrown out?

Then there’s “Knowledge construction”:

This component refers not only to group consensus within a discipline but also to the process whereby individual students construct knowledge for themselves.

You and I have another phrase for this component: “Making s**t up”. Lock the little boys and girls in a room and let them reinvent the wheel, and then discover how to do differential equations on their own. That will really accelerate the progress of math and science.

You might also want to pick up a copy of Ethnomathematics: A Multicultural View of Mathematical Ideas, by Marcia Ascher:

According to this review:

Among the Iqwaye people of Papua New Guinea, for instance, fingers, toes, and the spaces between toes are tools for counting to numbers much higher than 10 or 20 or 28; instead, they form the basis of a sophisticated numbering system that can count to numbers of indefinitely large size.

This is a big deal? The indigenes learned to count? And beyond twenty, too! Quite an accomplishment for — ahem — people of color.

From Madagascar, for instance, she describes a divination practice that has endured for four centuries, in essentially the same form, among members of the island’s diverse ethnic and sociopolitical groupings. Madagascans seeking advice and guidance consult an expert, known as an ombiasy, in a divination system called sikidy. The diviner grabs a fistful of the seeds from a local tree out of a bag and makes a column of four random piles. He then removes the seeds from the piles two at a time, until each pile is reduced to either one or two seeds. He then repeats the process three more times, each time placing the new column of piles to the left of the preceding column. In the end he has sixteen piles of seeds before him, each containing either one or two seeds, arranged in four columns.

It’s easy to make fun of this stuff. But when I do, I must emphasize that I’m not making fun of the source material itself. What people have done with mathematical ideas in their own way, in their own cultures, is always interesting.

What I’m ridiculing is the high-minded elevation of these things, this condescending and — yes — racist pandering to more primitive cultures, all in the name of further denigrating Western civilization.

Because what you’ll notice about all the multicultural math, science, and engineering accomplishments touted in these sources is this: they aren’t any more advanced than the ancient Greeks were in these fields.

No electronic device was ever designed based on the indigenous physics of the Igbo. The Ainu did not discover the quark, or a cure for polio.

The awful truth, the truth that dare not be admitted, is that the hated Dead White European Males had this stuff beat more than two thousand years ago.

Now that’s culturally relevant pedagogy.

19 comments:

Stephen Renico said...

Any guesses on when Britain will finally undergo its overdue sensation of diversity fatigue?

Nevsky said...

It reminds me of American universities in the 1960's. In so many places, the teaching assistants led class discussion on "issues" instead of the subjects they were studying. In one incident I recall hearing about, I forget from where, a teaching assistant cheerfully informed his discussion group that they were studying "...'liberation chemistry': first liberation; then chemistry."

In some ways it was not so different from what was going on in the Soviet Union at the time: political indoctrination in higher education. As I see it, the differences were these:

1) In the Soviet Union, while the people in power ordered the indoctrination, they also understood that competent chemists, physicists, mathematicians and engineers would be needed to "liberate" the West, and so there was an emphasis on academics, and so, in addition to political indoctrination, many recipients of higher education also were technically competent in their fields -- at least in the sciences, etc.

2) In America, the average level of competency in technical subjects plummeted as students were getting caught up in "liberating" themselves; however, due to America's freedom and capitalistic system, those who had the ability and desire to excel could, and would be rewarded by the system for doing so.

Consequently, while the average level of competency in technical subjects seemed to be higher in Soviet Union, many of those who were on top came out on top because they were in America.

How is it that people in the West are voluntarily flocking to the worst aspects of the example set by the Soviet Union, a nation that collapsed because of the flaws of its system? The Soviet Union is defunct, yet the "liberation" of the West continues.

troutjacki said...

Perhaps the new curriculum could point out that the Muslims stole Algebra and the Zero from others, and that most of the so-called contributions they made came through their dhimmni Christian and Jewish subjects. It should come as no surprise that Christians and Jews would wish to preserve their own (Western) culture despite their oppression by their Muslim rulers.

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve said...

This sort of thing is the official policy of the NEA and the education establishment in the U.S. In addition to teaching teacher college students that the American motto is "liberty, equality, fraternity", the method we are all to use is to integrate multiculturalism and diversity into every subject, in order to promote societal change, and to unite all of society under the umbrella of the schools.

Baron Bodissey said...

Nick,

You probably don't realize that we have a "PG-13" policy here in Gates of Vienna comments; that's why I had to delete yours. However -- because I like what you had to say, I'm reposting it here in a slightly bowdlerized form...

Nick said...

Except of course zero was invented (along with the "Arabic" numerals) in India by the accursed Hindu polytheists.

If anybody ever says to you that "India has invented nothing" you've got the perfect riposte.

Well, this really is the living end. I studied math and physics at (3!)universities and it had nothing to do with "cultural studies" in any of them. They are polluting my ivory tower of empiricism and pure reason with crap because some pig-ignorant slag (stand up Jade) acted like a pig-ignorant slag on national TV.

Off course none of these idiots knows a bloody thing about math or science otherwise they might appreciate the strong positive of the cultural level-playing field that a quest after objective truth potentially affords to race-relations. When I was doing research I didn't give a monkey's chuff where the author of a paper was from. Neither did I care about their sex, religion, sexual orientation or whatever is the latest fad because all I cared about was whether their findings were (a)pertinent to my work and (b) sustainable based upon the physical evidence. Oddly enough, every other scientist I have ever met has been exactly the same.

As a Brit I am dismayed by this further tinkering. Or to put it less diplomatically, "F*** you, NuerArbeit!"

Old Peculier said...

Zadie Smith's White Teeth was absurdly overrated. Had she been middle-aged, white and male, it would have been seen for the pretentious, vacuous claptrap that it is. However, Monica Ali's Brick Lane, though flawed, is worth reading. Anyone who thinks it will promote the multiculturalist agenda is barking up the wrong tree. It is highly critical of Bengali culture. Ali had a kind of low-level fatwa placed on her by the Bengali community she wrote about so critically.

On the general point about diversity, etc, on the face of it this is outrageous. However, our tabloids jump on and exaggerate this kind of thing - what will actually happen in practice is a different matter altogether.

It is telling, I think, that when Americans want to express shock and outrage at the UK's relentless slide into Sharia, they take stories from our tabloids. Those very tabloids are a voice of resistance if ever there was one. Which is not to say there is nothing to worry about - there's plenty.

Yorkshireminer said...

It is times like this when I want to scream, are the lunatics really in charge of the lunatic asylum. It is beyond my comprehension how these brainless buffoons can even tie race religion or Multiculturalism in with any of the Scientific subjects apart from perhaps Biology. Do we have now to teach that all counting systems are equally valid and give equal weight to them. Do we have the give equal weight to the Mouri counting system that went one two and a lot. With maths you are either right or wrong, it is impossible to have a shade of gray. Do I now have to praise minor Arabic mathematicians like Alkawazim or what ever his name was, and denigrate Newton Gauss and Archimedes all in the name of Multiculturalism. I can think of another 10 mathematicians before he even comes into the running. His only claim to fame was to give a name to a part of Mathematics called Algebra, so what, we had Diophantine equations a 1,000 years before this man was born. Will I be able to fail a pupil because he writes down the answer 2+2= a lot.

Zerosumgame said...

Britain is finished.

And the Brits don't care.

Old Peculier said...

Bollocks.

And bollocks.

Baron Bodissey said...

Old Peculier --

It is telling, I think, that when Americans want to express shock and outrage at the UK's relentless slide into Sharia, they take stories from our tabloids.

I don't have time to read the British press much, so I take whatever tips people send me. If you have an article from a refined highbrow British publication, then by all means send me the URL. If it's interesting and/or entertaining, I'll post on it.

Old Peculier said...

Sure, and you will also find many thoughtful articles from the quality press posted at the New English Review. The Telegraph and The Spectator, while by no means uniformly good, are particularly useful sources of critical articles about Islam. The Times, too, can be good. The Guardian is usually vile, but has its moments, and its sister paper, The Observer is a lot better. London's Evening Standard, likewise.

My point was not to denigrate the tabloids or to disagree with them or say that Americans are wrong to believe them, but merely to point out that a stroppy - if trashy at times - tabloid press is not necessarily a bad thing.

Always On Watch Two said...

Some of the same goes on here in the United States, but so far, this indoctrination is more subtle. It comes out in literature and in social studies, particularly in teacher-guided classroom discussions.

Most textbooks used in the public schools are left leaning and multiculti.

johnCV said...

This is just another manifestation of what can only be considered a Western societal slide into insanity, with varying defrees in different countries. Other examples include (but are most definately not limited to):
- When the correct mathematical answer is less important than ensuring the childs' self-esteem is boltstered.
- A 'Free Press' that rigorously ignores a dictator calling for the annihilation and genocide of a nation because it would lend credence to a despised political leader.
- The public discourse for engaging an ideolgy that openly advocates for the destruction and/or subjugation of the Western world is scrupulously silenced because to speak plainly conflicts with a wholly contrived alternate reality called Political Correctness.
- Placing a "Free Tibet" bumper sticker on your Volvo absloves you from actually freeing Tibet.
- Oppostion to increased oil production and increased nuclear power plants.
- The willingness to immediatley dismantle the economic engine that supports billions of people in a resonable existence based on unproven meteorological evidence about events that, if true, may actaully make the earth more hospitiable to man. In 100 years.

When the pressing needs of survival are two generations removed from the average citizen, they lose the perspective neccesary to discern the truth from the propaganda. When the clarifying lens of immediate peril is gone the consequences of a bad decision loses it's potency. We have arrived at that point.

A person is free to discuss the pros and cons of gravity, but it will slam your ass to the ground regardless of what you believe. We are approacing that moment before impact when doctrine meets physics .

Bet on physics everytime.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

The awful truth, the truth that dare not be admitted, is that the hated Dead White European Males had this stuff beat more than two thousand years ago.

Tsk, such revisionism. Everybody knows the Greeks stole their knowledge from the Egyptians, who were black Africans.

Archonix said...

Yes, but they were also infidel polytheists until the Arab muslims "enlightened" them. And then slaughtered them.

Dr. Lateef said...

Making 'explicit references to cultural diversity' isn't actually a problem, as far as I can tell. Including pro-diversity stuff in the curriculum for subjects like English, art and music actually strikes me as a very good decision, especially if that stuf (e.g. Brick Lane) isn't blindly in favour of the culture in question, and, rather, subjects it to the same criticism the Left subjects white Western culture to. Chinese, Indian and African art and music are sublime and should not be kept out of the curriculum because of a fear of multiculturalism. I'm as ardently opposed to the abuse of the multiculti doctrine as anyone, but including books by Bengali writers or courses on how to use African instruments does not constitute abuse. It's terrific. In fact, I'm generally worried that our opposition to multiculturalism may unfairly stymie certain groups, such as Chinese and Hindu/Sikh Indians, who are doing exceptionally well and contributing meaningfully to our societies. We don't need to emphasize that they're different from us, but we definitely don't need to stifle them. There is no Hindu jihad.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Archonix, that is sooo islamophobic. I am shocked, shocked!

Besides, everyone knows it was the Greeks of Alexander who colonized Egypt, and planted all the evidence that the Gyppos werent so black. The stolen wisdom of the black african Egyptians was gathered into the great library at Alexandria.

This is taught at reputable American universities as history, so it must be true.

Archonix said...

Dr Lateef, you do have a good point. Unfortunately it falls down in the area of intent. There's an obvious divisive intent behind this policy which is designed to instill more than mere respect for other cultures. If there's no such intent, why include explicit multicultural references in mathematics and science? The history of the 0 is interesting, but that history only has a minor place in the teaching of core mathematics skills. This, IMO, is no different to the debate over whether creationism should be taught as a science when it isn't anything of the sort.