This EducatioNation blog post contains the text of an incisive WSJ editorial, along with a sample curriculum that illustrates the idiocy outlined in the editorial.
In “Ethnomathematics,” Diane Ravitch writes, “In the early 1990s, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics issued standards that disparaged basic skills like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, since all of these could be easily performed on a calculator.”
She goes on to outline some characteristics of the “new, new math,” including “using mathematics as a tool to advance social justice. Social justice math relies on political and cultural relevance to guide math instruction.” After all, as one textbook states, “teaching math in a neutral manner is not possible.”
The disdain for basic math skills in favor of reliance on calculators reminds me of Socrates’ criticism of the written word in Plato’s Phaedrus. Part of Socrates’ problem with writing is that it can become a sort of crutch, which actually promotes laziness, forgetfulness, sloth, et al.
Socrates relates a conversation between Theuth (the father of writing) and Thamus. Theuth contends that writing, “will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit.”
But Thamus replies:
O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.
In this way, “social justice math” is really “know nothing” math.
Courtesy the Evangelical Ecologist, “A group called ‘Operation Noah’ has re-written parts of Scripture to fit their climate change message,” and goes on to compare two “versions” of Psalm 24.
I suppose this is just the next logical progression; if Scripture can’t be twisted by some perverse hermeneutic to fit your agenda, just change the text!
Author Ruth Jarman writes, “I hope it doesn’t look sacrilegious to re-write the word of God according to Ruth.” No matter if it actually is sacrilegious…just so it doesn’t look like it.
Otherwise, how would this bit of (unaltered) Scripture apply?
Imagine that a local philanthropist is hosting an event for local high school students and has asked you to pick out five to ten books to hand out as door prizes. At least one book should be funny and at least one book should provide some history of Western Civilization and at least one book should have some regional connection. The philanthropist doesn’t like foul language (but will allow some four-letter words in context, such as expressed during battle by soldiers). Otherwise things are pretty wide open. What do you pick?
- The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis – A must read for anyone currently involved in education, has ever been educated, or has ever thought anything about education.
- The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison – The most formative book of my high school years, I will try to sneak this one past the censors (I can’t recall if the profanity, if there is any, meets the requirement of appropriate “context”).
- Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold – “A classic of nature writing,” I’ll submit this as one with some regional connection (Wisconsin).
- Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Twentieth Anniversary Edition, Ron Sider – This applies to the twentieth anniversary update only…a challenging, authentic, and worthy call to Christian living, with at least some economic sensitivity.
- A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Kate Turabian – A necessary resource for any student.
- Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions, CRC Publications – This one I submit as providing background primary texts for the formation of Western civilization.
- Clan of the Cave Bear, Jean Auel – The first in Auel’s fiction series, Earth’s Children.
- The Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle – An oft-overlooked classic text.
- The Boy Who Looked Like Shirley Temple, Bill Mahan – Read this as a youth, and it stands out as one of the funniest books I’ve ever read (this one too might have trouble making it past the censors, however. I recall the boy having a foul mouth).
- A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle – Although a children’s book, worth reading at any and all ages.
The group I am attending is titled, “Business, Faith and Ethics.” It is part of Acton’s Center for Entrepreneurial Stewardship. I have been in a room with twenty-five successful business entrepreneurs and one other mission related person, a leader in the Christian Reformed Church. This is not my normal venue so it has been fun to sit back, say very little, and seek to better understand a world quite apart from my own Christian non-profit mission.
In response to the title of this post, you might reply: “Who cares?” I’ll tell you why you should perhaps care who these guys are and where they are. Matt and Brandon are two Michigan natives who have committed to running across the continental U.S. These two Christians (Brandon is a freshman at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, and Matt teaches at Montego Bay Christian Academy in Jamaica) are making the run for charity, Water for Children Africa.
I’ve never heard of the charity, but I do know that access to clean water is one of the most pressing issues facing the poor in developing nations today. And on the positive side, there are three water-based policy projects that are rated as “Good” by the Copenhagen Consensus 2004.
This post at a blog hosted by the Ratzinger Fan Club, Against the Grain, gives a brief overview of the “preferential option for the poor” in Catholic Social Teaching. In the process, Christopher writes,
Fr. Robert Sirico’s approach strikes me as being suprisingly close to Dorothy Day’s — at least in spirit, if not in policy. Browse through her extensive writings and you’ll encounter a strong believer in personal responsibility and self-empowerment, highly critical of state-sanctioned welfare and handouts which leave the poor in a state of dependency.
Contrary to the Catholic Workers of today who indulge in either general dismissals or denunciations of ‘the neocons’, I believe Ms. Day would have the desire and the capacity to truly listen to somebody like Fr. Sirico, or Michael Novak for that matter. They may not see eye to eye on the merits of the free market, but it’s likely that they would have discovered common ground in an appreciation of the personalism and social thought of Pope John Paul II.