Opinion

Bill Gates Funds a Questionable Approach to Teaching Math

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Posted: Mar 06, 2021 12:01 AM
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Bill Gates Funds a Questionable Approach to Teaching Math

Source: AP Photo/Michel Euler

Picture a young Isaac Newton, Madame Curie, Henri Poincare, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, or, for that matter, Pythagoras, Euclid, or Archimedes newly enrolled in a Portland, Oregon grade School. Exposed to this state's new edict regarding how math is to be taught, where showing your work and getting the right answer has been devalued. Would any of them have achieved prominence? Would the world be the same?

Consider the African-American ladies profiled in the movie Hidden Figures -- Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan. Without them, we’d probably still have made it to the Moon, but maybe with greater difficulty and more delay.

Everybody Gets an “A”!

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently funded a Leftist educational group that thinks math, as currently taught, is racist and that formulating an objective answer is a gross example of “white supremacy.” What is it about the Left that seeks ways to dumb down education so that everybody gets a passing grade regardless of what they know? How are students going to land decent jobs?

"Progressives," BLM advocates, and "social justice warriors" detect racism, real or not, everywhere they look, particularly in education. Achievement tests, end-of-grade testing, report cards, and the mere act of assigning letter grades to a student's performance are under attack by the Left. Could the real racists be those who want to keep African-American students from being competitive in math?

If students have been attentive and diligent and have applied themselves, no quiz, achievement test, final exam, or end-of-grade test precipitates undue concern. Such tests are not stumbling blocks for students who have been appropriately taught, been attentive in class, done their homework, and diligently studied for tests. Studies show that even in "poor" schools, a competent teacher and a motivated student can yield academic success. 

Tools of Oppression?

Those on the Left prefer to cast aspersions on American education and stop all testing students, apparently for all time. No more SATs for high school juniors and seniors. No more ACTs. After all, the tests are hopelessly biased, right? Testing, academics, and the English language, in and of itself, are tools of oppression and must be abandoned – now.

Funny, the Left never pushes for more rigorous standards. “Why are tests needed at all?” they demand to know. “Learning takes place on many different levels. Why conform to a "white version" of academic achievement?” 

Let’s assess the ramifications of such assertions. 

Take the Long Way Home

How confident would you be driving across a high bridge, over a wide river, knowing that the bridge was designed by engineers who ‘learned’ math in Oregon, or didn’t take any final exams in college? Knowing the academic credentials of the bridge designers, or lack thereof, could change your driving habits.

What if you need brain surgery? Among a handful of brain surgeons in your region, you learn that some never took final exams in medical school or any exams for that matter. These same surgeons turned in no college papers, took no quizzes, and perhaps spent little time in class. 

Suppose they’re all good surgeons and have successfully operated on others?

Still, you’ve got this nagging suspicion that your best choice would be among the brain surgeons who attended class, did well on quizzes and tests, passed final exams, and proved to be academically superior. Would anyone find you to be discriminatory? Can we find fault with your decision to seek a formally trained and tested brain surgeon?

Who Ya Gonna Call?         

Mechanical and structural engineers, and brain surgeons, represent a small slice of society. Whether it’s receiving change at the grocery store, however, having your car fixed, hiring a masseuse, or any of dozens of other product and service options, as Ghostbusters fans would say, “Who ya gonna call?”

Suppose you attend a university, such as Rutgers, where proper English is no longer required, exams are not given, and graduation is all but guaranteed. Knowing the background of students who matriculated from such an institution, what future employer would choose such students over others who have bonafide academic credentials?

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. The false bill of goods that far-Left groups peddle will come back to haunt their advocates and apologists, not merely for years but for decades. The lifetime economic curse that Leftist advocates bestow upon those who follow their edicts is crippling. And everyone who thinks that under-educated students will be able to compete for good salaried jobs dooms such students for a lifetime of rude awakenings.