21.6.05

A MATHEMATICIAN IS AN ORGANISM FOR CONVERTING COFFEE INTO THEOREMS. Look out, this train of thought is an attempt to clean out the yard, at the sacrifice of some order, although there is a rough logic to what follows.

Start with a rather silly story in the Washington Post about the effect of a daily Starbucks on the debt burden of law students. Jeff at Quid nomen illius? points to a thorough rebuttal by David at OxBlog. (The Superintendent would only object that the sight of a stressed-out law student nursing a Starbucks might elicit something other than his choice of hope or the Post writer's choice of pity.) University Diaries offers a convex combination of Whitman and Reader's Digest by way of comment.

Professor Althouse draws a contrast between a one-time splurge and a daily investment in something useful.
By contrast, it seems extremely sensible to buy years of a daily pleasure, which gives you some nutrition and focuses your mind and which gets you out of your little room or the library and puts you in a bustling, social environment, where you have your own little table and can get some good studying done.
That is, if you're capable of good studying. Here we switch from poring over Smyth v. Ames or Jarndyce v. Jarndyce to converting that coffee into theorems. I should think that the production of theorems would require knowledge of the following things: factors, factoring, fallacies, finite decimal, finite set, formulas, fractions, and functions. But where the younglings ought be first encountering these things, in some curricula what they are instead encountering are families (in poverty data), fast food nutrition data, fat in fast food, feasibility study, feeding tours, ferris wheel, fish, fishing, flags, flight, floor plan, flower beds, food, football, Ford Mustang, franchises, and fund-raising carnival. That's from a Diane Ravitch article in the Wall Street Journal (King at SCSU Scholars has a link to an excerpt; I may (or not!) have a working link to the whole thing on my office computer.) Professor Plum went into the fever swamps of education "theory" (move along, no theorems here) to find a course outline for a graduate course in "Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice" offered at Northeastern University, in which the readings are representative of recent educationist fads and require no prior understanding of Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments or Rawls's Theory of Justice, let alone Durkheim or Weber or Adorno, and apparently Euclid or Euler or Goldbach don't figure in the pedagogy.

This introductory course explores principles of social justice in education as a lens in rethinking school mathematics. The course will provide participants with

a) an opportunity to expand their knowledge and awareness of issues of social justice in the context of mathematics education;

b) an opportunity to develop a pedagogical model for teaching for social change;

c) a process to critically examine the content of school mathematics curriculum and instructional practices from the perspective of social justice;

d) an opportunity to contemplate on the role of the teacher as an agent of change and “transformative intellectual”.

Throughout the course we will emphasize the relationship between theory and practice in an attempt to understand some of the complexities and challenges in addressing issues of social justice in mathematics teaching and learning.

Have you had your Pepto today?

The trackbacks at Professor Plum are worth a look; via Instructivist I find a Sapient Educator post that sums it up, so to speak.
If progressive educators and multiculturalist continue to get their way, the unintended effect will result in many poor and impoverished American students not receiving the type of education needed to break the cycle of poverty. In addition, the United States will continue to rank near the bottom when compared with other industrialized nations in academic achievement.
One wonders if that hypothesis qualifies as an issue of social justice.

RUNNING EXTRA: Sorry, that link I thought I had to the full article isn't available.

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