Professors Blame Math for Problems, Propose Social Justice Solutions

Stupid math and it’s math bigotry, am I right?

It used to be that it was the one thing that couldn’t be considered biased, a lsat bastion of sanity, if you will. Well, this is 2018 and nothing is safe. The academics have now come for math.


Paul Ernest, a professor at the University of Exeter in England, has written a piece called “The Ethics of Mathematics: Is Mathematics Harmful?” in which he argues that teaching people mathematics causes dangerous “collateral damage.” How? Well, first, “the nature of pure of mathematics itself leads to styles of thinking that can be damaging when applied beyond mathematics to social and human issues,” so “reasoning without meanings provides a training in ethics-free thought.”

Next, because mathematics is involved in monetary transactions, math “is the tool for the distribution of wealth,” and “it can therefore be argued that as the key underpinning conceptual tool mathematics is implicated in the global disparities in wealth.”

Finally, he said that math is patriarchal. “So,” he said,  “two of the detrimental effects of images of mathematics that I shall foreground here are first the negative impact on female students following on from the masculine image of mathematics. Second, the negative impact of mathematics related experiences and images on the attitudes and self-esteem of a minority, including many girls and women.”

Despite this, he told Campus Reform, “Of course I acknowledge that mathematics is wonderful and beneficial in many ways.” Well that’s reassuring, isn’t it?


Perhaps that’s why some people like Professor Eric Guststein of the University of Illinois-Chicago think we need to revamp math education to make math education “explicitly political” in order to adopt “social justice pedagogies.”

Gutstein has written a piece The Struggle Is Pedagogical: Learning to Teach Critical Mathematics, saying we need to bring social justice to math education in order to fight the “racist and sexist billionaire in the White House” as a “responsibility to our future.”

He wrote:

We are in an historical period that challenges us to action in ways that we probably cannot fully understand…

Teaching in critical ways is not optional in the present juncture. We have a responsibility to our future and our planet, to life and all species. What we do in the classroom matters, for today and tomorrow, and the myriad possibilities for resistance and transformation are inextricably and dialectically related to the intensity of the crises we face.

Yes, even math, the last thing that was purely objective now has to be colored by politics. Hooray!


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