Home Opinion Dear Editor Letter: The view is great, but the math is … questionable

Letter: The view is great, but the math is … questionable


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The Seattle, Washington public schools’ Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee has issued a statement to the effect that mathematics is oppressive and racist. As a professional mathematician (retired from 50 years of teaching college mathematics and still doing research) I can’t honestly recall ever hearing anything as appallingly stupid as this, at least from people who claim to be educators. Perhaps in that role they think they have a stake in keeping their students as ignorant as possible, since ignorant people grow up easier for political shysters to manipulate.

Some of the proponents of this idiocy are asking, “Who is to say what the right answer is?” Mathematics, they claim, is subjective, so that anyone’s feelings about what a solution should be are as valid as anyone else’s, and no one should “impose” an answer on people who didn’t or couldn’t arrive at it themselves.

Here’s a mind experiment we should try. Let’s build a skyscraper apartment building not doing any mathematical analysis on what the tensile strength of the materials might be, just letting all the touchy-feely folks vote on what they “feel” it should be. When the building is done, we can invite them to move into the uppermost apartments, assuming the building remains standing that long, and see what happens.

At the very least we ought to ask these delusional folks to give up their cars, their computers, their televisions, and their cell phones, since without the mathematics and science they seem to despise, none of those things could possibly ever have come into existence.

Donald R. Burleson, Ph.D.

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