**Blind Dumb American "Teachers"**

**It is the dumbing-down crowd, Stotsky says, that considers Euclid a "dead**

white male." Her fellow panel members Gilmore, Carol Greenes, Margaret

Kenney, and Deborah Hughes-Hallet were among those working to prevent the

standard algorithms of arithmetic from being taught in Massachusetts

elementary schools. In a taped meeting, this group claimed that there is

no such thing as standard arithmetic algorithms, and also that the

standard algorithm for adding numbers if mathematically incorrect. As

Mathematically Correct noted, "It was never explained by these allies of

Hyman Bass how the standard procedure for adding two numbers could both

be incorrect and not exist."

Those Massachusetts panel members are also at odds with the American

Mathematical Society, headed by Hyman Bass, which says that "standard

algorithms may be viewed analogously to spelling" and that "it is highly

desirable that everyone (that is, nearly everyone--we recognize that

there are always exceptional cases) learn a standard way of doing the

four basic arithmetic operations."

We need this video tape.

This proves that a huge percentage of American teachers (if not ALL of them), plain flat do not, can not, and will not ever understand math.

If they can't understand math--they cannot teach it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

An article from the Education News

http://www.educationnews.org/heterodoxy.htm

Jim Mahoney

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Heterodoxy

"Mathematically Correct." This is it

Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley

"The state has appointed a woman," read the warning, sent by Professor

Maurice Gilmore, professor of mathematics at Northeastern University, to

Professor Hyman Bass, professor of mathematics at the University of

Michigan and the president of the American Mathematical Society, a man

with an IQ allegedly off the charts. The woman in question was Sandra

Stotsky, a deputy commissioner of education in Massachusetts, and for

these heavy hitting professors she posed a special problem.

Stotsky, Gilmore said, was "ignorant," a serious charge against someone

in a position of authority on educational matters. But she wasn't, as Dr.

Evil might say, quasi-ignorant, or Pepsi-Lite-ignorant. Rather, said

Professor Gilmore, she was "so ignorant of mathematics that she debated

for 30 minutes with us to remove 'classical Greek constructions' from our

document because it was 'constructivist pedagogy.'" Something would

clearly have to be done about this menace, a kind of covert operation,

and indeed it turned out to be part of a larger conflict in which Sandra

Stotsky had already logged battle experience on a different front.

It happened to be English, not math, where Stotsky earned her spurs. She

first entered the fray by editing "Research in Teaching of English,"

published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she earned

her Ph.D., and directed Harvard's Summer Institute on Writing, Reading

and Civic Education. Her duties gave her a strategic vantage point on the

far-flung campaigns of political correctness in the nation's schools.

In a development largely ignored by national media, Stotsky discovered

that many of the members of the 90,000-strong National Council of

Teachers of English object to the very use of the word "English" as

"non-inclusive" and imperialistic. Some even objected to the word

"teaching," since in their view the kids learn it all by themselves and

instead need someone to "facilitate." This approach is part of the larger

"language arts" that include such skills as "oracy" and "mediacy."

Many in the education field would champion these developments, but

Stotsky is not one of them. A careful thinker and researcher, yet

pleasant and deferential, she recalls that one influential "good teacher"

that many remember from their high school days. But social engineers who

try to foist their schemes on children will find her a tough opponent.

"They want to break the hold of English in the classroom, deconstruct the

language," said Stotsky, noting that Massachusetts teachers were pushing

bilingual education for all students starting in kindergarten. She also

knew that the devastation wrought by "whole language" theory, ebonics,

and self-esteem quackery was hardly an academic issue. The result of her

insights and confrontation was her 1998 _Losing Our Language How

Multicultural Classroom Instruction Is Undermining Our Children's Ability

to Read, Write and Reason_ (Free Press), a courageous effort for someone

in Stotsky's position as a professional educator, particularly in

Massachusetts. As Stotsky authored this thoughtful work on language, the

junkthought was carving out lebensraum on other classroom fronts.

Many math teachers, it turns out, are as opposed to both math and math

teaching as some are to English and English teaching. This group has

clashed with a number of very smart people in mathematics, science, and

engineering. The shrapnel from that conflict would soon be flying in

Stotsky's direction.

For those with a grudge against reality, mathematics poses special

problems. Two plus two really does equal four, and that is true for

Trevor, Julio, Mohammed, Kwami, and Brenda, despite the classic

formulation of "new math" satirist Tom Lehrer

So you've got thirteen And you take away seven, And that leaves five...

...Well, six actually But the idea is the important thing.

The idea is not the important thing. Math knowledge can be tested, and

some children do better at it than others. This places math at odds with

the bogus egalitarianism which mandates that all groups must perform at

the same level, and which ignores the relity that statistical

disparitities are the rule, rather than the exception, between

individuals and groups.

It bothers the multiculturalists, who also tend to be anti-intellectual,

that white males and Asians do well in math. Rather than endure that

outcome, they would prefer to dumb everything down to a shared ignorance,

a kind of "math appreciation." Instead of following the get-tough, "Stand

and Deliver" approach of Jaime Escalante, whose success in the East Los

Angeles barrio stunned the educaiton establishment, they take the

position of former baseball scout Al Campanis, although without

Campanis's forthrightness. They clearly believe that blacks and other

minorities lack the necessary equipment to deliver the goods. So they

don't expect them to, and the results are what you might expect from such

a vision.

As University of Massachusetts mathematician Stanley Spiegel has noted,

many of today's high school graduates can't handle multiplication without

sub-contracting the operation to a calculator, a device that

anti-intellectual educators want to inflict on children from the early

grades. Some students, Spiegel laments, can't even multiply by 100 or

recognize that the decimal equivalent of one-half is .5. Many of the best

California students arrive at the University of California in need of

remedial math--a situation that Stotsky critic Maurice Gilmore concedes

is true across the country, where math scores and knowledge have been in

decline ce the 1060s.

Though not a mathematician, Stotsky knew the issues and the players, and

found herself in a position where she could do something about it. As an

education commissioner, she was placed on a panel revising a math

framework for Massachusetts. There her past experience served her well.

The fuzzy math forces, she soon realized, were serving up their rotgut in

bottles labeled "reforms," a classic fraud with national implications and

backed by powerful players.

In October 1999, the United States Department of Education, headed by

education secretary Richard Riley, endorsed as "promising" a number of

math programs including Mathland, which does not teach standard

arithmetic operations such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and

dividing and instead herds children into groups where they invent their

own ways, away form "teacher-imposed rules." Connected Math, also billed

as "promising," ignores crucial skills such as division of fractions.

Everyday Math depends on calculators from kindergarten and one of its

grade 5 worksheets includes this gem

A. If math were a color, it would be_______because________. B. If it were

a food, it would be________because________. C. If it were weather, it

would be ______because______.

The federal panel that came up with these recommendations included Steven

Leinwand, author of a 1994 Education Week article in which he argued that

"It's time to recognize that, for many students, real mathematical power,

on the one hand, and facility with multidigit, pencil-and-paper

computational algorithms, on the other, are mutually exclusive. In fact,

it's time to acknowledge that continuing to teach these skills to our

students is not only unnecessary, but counterproductive and downright

dangerous."

This and similar statements recall Jean Cocteau's dictum that the trouble

with the modern world is that stupidity has begun to think. It is as

though Wynton Marsalis were to issue a diatribe against the teaching of

scales and harmony, or Rafer Johnson to pronounce weightlifting and wind

sprints counterproductive to the development of an Olympic athlete. A

number of the nation's leading mathematicians and scientists saw the true

danger in precisely that sort of non-thinking.

Two former presidents of the Mathematical Association of America, seven

Nobel Laureates, department heads at Caltech, Harvard, Stanford, Yale,

and 12 other universities, and winers of the FIelds Medal, the highest

award in mathematics, published an open letter to Secretary Riley in the

November 18 Washington Post. The letter, which prompted a congressional

hearing, cited "serious mathematical shortcomings" in the programs and

included specific criticisms by leading scholars. The letter urged the

public withdrawal of the entire list of "exemplary" and "promising"

curricula and warned school districts about adopting them. In the future,

they said, "we urge you to include well-respected mathematicians in any

future evaluation of mathematics curricula."

Signatories included mathematics professors Richard Askey of the

University of Wisconsin, a member of the National Academy of Sciences,

Hung-Hsi Wu of UC-Berkeley, Betsy Tsang of the National Semiconducting

Cyclotron Laboratory, and scores of others from departments of

mathematics and physics at prominent universities nationwide, a veritable

who's-who of math, physics, astronomy, and engineering. Junk-science

debunker Paul Gross of the University of Virginia signed on, and so did

Sandra Stotsky, then in the midst of tackling the Massachusetts math

framework, and soon to encounter professor Hyman Bass.

Bass, then the incoming president of the American Mathematical Society,

won that group's Cole Prize in algebra. The former Columbia professor is

a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a former chair of the

Mathematical Science Education Foundation. His writings reveal a profound

mathematical thinker

"Call a group L linear if it has a faithful (finite dimensional) complex

representation, and representation rigid if, in each dimension, there are

only finitely many classes of simple representations. Platanov

conjectured that if L is linear and representation rigid then L is

essentially an arithmetic group. Lubotsky and I have constructed a

counter-example. If F is the rank 1 form of the exceptional group F4, and

if H is a suitable cocompact lattice in F, then we produce an L of

infinite index in H x H. This construction uses the fact that H is a

hyperbolic group, a new theorem of Ol'shanskii about quotients of

hyperbolic groups, and a theorem of Grothendieck connecting

representation theory with profinite completions. The representation

rigidity of L then follows from the super-rigidity of L then follows from

the super-rigidity theorem of Corlette and Gromov-Schoen, which says that

H is super rigid in F."

Bass had not risen to that level by following the pedagogy of Mathland or

Everyday Math, and he would seem to be a natural ally for someone like

Stotsky, who wanted the very highest standards and a rigorous approach to

the teaching of his own discipline. But Bass not only condemned the open

letter from prominent scientists, denouncing the authors, but defended

the very curricula that secretary Riley thought so exemplary and

promising.

"What appear to be very sensible reservations about what the Department

of Education did," said Bass in his widely distributed notice, "becomes

in fact part of a veiled and systematic assault on the professional

educational community, in which Askey and Wu are perhaps inadvertently

allied with people who have much more insidious political agendas."

Professor Bass, who did not return calls from Heterodoxy, did not explain

whether he believed that the professional education community was doing a

great job, nor how an open letter backed by 200 signatories and published

in the Washington Post could constitute a "veiled" attack. Neither did he

elaborate on the "insidious political agendas," of Askey and Wu. Though

his own political campaign was the veiled one, his actions came to the

attention of Mathematically Correct, a San Diego-based network of

mathematicians and scientists in Bass's intellectual league, who are open

as possible about their own agenda, "the concerns raised by parents and

scientists about the invasion of our schools by the new new-math and the

need to restore basic skills to math education."

"The advocates of the new, fuzzy math have practiced their rhetoric

well," says the Mathematically Correct Web sie , headlined by the logo "2

+ 2 = 4." "They speak of higher-order thinking, conceptual understanding

and solving problems, but they neglect the systematic mastery of the

fundamental building blocks necessary for success in any of these areas.

Their focus is on things like calculators, blocks, guesswork, and group

activities and they shun things like algorithms and repeated practice.

The new programs are shy on fundamentals and they also lack the

mathematical depth and rigor that promotes greater achievement."

Mathematically Correct commented that the insidious agendas cited by

professor Bass "presumably include the teaching of the standard

algorithms of arithmetic to elementary school children."

Math educators, a different breed than mathematicians, have a huge

financial stake in the adoption of the type of MTV math curricula

recommended by the Department of Education. Massachusetts math educators

saw the open letter as a stalking horse for the school-choice movement,

which would allow parents to escape junk math, junk English, and junk

multiculturalism, and take their money with them to some school where

they can learn. That is what those in the "professional education

community" are trying to prevent, though many, like President Clinton,

send their own children to the best private schools.

Bass's fevered calculations cast Askey, Wu, and their fellow stellar

signatories as mindless dupes of shadowy voucher propagandists. They are

of course no such thing, and neither is Stotsky, but the view includes a

fascinating dialectic. Individual choice, after all, is the basis for

higher education, in which grants go not to institutions but to students,

who select the school, often on the basis of famous professors such as

Hyman Bass. Voucher proponents simply want to extend that choice to the

K-12 system. But that irony escaped the reactionary math educrats, who

leveraged Bass into attacking the open letter.

He also took some swings at Mathematically Correct as "an important agent

in promoting this Open Letter." The group, he wrote, "has been

politically active around the country. In Massachusetts it is allied with

efforts of the Deputy Commissioner of Education, Sandra Stotsky." While

the astronomers, scientists, and Nobel laureates were dupes, Stotsky was

the villain. Said Bass, "her ideological and uninformed opposition to

"constructivist ideas" has reached the incredible state where she is

opposed to inclusion of discussion of 'Classical Greek constructions' as

being 'constructivist pedagogy.' Is this what serious mathematicians want

to associate themselves with?"

Hyman Bass wrote that without taking the trouble to speak with Sandra

Stotsky. He gained his misinformation from Maurice Gilmore's note about

the "ignorant" woman, a judgment Gilmore has retracted, though he still

insists that Stotsky doesn't know much about math and that traditonal

teaching, rather than the new new-math, is responsible for the current

decline. Stotsky learned about Bass's charges from Richard Askey.

"Absolutely bizarre," she responded. "I have never said or written

anything whatsoever regarding 'Classical Greek constructions.' I wouldn't

have even known what was being referred to if you hadn't explained that

it was related to geometry. I can't imagine what it could even be a

distortion of. If anything, I have been concerned about the teaching of

Euclidean geometry, wanting to be sure it's there in the curriculum."

It is the dumbing-down crowd, Stotsky says, that considers Euclid a "dead

white male." Her fellow panel members Gilmore, Carol Greenes, Margaret

Kenney, and Deborah Hughes-Hallet were among those working to prevent the

standard algorithms of arithmetic from being taught in Massachusetts

elementary schools. In a taped meeting, this group claimed that there is

no such thing as standard arithmetic algorithms, and also that the

standard algorithm for adding numbers if mathematically incorrect. As

Mathematically Correct noted, "It was never explained by these allies of

Hyman Bass how the standard procedure for adding two numbers could both

be incorrect and not exist."

Those Massachusetts panel members are also at odds with the American

Mathematical Society, headed by Hyman Bass, which says that "standard

algorithms may be viewed analogously to spelling" and that "it is highly

desirable that everyone (that is, nearly everyone--we recognize that

there are always exceptional cases) learn a standard way of doing the

four basic arithmetic operations."

It was Stotsky who insisted, in the fact of much status quo opposition,

that these standards be included as requirements, receiving support from

Stanley Spiegel, math professor at U-Mass at Lowell, in a Boston Globe

article. He openly defended Stotsky's support for algebra in the eighth

grade and concluded that "it seems clear that the public school

mathematics curriculum needs more rigor not less, more algebra not less,

and that the modest changes in the math frameworks now being proposed are

an important step in that direction."

Stotsky sent out tapes of the meeting with Gilmore and attempted to get a

retraction from Bass, without success. When it became clear that there

was no evidence for his charges, the mathematician went on to claim that

Stotsky made the anti-Euclidian statements in an earlier meeting.

Unfortunately, Gilmore was not in that meeting and Stotsky never made the

statement then or at any time. Indeed, such a stance would contradict her

current purpose.

The fuzzy math advocates in her state, she says, are "fit to be tied over

new standards in California," a state whose new math standards dumped

dumbed-down curricula and the calculator approach, just as they

eliminated the bilingual education programs that were leaving thousands

of children intellectually handicapped for life.

"Social engineers are driving this from the bottom," says Stotsky. "They

are trying to equalize achievement across demographic groups." They can't

dump math content altogether, so they try to "lower the ceiling" through

the use of vague standards disguised as "reforms," something that gets by

because, she says, "most of the public doesn't understand the vocabulary

of math." Stotsky, who does, also sees the stakes.

"Are public schools goig to be places where bright students can get an

education like their counterparts in private schools?" she asks. "Or will

they be retarded?" Such issues have left Stotsky little time to

contemplate what to do about the widespread falsehoods and slanders

against her.

"Bass is wrong and he knows it," says Maurice Gilmore. But as of this

writing, Bass hasn't shown himself capable of an apology and a

retraction. On the other hand, he provides a lesson that many of his

colleagues in the academy have yet to learn.

Call it the Bass Theorem. He who tries to be mathematically correct and

politically correct at the same time, no matter how high his IQ or lofty

his reputation, will wind up looking foolish.

----Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley

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