Princeton Professor: No, Math Isn't Racist – But Wokeness Is Dangerous

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Posted: Mar 03, 2021 10:25 AM
Princeton Professor: No, Math Isn't Racist – But Wokeness Is Dangerous

Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Let's pick up where we left off on the never-ending wokeness parade. By now you've heard about the Dr. Seuss flap, as some of the iconic author's "problematic" books are being discontinued – and the Biden administration omitted his name from a reading initiative. The Los Angeles Times' write-up of the episode includes the following, surreal line: "The Cat in the Hat, one of Seuss’ most popular books, has received criticism, too, but will continue to be published for now." For now. Don't worry, cancelers, you'll still get your shot at banning that legendary title, too: "Dr. Seuss Enterprises said, however, that it was 'committed to listening and learning and will continue to review our entire portfolio.'” Buy his works while you still can. I don't think I'm exaggerating. "We've now got foundations book burning the authors to whom they are dedicated," Ben Shapiro quips. And the conflagration may grow larger.

Meanwhile, Disney, a large corporation that is ever eager to broadcast its pristine social justice virtue to its Western audience, yet happily does business with the Chinese Communist Party in a province in which the regime is operating actual concentration camps and engaging in ethnic cleansing – even thanking Beijing for the privilege – has decided that it must warn viewers about the dangers of...the Muppets. Yes, really:

Jim Henson’s classic series “The Muppet Show” began streaming on Disney+ on Friday, but now comes prefaced with an offensive content disclaimer. “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures,” the warning reads. “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversations to create a more inclusive future together.”...Each episode bears the 12-second disclaimer for a different reason, from Cash’s appearance singing in front of a Confederate flag to negative depictions of Native Americans, Middle Easterners and people from other cultures. Additionally, two episodes from the final season, featuring guest stars Brooke Shields and staff writer Chris Langham, are left out entirely. Last year, disclaimer warnings were also added to Disney films like “Peter Pan,” “Aladdin,” “The Jungle Book,” “The Aristocats,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Dumbo” and “Swiss Family Robinson” for similar depictions of stereotypes.

I'd love to hear Statler and Waldorf's take on this, but they're probably one false step away from being permanently replaced by sassy Trans Women Of Color puppets. I suppose "offensive content" warnings are preferable to Seussian bans, but the West's enemies must be gleefully watching this nonsense unfold. We're obsessed with idiotic minutiae and have dwindling confidence in our own values. "Diversity is our strength," we're told. And that's right, in some ways. This, however, is not our strength. This is foolishness. Apparently, elements of the woke mob is also gunning for math, which is said to filled with racism and oppression, or whatever. Writing at Bari Weiss' Substack (a very dangerous place that's ruining journalism, or something), a professor of mathematics at Princeton fears for the future of STEM disciplines in America if the wokening prevails:

The woke ideology...treats both science and mathematics as social constructs and condemns the way they are practiced, in research and teaching, as manifestations of white supremacy, euro-centrism, and post-colonialism. Take for example the recent educational program called “a pathway to equitable math instruction.” The program is backed financially by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; it counts among its partners the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, the California Math project, the Association of California School Administrators, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education, among others; and it was recently sent to Oregon teachers by the state’s Department of Education. The program argues that “white supremacy culture shows up in the classroom when the focus is on getting the ‘right’ answer” or when students are required to show their work, while stipulating that the very “concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false”. The main goal of the program is “to dismantle racism in mathematics instruction” with the expressly political aim of engaging “the sociopolitical turn in all aspects of education, including mathematics.”

In the past, I would have said that such statements should be ignored as too radical and absurd to merit refutation. But recent trends across the country suggest that we no longer have that luxury. So let me state the following for the record: Nothing in the history and current practice of mathematics justifies the notion that it is in any way different or dependent on the particular race or ethnic group engaged in it...Schools throughout the world teach the same basic body of mathematics. They differ only by the methodology and intensity with which they instruct students.  It is precisely this universality of math — together with the extraordinary ability of American universities to reward hard work and talent — that allowed me, and so many other young scientists and mathematicians, to come to this country and achieve success beyond our wildest dreams.  The idea that focusing on getting the “right answer” is now considered among some self-described progressives a form of bias or racism is offensive and extraordinarily dangerous. The entire study of mathematics is based on clearly formulated definitions and statements of fact. If this were not so, bridges would collapse, planes would fall from the sky, and bank transactions would be impossible.

"The ability of mathematics to provide right answers to well-formulated problems is not something specific to one culture or another; it is really the essence of mathematics," the flabbergasted professor continues, making the points that inherent mathematical talent is a ticket for success for many otherwise disadvantaged students, and that many cultures have made major contributions to math and science. He concludes: "There is no such thing as 'white' mathematics. There is no reason to assume, as the activists do, that minority kids are not capable of mathematics or of finding the 'right answers.' And there can be no justification for, in the name of 'equity' or anything else, depriving students of the rigorous education that they need to succeed."  

There is something rather perfect about the woke set insisting that determining an empirically correct answer is inherently a problem, as is the concept of proving the correctness by demonstrating work. These are, after all, the people who prize gauzy notions like certain individuals' emotionalist "deeply felt sense of personal truths" over facts or reality, no matter who that inversion of truth might harm. Then there are the ever-'evolving' rules, which helped claim the scalp of an accomplished New York Times science writer (background here). He is now telling his side of the story, and it suggests that the mob's hostile takeover of the so-called paper of record is very much continuing apace:

Environments in which woke adults run the show, and woke students are ever-vigilant "right think" enforcers, lead to cancelations and struggle sessions galore. It's all so exhausting. Newsrooms and the academy have been dominated by liberals and progressives for decades. What will happen to truth if and when journalism and higher learning are consumed by illiberal woke leftists? I'll leave you with data indicating such fear and loathing is already a pervasive reality within the ivory tower: