The following is a satire Essay I wrote for English class. I am pretending to be a Post-Modern offended by the objectivity of math and Logic. The real intent behind this satire is to critique Postmodernism from a Vantillian Presuppositional perspective. Just remember this is Satire and I don’t mean anything here to be offensive. Here you have it:
Over the past 50 years America has become one of the most racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse nations on earth. Accompanying this has been the principle of tolerance, where we recognize that in order to have a civil and fair society; we must accept that the beliefs that are true for us personally are not necessarily true for other people. However, in this grand move towards tolerance and respect for all opinions and beliefs, there is one area of society that has been overlooked: the American educational system. Day after day, in schools and universities across America, students are told there is only one right way to answer and one proper way to think. They are told that certain answers are not acceptable, and they are brushed aside without further consideration because they do not meet a certain criteria that the teacher deems acceptable. In what classrooms does this blatant intolerance and bigotry take place? In the subjects of mathematics and logic, which continually force the opinion of the instructor on the student. Subjects in which two plus two must equal four and five times five must equal twenty-five, where some answers are deemed unacceptable without any consideration because they violate arbitrary rules such as the” law of non-contradiction”. The current methods of teaching mathematics and logic are intolerant and offensive to those with a different viewpoint from the professor or textbook and should be changed to allow for all beliefs.
This previously unexamined issue has been pushed to the forefront in recent months, due to the courageous actions of several students who spoke up about the discrimination they endured in classrooms across America. Frank Wallace writes of these students struggles in his article in The Wall Street Journal that appeared on January 12, 2012, entitled “The Emerging Fight in Our Schools”, where he tells the struggle of two students with bigoted teachers. Wallace first tells about Josh Hayes, a junior at Drake High School in Drake, North Dakota, who had a disagreement with his teacher on the first day of his “Logic and Rhetorical Studies” class (Wallace). Wallace writes, “Josh was told to be quiet and sit down by his teacher because his answer contained a so called contradiction” (Wallace). Josh was very offended by this, Wallace quotes him as saying, “I just ain’t never done heard of that, I wasn’t raised on that hooey” (Wallace). What the teacher took as a logical contradiction was actually a long standing belief of the Hayes family, passed down for generations (Wallace). Josh said, “This is America, I should be able to form my own opinions and beliefs” (Wallace). Another student, Keeleenah Mapatoozulo, who is a native of The Marshall Islands and attends the University of Illinois, was humiliated when her math teacher told her that her native tribe’s traditional belief that the sum of any two numbers is always zero was idiotic (Wallace). If a student was told that his or her beliefs in religion were idiotic, there would have been uproar across the nation, but day after day students are told their beliefs in math and logic are silly and not relevant to the discussion. Just as African American students once suffered under an unjust educational system built around racial discrimination, so the student today suffers in a system built around bigotry against differing opinions in math and logic.
In times past, when citizens cried out in the midst of injustice, the government answered their cries by taking action, such as allowing women the right to vote, or passing the Civil Rights Act. Once again, as cries of injustice fill the land, Congress has been spurred to action. Samuel Lupas writing in Newsweek magazine on February 1, 2012, in an article entitled “Congress set to take action on school curriculum”, reports that “Congressmen from both parties have come together to address this crisis, bound together by the principle that our schools should respect all beliefs” (Lupas). Too many times in American history, people have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to injustice. Slavery, disenfranchisement of women, racial discrimination, and religious intolerance were all allowed to go on unpunished and even supported for a time. But eventually when the American people recognized the injustice of intolerance, the government swiftly moved to correct it and restore equality and fairness. Now, at a time when the American people are being awakened to the fact that our schools system is built on the very premise of intolerance and bigotry, the government is prepared to do their duty and end this rank injustice. Governmental force is the only action that can ensure our society is fair and tolerant toward all people, as Lupas quotes Senator Daniel Jones (D-NY) as saying, “We can no longer allow our schools to be a platform for big bigoted bullies to pick on poor students” (Lupas). Like slave masters hundreds of years ago, teachers today are using their position to force their opinions on students because the government isn’t there to stop them.
Teachers have attempted to defend themselves from charges of bigotry and intolerance, but their responses only prove how warped and hate filled they really are. The previously mentioned Wall Street Journal article quotes Arthur Anderson, a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Illinois as saying, “All I did was teach math, and math is not based off an opinion, it’s a fact” (Wallace). Despite the fact that we cannot examine math and logic under a microscope, they continue to be proclaimed as obvious truth. Teachers in the classroom have respected different views about religion, science, and history all because of our inability to examine abstract truths that are not physical, but when it comes to these two subjects teachers continue to force their interpretation on students. Wallace quotes another teacher, Kim Hall of Drake High School as saying “Without logical rules nothing we say would be coherent, some statements just logically do not make sense, they have no meaning” (Wallace). Despite the abstract nature of math and logic, our intolerant school teachers continue to force their viewpoint on students.
Students and politicians are not the only ones taking action in this fight. Numerous citizens who have been awakened to the abounding injustice in our schools have formed organizations to fight for fairness in education; two of the most prominent organizations are NOFM (The National Organization for Fair Mathematics) and CCFL (Concerned Citizens for Free Logic). Karen Allison writing in Time magazine on February 1, 2012, in an article entitled “The New Civil Rights Movement?” quotes Timothy Johnson president of NOFM as saying, “You cannot demonstrate the truth of an abstract principle of morality, religion, logic, or math, and therefore you cannot force people to hold to one particular viewpoint.” (Allison). It would be archaic, therefore, if in a modern age of science we based our thinking on something that is abstract instead of physical (Allison). Allison also quotes Mary Dawson, president of CCFL as saying “The laws of math and logic are not provable any more than a particular religion is; it all comes down to whatever your personal opinion on it is” (Allison). Allison goes on to quote Dawson as saying, “If teachers are not allowed to contradict and mock student’s beliefs concerning a deity and his decrees that we cannot see, why are they allowed to mock their beliefs concerning a set of principles which we cannot see or examine” (Allison). One wonders why it has taken this long for society to recognize the inherent injustice in the way our schools teach math and logic.
In the course of this paper, we have seen that the current methods of teaching mathematics and logic are intolerant and offensive to those with a different viewpoint from the professor or textbook, and how they should be changed to allow for all beliefs. We have also gotten a glimpse of a conflict that has erupted all across this nation, a conflict that is much more than an argument over whether or not students will be comfortable in their college classes or not. No, it is much more than that. It is a battle over the very progress and destiny of the human race. There are two paths we can go down, we can continue the upward path that we have been forging, a path of progress, fairness, tolerance and love; a path where we decide our own destiny and we throw off all vestiges of archaic belief systems and abstract principles that bind us in chains of superstition and intolerance. An upward path that has potential to usher in a new millennium of human history, where all people live in tolerance of others and nobody believes he knows that the other is ultimately wrong and misguided. Or we can choose a downward path, a path that has been forged by two thousand years of religious intolerance and violence, racial prejudice, and subjugation of women. A downward path that is filled with religious crusades and objective truths that blind people to the principles of love and tolerance. That is the choice before us in this debate, will we allow all beliefs to be heard and respected? Or will one opinion be voiced in the classroom by the teacher that silences all the rest? So far, the American educational system has not allowed for all beliefs to be heard, it has silenced and suppressed the minority opinion.
- Patrick Gruber